41 down. 41 to go.
The Stars have hit mid-season and they do so with a mixture of mostly positivity, yet a lingering margin of muck.
The most prominent halfway note is that they currently reside outside the top 8 in the highly competitive West. Their spot (9th) isn't shocking, or hopeless, or even disappointing - its reality; They have one of the five lowest payrolls in the thirty team league. They've suffered some injuries. And they have an NHL newby coaching staff.
I'd list the positives as:
- Jamie Benn's continued ascension to stud status among young NHL talents.
- Tom Gaglardi's possession of the franchise.
- The construction of a 3rd line that has been a nightly reaffirmation of what the brass wants this team's identity to be.
- Michael Ryder's play, and shot.
- Parade to penalty box halted. Mouthy and delinquent has given way to mute and disciplined.
- Phillip Larsen
- Souray's swagger, nasty edge, and threatening shot.
- Success in 1-goal games (best win% in league, just not enough of them)
- Kari Lehtonen (pre-groin inj)
- Eric Nystrom's goal scoring (only Ryder, Eriksson, and Benn have scored more)
- A surprisingly effective attack at full strength.
- A sterling 20-4 record in games that are tied or the Stars are ahead in after two periods of play.
And the muck?
- Too susceptible to the blow out (11 of 17 losses have been by 3 or more goals)
- No clear-cut, AllStar, WorldClass number one line
- A mostly floundering Powerplay
- Eric Nystrom's playmaking (only Pardy has fewer assists) LOL
- Lack of OTL points
- Losses to teams that are sucking the bottom of the standings (Excused when you are a first place team, not when you are a 'every point matters' club)
As I stated - in caveat form - in last season's flattering Mid Term Report, they don't hand out playoff births after 41 games. That's obviously a good thing this year.
That said, I'm bullish on these Stars. They have built a nice base and should improve in the second half.
Health and goaltending will be the areas that beat the path to the playoffs.
Expect some puddles on that path, but rest assured this group will have gum boots on....and a map.