Dallas Stars Mid-Season report

The first half of the season began with a shaky start that seemed to get them no where at all, then it went down hill for most of November, and in early December things started to pick up for the team. Injuries were no longer that big of a problem, and now in early January, things are still headed in the right direction.The fluky beginning of the season where we saw the team win two followed by losing two, and then the process was repeated once again. Then the chronic losing streak set in and things did look bleak for the team. Question arose about how long Head Coach Dave Tippet would last for the team, and the overall state of the team. The owner and the GM came out to the public and voiced their disappointment of the team and how they thought that they team wasn’t living up to their potential. As one of my co-workers said the other day “they played like a bunch of Tin Men from the Wizard of Oz, they had everything but heart.” Soon after things did start to turn around for the team. They put together their first 3-game winning streak of the season and started to win on the road, an area where they are still quite dismal in their play, but the offense was still waning and the defense was getting healthier by the day. The team’s overall play improved and the wins started coming, this was after they dropped to if I do remember correctly 4 games under .500. They team has steadily improved since December with goalie Marty Turco returning to his form from last season, the defensive corps getting healthy and getting better every game and they finally figured out that the excuse of “well we lost Hatcher over the summer” wasn’t working and that the reason why they weren’t playing well was because they weren’t playing well, and the offence is finally starting to come early and often. Now mid way through the season things are even, but they could improve by leaps and bounds if the team actually tried a little harder, and that is something that I expect this team to do.

The team did have to deal with some crucial and critical injuries. Lehtinen was out for the first month with a back injury, and then came along the eye socket injury to Boucher that could have been worse than what it really was. Now they have to deal with what the team has said to be a ‘groin injury’ to Modano, but then again it maybe something completely different. Turco has come back to his form of last season and that itself has made a huge impact in the outcome of many of the games. He is such an integral player to this team, to have him playing poorly won’t help the team solve any problems. Thankfully, the team finally started getting it all together and what do you know? The team started to become more respected and exude more confidence than at the start of the season.

Player and Coaching Grades-

Modano- C-, he could have been better, but he wasn’t. He had to deal with his personal problems and that took longer to deal with than it should have. He is now starting to shoot, pass, and score more, which is a good sign.

Lehtinen- B, despite the injury, he still hasn’t played that well especially when you consider that this is a player that when you play with him, you get better. But that fact isn’t exactly true when you look at where the team is right now.

Arnott- C+, he’s been there for some games and other times he’s not even there. When he’s there he’s great, when he’s not, you wonder why he’s even in the NHL.

Morrow- B, he’s not doing the things that made him great last season. It took him awhile to score his first goal because he wasn’t crashing the net and getting under the opponents skin every game. He’s starting to do that now, which is one of the positives that this team has going into the second half.

Guerin- B-, this is the man that is totally awesome at home but doesn’t seem to make an appearance on road games. He has the most goals on the team with 18 but he’s slacked off a lot since a year ago, this team needs him to really step up and become a big enforcer and a person the team can rely on to score that timely goal.

Barnes- A, he’s worked hard in just about every game he’s played in and done exactly what the team expects from him. I really can’t complain about his play at all.

DiMaio- B+, much like Barnes, I really can’t complain about him at all, just needs to muck it up a little bit more in the corners and score a little bit more.

Ott- C, so far he’s been just ok. Not great but not bad. He does need to score more, the spunk and spirit that he brought last season isn’t really there this year. If this guy can bring that back, the team can and will respond to it and good things will come of it.

Kapanen- C-, I’m greatly disappointed in his play so far. He can score, has the ability to make great plays, make good passes, but he just hasn’t been doing it much this season. If he can start to turn that around, he’ll see his playing time go up and he’ll begin to score more.

Young- C-, I should give him a higher grade, but when you look at his statistics from this season, he does deserve a C. He hasn’t scored much at all this season, but he has tried hard and shot the puck a lot. He is known to be a streaky player but that should keep him from at least getting points on a regular basis. He just needs to keep working hard like he has the past few games, and the biscuits will start going into the basket.

Turgeon- B, he’s trying really hard to keep his stay on the team after the team tried to trade him and placed him on waivers over the summer. He could have a lot more points if the other players on the team could take what he’s creating behind the net and put it in the net. He’s doing quite well despite what some people think.

Sloan- B-, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do for this team. He hasn’t been on the team for very long so I really can’t say that much about him. I do know that he’s a great 3rd and 4th line player who can make good plays and can score. The team just needs to see him do it.

Downey- C, his role as the fighter has been decreased because of the poor play of the other members on the team, so there really isn’t a lot to say about him.

Boucher- B+, doing pretty good on the blue line this year. The injury to his left eye socket kept him out of the line up for a little bit, but when he came back, it didn’t seem to affect his play that much at all. He’s still making good passes and shots in from the blue line, along with doing a good job on the special teams.

Matvichuk- B-, he’s having a better season that last year’s disaster. The loss of Hatcher did affect him at the beginning of the season but he’s adjusted to him not being there. He’s playing better in every area, it’s just that when he does make a mistake it always seems to be at the wrong time or it costs the team a goal or lead.

Sweeney- C+, he’s doing well and has improved when the whole defensive team improved. He just needs to score a little bit or get more shots at the net.

Daley- A-, he is by far this team’s surprise of the year. He is an excellent player, skater, passer, and scorer; his only problem will be keeping up with the speed of the NHL. But as of now, it doesn’t look like he’s having that much a problem with that. He’s playing quite well and giving John Erskine a run for his spot on with the defense.

Erskine-C-, his playing time has dwindled greatly because of the state of the team and because of the above-mentioned Daley. He is a good player and is huge, which gives this team the physical presence that seems to be lost at the moment, but he is a slow skater and still makes some rookie mistakes and that may hurt him during the summer.

Klemm- C+, he’s doing pretty well, much like Sweeney and there really isn’t a lot to say about him because his play goes unnoticed.

Numminen- B+, he has been a fairly consistent player on the back end and has made the right plays at the right time. The only thing that held him back at the beginning of the year was just being unfamiliar with the new team.

Zubov- C-, he has been having a really disappointing season so far. He hasn’t been able to make the good and right play with and without the puck in the first half of the season and his stats reflect that. He should really turn this season around soon because the team relies on him a lot more now that Hatcher is gone.

Tugnutt-C-, I know he hasn’t played that often so far but when he hasn’t he hasn’t been that great. He’s come in a couple times for Turco and has provided decent enough back up goaltending, but when he starts a game, his play has been nothing close to stellar.

Turco- B-, he had a slow, rough start to the season, but he started to play better and has given the team a fighting chance at the division and at a winning record. His recent play has reflected that of last season. The only thing to make his play look better is if the offense would start to score more than just 2 goals a game.

Tippett-B+, for him to have his team at 17-17-7 thru the first half of the season is a great accomplishment. He realized that many of the problems with the team could only be corrected by the team; there was nothing that he could say or do to make the team turn around for the better. He is still dealing with the rumors that he may not be with the team much longer unless the team gets better.

Now what would I like to change about this team…hmmm let me think about this real long and hard. More offense. Better defense. Winning on the road. A little bit more solid goaltending. More even scoring because we all know what happens when a team relies on one guy to score. More winning on the road. And have the team become a team again. It’s all real simple stuff, but the simple stuff can be the hardest to do.

I expect this team to make a lot of changes in how they approach the games and winning, not so much in changing the personal in the locker room and coaching staff. They know they can win and they know that they are a great team, they just have to apply themselves to every game and play for all 60 minutes. They will start to put more wins together and make a solid push for the division and for a good playoff spot. From the looks of the team so far, they are starting to do that.

And now for your bonus section…..

A Fort Worth Brahmas Mid Season Report

At the middle of the season, the Brahmas are 9-19-5-3. From the looks of it, it is a horrible record but really it’s quite nice. Especially when you know that they have already surpassed last years win total and have 2 3-game winning streaks and the team is really playing good hockey. There have been many changes to the team so far this season. Many players have been waived and recalled, some have left on their own accord, and there have been some that have only played a handful of games before leaving or being traded, and the biggest change has been the firing of Bill Inglis for Al Sims as head coach. Since the firing, the team has made drastic changes on both offense, defense and special teams. The team has begun to win on a regular basis, they are no longer blowing leads as much as before, they are scoring more than 2 goals a game, and the goaltending has been close to phenomenal. The team’s offense is being lead by veteran Chad Woollard, who is headed to the CHL All Star game this season as well. The tandem of Erasmo Saltarelli and Tyler Nilsson in net has given the rest of the Brahmas’ foes a run for their money every night. Al Sims has a goaltending problem similar to that of Detroit, but he’s got it figured out. The duo alternate every other game and it is working in their favor. One of the other problems that plagued this team has been their inability to claw back into games when down a goal or more. The Brahmas of the past would just watch the opposing team’s lead get bigger and bigger and their only reaction was to fight. Now they keep shooting at the net and are starting to see the goals go in and they have come back to win a couple of games against some of the leagues top teams. It will be an interesting second half of the season. If this team keeps going on the same road that they are on, they are destined for their first return to the playoffs in three years (I think that’s right). All is looking well in Brahma-land.