We have a hot topic for the rolling mailbag, so I thought I would get it to you quickly today.
Q: I sat and watched a few minutes of both the Boston and Chicago games last night. One thing became instantly obvious to me. The Stars could not compete at that level with either team. They don't have nearly the grit to compete with Boston. They would get killed in a series like that. And, as for Chicago, they would have run them out of the building. The skill level of that team is amazing, especially when you consider that as recently as three years ago, they couldn't play with anybody. It speaks volumes about where the Stars really are. This crud about them being a team that could go far into the playoffs if they could only be healthy is myth.
The state of this team can be laid directly at the feet of its coach and management. There is never any accountability for anyone on this team. Only the goalie is open to criticism. The rest get a free pass. I don't think it really matters who they get in the draft or how ready Jamie Benn is. Both will have to fit into a system that does not require excellence. It barely requires attendance. This team is so far off the track, I don't know how it will ever get back. I'm not sure that changing management will even make a difference. That's because, incompetence has been permitted. The blame for their poor play can always be pawned off on someone else. It's a very depressing situation.
HEIKA: Larry, I actually disagree.
The salary cap has created a world where the Stars are not far from being competitive.
Look at the Anaheim-San Jose series.
The Stars played a heck of a game at Anaheim to close the season with pretty much half of an AHL lineup, and it was a win the Ducks really needed. Do you honestly believe that if the Stars were playing San Jose or Anaheim at full strength, they wouldn't be right in those series?
So much would depend on Marty Turco, but I believe he would be a much better player if the team in front of him was much better. I also believe that Brenden Morrow has a way of getting the best out of Turco, and he would make a huge difference in the attitude and accountability of this team if he was healthy.
Would they have match-up problems with Boston and Chicago? Yes, definitely. But so will San Jose, and they won the Presidents' Trophy. Boston is a good team with a GM who probably had the best off-season in hockey. Chicago is a young team built on five years of high drafts. They are two very tough teams. So if you are trying to build the perfect NHL team and are frustrated the Stars have not done that (while not drafting higher than 25th for a decade, I might add), I understand. But to say this team is in horrible shape when it has a solid group of veteran players (Morrow, Richards, Ribeiro, Turco, Robidas, Ott) and some very good youth (Neal, Eriksson, Brunnstrom, Grossman, Niskanen, Daley, Fistric), I think that's an over-exaggeration.
If you want to change the coach and go with someone more strict, I'm fine with that. If you want to reduce the country club atmosphere, I'm fine with that (I think that will happen simply because of the economic situation surrounding owner Tom Hicks). Those are important changes, and they could make the franchise better. But the NHL is a balanced league now, and the teams that get hot at the right time are the teams that win.
If I'm making a guess about the second round, I would guess Chicago loses to Vancouver. So, then, should the Blackhawks panic? What if the Capitals go out in the first round? Are they built on sand?
I understand the belief that things need to change, and I appreciate your passion for that change _ and I get your point that believing in the people in charge will only bring more mediocrity. I think many in your camp may be right. We have seen Minnesota stick with mediocrity and say they believe in consistency. We have seen Nashville stick with mediocrity, and say that it believes in consistency. And both now are questioning the path of consistency. So, yes, change can be a good thing.
But I have also seen Florida and Ottawa and Los Angeles and Phoenix and the Islanders spin their wheels with new coaches and new GMs and new goalies, so change for the sake of change is not always good.
Finding the right formula is the toughest thing about building a winning franchise, and simply saying a team is bad and will never get good is the safest argument in any sport. The Stars made the Western Conference finals last season, and I have arguments with people who say Anaheim and San Jose were not tough enough opponents, that the Stars folded against Detroit. They give this organization no credit for accomplishing something pretty darned impressive _ and doing it as a low seed while playing on the road. How can you look at that playoff run and say it means nothing, that it was lucky.
It's the same with Marty Turco. Many say he will never win a Stanley Cup. That's an easy argument to make, but you can say it about Nabokov or Luongo or Kiprusoff _ until they actually win something. To say the only real goal is a championship, and that the people in charge fail if they do not win a championship, well you'll be right 29 times out of 30 each season is you make that prediction for your team.
Sports is a great debate, and I think those who argue the Stars need major changes could absolutely be right...but they also could be wrong.
That's a bit of a cop out, but that's the NHL today. You build a team you think can compete, you hope for health and good luck, and you are what you are at the end of the season. This team was a Western Conference finalist last season, and would have been a competitive team this year if it was healthy. That's my take, anyway.