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Some Final Thoughts on 2008-09

by Ralph Strangis / Dallas Stars

It’s official.  The Dallas Stars will not be in the playoffs this spring.  This down and up and down and down season concludes Friday night in Anaheim.  Although the ventilator kept pumping for several days this one ended long before Saturday night’s OT win against the Blues. 

Ralph Strangis
Effectively the season ended February 16th in Columbus when Brad Richards broke his wrist.  The first wrist he broke.  Forget everything else that happened up until that night – that injury was the tipping point.  The team battled hard to overcome a very shaky start and had to juggle and jockey and patch just to hang in.  Richards ended it. 

The Stars left Ohio seven games over .500 and in a playoff spot.  They won seven of their next 27 before there were no longer enough points available to get them in. 

You get it.  The media (mostly) gets it.  You can’t start how they started, miss who they missed and squander what they squandered and expect things to go your way.

And so now some final thoughts and personal observations as we look to put the bow on 08-09 season;

-- Teams that are bottom five in Power Play, Penalty Kill and Goals Against aren’t playoff teams.  That’s pretty much where Dallas has been all season and it isn’t good enough.

-- Special teams are about two things – possession and personnel.  With the new faceoff rule this season gaining the puck from the circle was tantamount to extra man or down-a-man success.  They were not a good faceoff team and they didn’t have enough in the lineup most nights to scare anyone.  And their goaltending didn’t do them enough favors.

-- Which brings us to Marty Turco.  I asked Razor on the air the other night if he thought fatigue had anything to do with Marty’s sub-par season.  He was dismissive of that notion both on the air and later in his blog.  He’s right – fatigue had nothing to do with the first 25 games.  And there is at least one guy (Marty Brodeur) who can handle a big workload AND win cups.  But it got me curious so I looked a few things up;
  • Nine of the 10 current NHL Leaders in GAA, Save % and Shutouts (going into Saturday night) have played 58 or fewer games this season.
  • The last four Cup winning goaltenders have not been overtaxed (Osgood ‘07-08 – 43 regular season apps, Giguerre ‘06-07 – 56 regular season apps, Ward ‘05-06 – 26 regular season apps, Khabibulin ‘03-04 – 55 regular season apps)
  • Workhorses Evgeni Nabokov (who has been out of the second round only once) and Miikka Kiprusoff (who made only 38 regular season appearances the year the Flames lost in seven games in the Cup final to Tampa and who has not been out of the first round since) have never won the Cup.
  • And then there’s Marty Turco.  Four times (including this season) he’s made more than 62 regular season appearances.  His post season record in those three campaigns is 5-12 (games) and 0-3 (series).  The only springs where he’s won playoff series he made 55 and 62 regular season appearances respectively.   Something to chew on…
-- Mike Modano needs a good couple of months of playing golf and laying on the beach – and then he’ll be back and ready to go.  He can’t/shouldn’t/won’t end it like this.  And for all the “he’s almost 39” talk – he’ll finish the season third or fourth in team scoring with around 50 points.  Go ahead and look around the league at who doesn’t have 50 points this season.  He’s still absolutely amazing and with a healthy group around him next season – he’ll be flying around the ice with that jersey flapping around behind him pulling people out of their seats.  Sure it won’t happen as often as it did – but it will happen enough to remind us how lucky we all are to have been around him.

-- Assuming Sergei Zubov is healthy enough to give it a go – he and the Stars need to figure something out.  He’s an unrestricted free agent.  He’s a Dallas Star in his bones and there is unfinished business here.  I’m not completely objective here – I want to see him and Mike out there one more time.  But even at his age and not at full capacity he’s still an unbelievable player.

-- Which brings us to Dallas’ most pressing need this off-season; at least one huge addition on the blueline.  Every team that competes for the Cup has at least one.  Everything looked great 12 months ago with Zubov, Norstrom and Boucher back there – but – Zubov got hurt – Boucher couldn’t stay healthy – and Norstrom retired.  Other guys had to step up and absorb minutes – and well – you know the rest of the story.  The consensus I think is – get one.  Or two.  Jarome Iginla is a really really good player – but to get something of value you generally have to give something of value – that’s the deal.

-- There were plenty of silver linings this season.  Loui Eriksson and James Neal and Fabian Brunstrom were just terrific – each in their own way.  And Steve Ott – he’s the story of the year.  He has matured as a player and a man.  I can’t wait to see him next season.  I’m not a huge fan of MVP’s for 12th place teams…. but if there were such a vote – he’d get mine.  Mike Ribeiro would be a close second.  I’m not totally surprised by how hard he works and battles and cares – but some people who don’t see him every night are.  He is an amazing talent and a guy who looks to me to want to earn his money every night. Stephane Robidas – unbelievable.  Darryl Sydor – a Dallas Star through and through.  And the young blueliners all took another step in their development.   Jere Lehtinen has been a part of things for a long time here – and when he is healthy – there are few better at the little things.  We caught a peek of some guys who will be a big part of things going forward – and some who are passing through on their way to what’s next.

-- It was a forgettable season in many respects – but a season that I think will benefit the Stars in the near future.  I mean how can this group next season not come ready to go and with something to prove from day one?  And with an addition here or there – and a healthy roster – I would be shocked if the Dallas Stars didn’t get right back to mixing it up as one of the conferences’ top teams. 

I mean seriously.  What do you think Brenden Morrow is going to be like on opening night next season….

‘Nuff said.  

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