Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Death Watch: R.I.P. Stars

Another bubble team bites the dust.

This year's Stars had more drama than a Gray's Anatomy DVD set. Here are the top 5 reasons they won't make it to April as a serious playoff contender:

5) Sean Avery - Let's just get this one out of the way early. Avery was the wrong man on the wrong team. His Stars teammates, coaches, and front office eventually revealed him as a pariah. But by the time they had the good sense to cut him loose, the Stars were wallowing near the bottom of the conference. In a tough Western bracket, there was no room for a slow start.

4) Inconsistency - Coach Dave Tippett deserves credit for keeping the team afloat through long losing streaks, and occasionally leading them to victories over heavily-favored opponents. But the Stars couldn't sustain their winning momentum for long, and disasterous losing streaks were a regular feature of their season.

3) Massive injury problems - Think your team's injury issues are bad? The Stars have lost a league-high 322 man-games to injury. The victims have included Sergei Zubov, Brad Richards, Jere Lehtinen and Brenden Morrow... and a plethora of minor injuries that shortened the bench nightly.

2) Horrible goaltending - The biggest question-mark for the Stars is whether Marty Turco needs to move on. Turco leads the NHL in minutes-played, an indicator of how desperately Dallas needed him to carry the team. It's clear that he wasn't up to the task this season, logging disastrous numbers and generating loads of media criticism. Turco's career might not recover from this season.

1) Post-deadline meltdown - In spite of everything working against them, Dallas was still precariously in playoff position at the trade deadline. In fact, they were as high as 6th in the West as recently as March. But just as it seemed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the Stars nose-dived -- since March 17 they are 0-5-2. The bottom line is that you simply have to find a way to win your games, and the Stars just couldn't do it when it counted.

It'll be a contentious offseason in Dallas, as the team begins in earnest to cut ties with the Modano/Zubov/Turco era. But all hope isn't lost -- the team's core is mostly under 30, and youngsters like James Neal and Loui Eriksson should have the Stars back in the playoffs in the next couple of years.

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