October 27, 2011

Suprising Start for the Dallas Stars

We are nearly a month into the NHL season. Dallas has done what even us diehard fans didn’t expect.. they’re unbeaten at home (As of 10-26-11) and #1 in the West. With key losses last season in James Neal and Brad Richards, many expected this season to be more about rebuilding and less about making a playoff run. So far, Dallas has bucked the critics under new coach Glen Gulutzan.There are many factors at play here. 

Firstly, you can’t deny that the coaching change was needed. It seems like the players are uniting well under Gulutzan, one of the youngest head coaches in the game. Seeing as the Stars have a lot of young talent, perhaps he speaks their language better than the Marc Crawford regime. Crawford made many strategic changes and not all of them were warmly adopted by the Stars. Gulutzan seems to be taking a “If this works, let’s keep doing it” approach thus far.

Secondly,Kari Lehtonen has been simply stellar in net. He was named as one of the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ earlier this month and he deserves all of the praise. Lehtonen is #1 on overall saves, and #3 on both save percentage and GAA. As long as Lehtonen stays healthy, the Stars have nothing to worry about at G.

Thirdly,the checking line of Dvorak, Fiddler, and Burish has been a major thorn in the side of opposing teams. Steve Hunt from NHL.com wrote a fine piece on them earlier this week and I suggest you check it out. http://stars.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=597305&navid=DL|DAL|home

So.. all is well in Big D it seems? Hold up.. you knew there would be a catch.

You see, the Stars have been dominating on the ice but whimpering at the gate. The American Airlines Center crowds have been sparse at best. Dallas is averaging around 8k per game.. and that’s simply not acceptable. Sure, you can blame the MLB playoffs for taking some of the fans away but that’s a cop-out answer for a serious problem. It wasn’t always like this. Stars tickets used to be a struggle to get.. and this season there were empty seats on opening night.

Dallas is a city based on superstars. It’s not always about the team, but about the player.. and the Stars don’t have that factor right now for the casual fans. For a long time in Dallas, this role was played by Mike Modano. After Modano began to fade from top production, Marty Turco took over as the public face of the franchise. When Turco’s star ceased to shine, we rallied behind Brad Richards and placed faith in James Neal. Both of these players are now gone and the casual fan has nobody to root for. Part of this problem can be blamed on the spartan budget Dallas is operating under until the ownership situation is resolved. Barely enough money to stay at the cap floor, let alone go into a marketing blitz. For what it’s worth, Steve Ott has been the public face of the team lately. Ott is a good player and a nice guy off the ice but he’s just lacking in the ‘omg superstar’ division. Dallas needs to build momentum behind some of these young guns and get Big D excited about hockey again. Jamie Benn, Trevor Daley, Loui Eriksson.. but that’s another article for another time.

One thing Dallas HAS been doing on the promotional end that I’m excited about is offering a discount for college students at every home game, instead of just select matches like last season. With solid ownership a ways off from being finalized, Dallas must fight through these pains and keep putting a quality product on the ice. If you build it, they will come. 

- Ray Trenton

No comments:

Post a Comment