The trade deadline has passed so the Dallas Stars are basically who they will become April. Dallas stood pat at the deadline as Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill, “liked where the team is at.”
As the season winds down and teams jockey for playoff position, a few thoughts and ideas should be discussed as the team comes down the stretch. Let’s explore some of those things here.
No Substantive Trade, No Problem
Dallas needed to sit this trade deadline out largely due to their lack of assets. Dallas already is low on draft picks for this upcoming draft, a notably deep draft at that. Sure, Nill could move prospects, but the cost this year was higher than the benefit. Dallas could have used a play-making forward, but the market just was not strong for that position. Anyone who Dallas may have liked to add either went prior to being able to get a deal or the price was too high.
Dallas does have some prospects who certainly have value, but given the struggles in the draft, Nill could ill afford to surrender some can’t miss prospects. Dallas does have a plethora of defensemen, but Polak is a free agent at the end of the year as does Sekera. Bayreuther or Hanley will have their chance to make the leap to the NHL, one they will need to take advantage of given the opportunity.
Ben Bishop is gassed. His recent poor play can be attributed to the number of games played especially with such a heavy schedule in February. Bishop currently has played 42 games as of this writing and currently has posted a .922 save percentage. He has certainly had a good season, but his play overall recently has been poor. Not all of the goals he has allowed have been on him, but he has let in more soft goals than usual recently.
Dallas is going to need Bishop at his best if they are going to make a run. The cap situation makes it difficult for Dallas, but they need to start Khudobin for a run here down the stretch and call up one of the young guys from Cedar Park for a spot start. Ben cannot play like this in April or it will be a short run for Dallas. Also, Bishop is not going anywhere after this season. There is no potential trade partner for Dallas that can take the cap hit and provide an asset that makes the trade worth the value.
Bones Was Always Going to Get The Year
Regardless of what you think of Rick Bowness and his lack of offensive coaching ability, the sad fact of the matter is that he was always likely going to get this entire season. A few reasons for this theory coming about. Jim Nill is a notably conservative general manager so making two coaching changes in one season is simply not something he would do unless absolutely necessary. He would view it as an organization in chaos, perhaps rightfully so, meaning Bowness was not going anywhere this year.
The second reason comes courtesy of Sean Shapiro of The Athletic.
Rick Bowness took over the job as a favor to the team and the organization. As Sean mentions above, Bowness and Montgomery are close friends and this was not the way that Bowness wanted to become a head coach in the league again. Given the circumstances Bones took over the Stars under, Jim Nill could not get rid of a man who took under such a difficult job. Hockey is a business, but not everyone is, nor should be, a total cutthroat, despite the fact Dallas would likely be better positioned had they hired a more qualified candidate.
Trust Young Players
Ice time. Gurianov, Hintz, and Dickinson deserve to be playing more quality minutes. Plain and simple. Other teams are locking down on Seguin, Benn, and Rads meaning that the top defensive pair and checking line. Their speed is absolutely lethal. When the Stars have trouble breaking out of their own zone, you can throw the puck down the boards and they can win races. These players have the capability to stretch the ice for Dallas and help open up the ice for entries and exits. Exits from the zone have been the bane of the Stars for much of this season. It seems so simple that if a team is struggling in an area and has players who are capable of easing that struggle, that you would use them more. This was not a huge problem under Jim Montgomery.
Rick Bowness will try to tell fans and media that time on ice is irrelevant, but shifts are what matter. Hogwash. More shifts should equate to a proper amount of ice time, even when adjusting for potentially extended zone time, but that never seems to be the case for the Stars. As evidenced by Morgan, Jamie Benn took 26 shifts but was more towards the middle of the table for a total time on ice. Dallas will only go as far as they’re offense will let them and right now, they’re offense continues to struggle. The goaltending certainly helps cover up their woes, but that won’t hold up during the playoffs.
Defenders of Bowness will point to the increase in goals scored recently. Dallas is scoring more goals in spite of all the evidence pointing to the contrary. To put it simply, Dallas is currently getting lucky which is not sustainable. Defenders will also point to the fact that the Stars are winning games. The Dallas Stars can win 82 regular-season games. It is completely irrelevant because come April, everyone is 0-0. But winning a game against the Montreal Canadiens is such a thrill it is understandable when fans point to winning.
Dallas is not ready for playoff hockey against elite competition. The goal for the Dallas Stars is the Stanley Cup. This style will not win a Stanley Cup. Playoff seeding is important, but Dallas has to catch two elite teams, one who is struggling with injuries, in order to win the division. They already blew one chance against St. Louis, with one chance remaining. The style they are playing will not get the job done if they want to make up the ground and win the Central. The mental taxation of playing a defensive trap game makes the margin of error too small for this team. Dallas needs to find the balance between sound defense and a competent offense. They have the talent to do it, its just a matter if the coach will allow them to succeed.
Dallas has plenty of season left. Just over a month remaining to jockey for playoff positioning. The Stars will need a strong finish if they want to capture the Central Division crown and avoid playing the Avalanche or the Blues in the first round. The style of play has to switch and the young players have to be trusted to show they can succeed.
Montgomery let Roope flourish last year during the playoffs and even let young AHL defensemen take meaningful minutes in the playoffs.
Will Bowness do the same? Time will tell.
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