We have covered Marty Turco quite a bit lately, and we know he is determined to get off to a fast start after a slow start dogged him last year.
I think one of the interesting arguments that will come Turco's way in training camp is why he wasn't prepared at the start of last season, and why being so determined this summer will change that. Those are fair questions.
Turco has been overanalyzed, in part because he is a tremendously polite person who will answer any question the media puts forth. He likes talking about hockey and goaltending, and he tries to honestly assess himself, so we end up looking for reasons why he does things.
So in talking to him, here's my take on his last couple of seasons.
Turco had incredible success in his NHL career very early on, and that set up some high goals for both he and for the organization. While he had to patiently wait behind Ed Belfour for two seasons in the IHL and two more as a backup goalie, Turco's first season as a No. 1 goalie was beyond what most could comprehend. He established a modern era mark in lowest GAA at 1.72, and went 31-10-10. He made it to the second round of the playoffs, and really did a decent job for his first trip to the post-season with a 6-6 record and 1.88 GAA.
At the time, people really saw him as the next great goalie in the NHL and a player who could challenge Martin Brodeur for the No. 1 job on Team Canada in the future.
He played in the All-Star Game in both 2003 and 2004, he became a consultant for EA Sports video games, he was seen as an important person in the NHL Players Association, and also in rule-making committees established by the NHL and the union.
Not unlike Tony Romo, he really had made it every aspect of the game _ except the playoffs.
And things just kept getting worse there. He had a first-round exit in 2004 against Colorado when he posted a 3.32 playoff GAA and gave up some critically bad goals. He came back determined after the lockout and led the Stars to the second best record in the West. He then failed once again, losing to the seventh-seeded Avalanche in the first round in five games once again (with a 3.39 playoff GAA).
And he has been adjusting his game (both mentally and physically) ever since. I think he got caught up in believing he needed to go back to the unorthodox style he used in college, that maybe too much coaching had taken the athleticism out of his game. He then decided he could probably prepare himself better than anyone else, not unlike goalies like Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy have done in the past, and that he didn't really need coaching. The problem is those goalies won big and allowed their personality quirks to be seen as lovable parts of their rough exteriors. Turco was not able to shut out the rest of the world and just stop the puck consistently.
So after Turco posted a 1.30 GAA in a losing effort in a seven-game series with Vancouver in 2006-07 and then led the Stars to the Western Conference finals in 2007-08, I think Turco just had a tendency to relax and think he had figured things out. No, he hadn't won the Cup, but he had proved to a lot of critics that he could win in the playoffs, that he was indeed a top-notch netminder, and that he could do it on his own.
And once he got on that slippery slope, he had a real tough time crawling out.
Turco has been a slow starter at times, but Mike Smith or Johan Hedberg bailed him out in the past. Last year, there was nobody there to help, and Turco just dug the hole too deep until he finally crawled out and helped the Stars to as high as fifth in the West. The problem is he wore down both mentally and physically, and the team in front of him was just too injured.
And the Stars missed the playoffs.
But along the way, Turco realized a few things. One, he does need to be coached and helped. Two, that while he is a team leader, he can't solve every problem on the team. So he is determined to listen to goalie consultant Andy Moog this season and he is determined to step back from the locker room chemistry. We'll see if he can do both.
I will say that listening to Turco this summer, he does sound different. He said last season the team just paid ``lip service'' to the poor training camp and slow start, and that they know now just how much they messed up, and I believe him.
There are times when you think you are trying hard enough or convince yourself you deserve a break, and I think Turco naturally did that after the trip to the Western Conference finals. But I think he knows now he has to do more. That's just a very human reaction to success and failure.
Fans often say a player will play harder in a contract year (Turco's contract is up after this season), but I don't think Turco is motivated by the money he could make if he has a good year. I think he really likes this team, really likes this city, and really wants to win for both now...and the future. He would love to have a great season, gain the faith of coach Marc Crawford and GM Joe Nieuwendyk and remain in Dallas for the rest of his career.
And if ever there was a time to do it, it's now for Turco. Because if he doesn't step up, I believe he will be playing someplace else next season.