I guess Marc Crawford is right in saying that his players simply have to work harder and play better, but I'm not sure if that will fix this 2-9-1 slump they're in.
Honestly, the biggest problem I see is they don't trust each other anymore.
The goalies are trying to do too much. They are out farther from the net on a lot of saves, they are taking more chances, it seems. The defensemen are trying to pinch too much, trying too hard to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The forwards are coming back too far and not trusting that the defensemen can get them the puck.
And, overall, players seem to be making too many ``hope'' plays. They hope a pass will get through. They hope a shot will get through. They hope they guess right on where the shot might be coming from.
And this seems completely different than the cohesive team that used the five fingers on a hand philosophy earlier in the season.
So how do they get back to that?
Well, getting some healthy bodies would be a great first step. It is so hard to get straight answers from these guys about injuries, but I think part of the problem is they just don't know how the players will react to a full contact practice. I'm still going with the thought that Jamie Benn (shoulder), Nicklas Grossman (hip) and Brad Richards (concussion-like symptoms) are potential players to practice Monday and possibly play Tuesday against New Jersey. We'll wait and see.
Also, Adam Burish (orbital bone) and Krys Barch (orbital bone) also could be ready.
The return of healthy bodies is huge for this team, as Crawford has been leaning very heavily on his top players and they are looking worn down.
The next step in getting those bodies back is the possibility that they start playing like a team again. If there is trust among the players and if the top players feel they don't have to win the game by themselves, then I do feel they will get closer to the kind of game they need.
Now, it won't be easy with this schedule. New Jersey is playing great right now, Detroit is Detroit, and Nashville has been on a roll. After that, the team gets a four-game road trip through the Pacific Division. That will end a stretch of eight out of 10 on the road.
The fact the team has so many head-to-head games with the Pacific Division and with Western Conference teams who are also battling for playoff positioning (Calgary, Minnesota and Chicago) is actually a good thing for the Stars. Bottom line, they will control their own destiny in March. Win those games, and they will make the playoffs.
So maybe we still need patience. Maybe we need to see what happens when they get healthy and let them try to be who they are supposed to be in March. Then again, maybe they need to just work harder.
Here's a couple of quotes from Crawford:
On the fact Vancouver got so many breakaways:
"You can't give them outnumbered chances and they scored four goals on outnumbered chances. That's one of the things going into this game trying not give up and we were guilty of it. From that standpoint we didn't do a good enough job with our third guy. Their forwards are dangerous, especially the ones with speed. They can hurt you."
On where they are as a team:
"It's no fun losing. Our guys obviously are feeling the pressure of being in a race and not being at your best. We know the way out of it and the way out it is through hard work. You can't do anything but really hone in on the work ethic.
"You look at the game tonight and credit them for getting back in the game. But our work ethic on a consistent basis hasn't been there from some people. We're getting great efforts, herculean efforts from Morrow and [Stephane] Robidas, but just not enough of them. I thought Jamie Langenbrunner was really good tonight. We're not getting enough from some of the others.
"That's where the value comes from. When you are going through tough times you just can't have four or five guys play hard and play well, you've got to have everybody. Our guys know that. We've got to keep persevering, stick together and get through it."