Tough times for Big D
When Atlanta dropped the axe on head coach
All three bear watching, but here's another name to watch:
As with the other three, his failures are not entirely of his own making. But that hasn't stopped the buzzards from circling a team that is struggling to find consistency on the ice and failing to fill seats in a very competitive market.
It's to the eternal credit of Dallas GM
But armed with a full complement of players, this year's team appears to be no better off, lurching to a 5-4-2 start that suggests reaching the postseason will be a challenge.
And, if anything, the offensive shortcomings that sank the Stars' playoff hopes last season are even more glaring now.While the quality of the personnel assembled by Armstrong is an issue, so too is Tippett's defense-first style that dictates his charges rarely attack when they have the lead. Rather than display the courage needed to intensify their assault and salt away a victory, these Stars seem afraid to make a mistake that will cost them what they've achieved to that point. That tendency was painfully evident in Monday's 4-2 loss to the Sharks, a game in which the Stars held a 2-1 lead before coughing it up with three stunning defensive blunders in the final eight minutes.
That kind of hardline approach to the game has a limited shelf life (just ask Tippett's Cup-winning predecessor,
While the Stars continue to struggle to create offense, Tippett's biggest problem may be his decision to add a new fourth liner to an already crowded mix: erstwhile superstar
The smartest-looking coaches are the ones with the best goaltending. But the really smart ones are those who dish out ice time to players who deserve it most. They demand accountability from top performers, and give the lesser lights something to work toward.
Tippett's bold gambit to demote the veteran is pretty easy to justify. At the moment, Modano simply doesn't deserve the ice. The team's nominal offensive star, he's been largely ineffective this season, racking up just two goals and five points through 11 games. Most nights, Modano seems content to skate around the action in wide circles, reserving his legendary speed and crafty stick work for the increasingly rare direct assault.
So, really, Tippett's hand was forced. The problem, as it so often is in life, is the timing.
Entering Wednesday night's home game against Chicago, Modano stood one shy of tying
The Stars have invested considerable capital in promoting the record locally, and with their top draw skating mostly on the fourth line with the likes of
Finding a worthy replacement wouldn't be easy (see: Atlanta), so if the Stars falter, Armstrong likely will choose to shake up the mix before handing out a pink slip. Fedoruk, who was effective in a showcase performance against the Sharks, seems like a lock to be moved, perhaps as soon as this week. The Panthers, who had scout
Whatever the route, the Stars have to find a way to pick up their game. Even as they continue to tread water on the ice, they're hemorrhaging fans. Although the announced crowds continue to sound impressive (17,546 for Monday's nationally-televised game), the number of fannies in the seats was probably closer to 13,000. And that was hardly the exception to the rule at the formerly loud and proud AAC.
Tippett is an excellent coach and a good guy, but like all coaches, he has a Best-by date. The next two weeks should determine how close he is to reaching it.