In Search of a Home Remedy
Never mind that the Stars are 2-4 in their last 6 games at American Airlines Center. Lets go back farther. Yog the memory, so to speak.
The Stars started last season's home schedule with authority (If you only look at the result and not the path. - The, 'if you like sausage don't watch how it's made' analogy). They won 6 of the first 7 at AAC, five of them by one goal, but (And its a big 'but') they we're outshot badly in all but one game (Thank you Kari)
Since then they are a very pedestrian 21-20-3 at home. Yes, not a very tilted sheet of ice.
Add it all up and Gully's Stars are 27-21-3 on home ice since the start of last season. Good that they are over .500, but not exactly making American Airlines Center the 'Den of Dominance' now are they.
Better news on the road side of the ledger. Teams shoot for a .500 record away from home (Or some mathematical algorithm that 'appears' to be .500ish) so the Stars 27-25-3 mark, with all the flying and time zone disruption they endure, is more than decent - it borders on terrific.
But how to boost that win percentage at home? That's a truly puzzling conundrum.
The excuse last year was the antiseptic atmosphere at AAC. The sea of empty grey seats and hollow acoustics were said to be a buzzkill. But that changed after Tom Gaglardi bought the team, reduced ticket prices, poured money into sales and marketing and gave a mandate to fill the building again. So the ambience crutch has been removed. Fans are trying hard to do their part.
Well then what is it? What's holding the Stars back at home? And what do I think would help?
How about these 3 suggestions for starters:
1) Start better
- Every road team says the same thing; 'take the crowd out of it.' Too many games its the Stars who are 'surviving' the first dozen shifts of home games. They've scored 11 first period goals in the 11 home games played. Not exactly 'takin it to em' and proof that the Stars might want to ratchet up their early attack, maybe shorten that bench quicker, find ways to engage the patrons with their opening 10 minutes at AAC, and force opponents onto their heels, if not a knee. Proactive, not reactive.
2) Produce a Big 3 (or 4) on D
- When the Red Wings had Nik Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, that pair hit the ice every 2nd shift early in games. A look around the NHL shows that top teams play their top defensemen big minutes. (Chi, LA, Pit, Bos, Ana, etc). Just look back at the average minutes played by the Mount Rushmore of Stars d-corps - the 99' Blueline: Hatcher 24:43, Zubov 24:13, Matvichuk 21:18, Sydor 21:15. Right now the only W Conference teams without a defenseman averaging 24+ minutes are Edmonton, Colorado, San Jose and Dallas. All four are currently not in a playoff spot.
3) Internally raise the bar of acceptance
- Unlike Montreal or Vancouver or Philadelphia, Dallas is an easy city to melt into after a loss. External pressure just doesn't exist at the level it does in some other markets. So the internal community (Guys in the room) have to set the standard of acceptability. I'm not saying it has to be Mark Messier's old "Winning or misery" mantra and I know they all want to win, but it shouldn't be shoulder shrugs and 'better luck next time' either. There is another level, and this group can get there, but they have to do it together by demanding more of themselves and each other.
In closing, here are a couple quotes that come to mind:
Scott Shaw had it right when he said -"If you have no expectations, you will have no disappointments"
Leonard Berry offered -"Excellence is more fun than mediocrity"
I wish I had a pearl from Homer (That would be apropos), but I don't.