Sin Bin City
Some thoughts on the Stars baffling and continuing penalty problem.
Penalties - and the inability to kill them off at a high rate - might be the single most undermining element in the Stars pursuit of a return to playoff hockey.
Consider this. They haven't been a playoff team since 2008 when they marched all the way to the Conference Final. That regular season the penalty kill ranked 2nd best in the NHL. Since then it has finished 24th, 27th, and 23rd - and the Stars have failed to secure a spot in the post-season in all three of those years. From 1997 to 2004 the penalty kill finished 14th or better in seven of the eight seasons. The one season it didn't (2001-02, 26th) is also the one season they missed the playoffs.
If the preceding paragraph's mountain of evidence and researched correlation doesn't spell out the importance of the category then, well...you are reality-impaired. (Which I'm sure Stars players and you fans feel the refs have been in the opening 20 games of this campaign)
Currently the PK is decent (18th) but overtaxed (averaging 5 shorthanded situations per game, 2nd most in the league). If they can finagle it into the top 10 by season's end they'll probably get in.
And the volume of penalties is as problematic as the percentage.
Here is the downward trend in times shorthanded since the Lockout (04-05) which further illustrates this season's sharp spike in delinquency: (FYI: 2005-06 was the season of all the new rules enforcement and whistle-happy officiating)
05-06 -- 6.1
06-07 -- 4.6
07-08 -- 4.3
08-09 -- 4.0
09-10 -- 3.5
10-11 -- 3.4
This yr. -- 5.0
Individually the main culprits are easy to single out. Stars players hold down three of the top five spots in the minor penalty category for the entire league. Morrow #1, Souray #2, and Benn #5. Souray mostly just skates guilty to the box and takes his medicine, eats his peas. The other two seem exasperated at virtually every call. (Love the passion, but refs hate the demonstrative, verbal berating - and they can be a subtly vindictive lot)
As a team, only the Broad Street Bullies Redux have taken more minor penalties, and only one more. (They're excused, it's in their DNA)
I know the Stars are working on this issue but the pace of improvement has been glacial at best. (See how I worked pace in there. "pacey") However, at any rate, they seem to be facing a choice; either trim the delinquency or harden the ability to asphyxiate opposing powerplays.
And a cautionary note to those really naughty boys (You know who you are): Christmas is just over a month away. Santa is currently compiling his list on his iPad. If you don't want your stockings to resemble a West Virginia mine then find a way to conform, pronto.