It was a disappointing last night for Stars fans. I knew going into the game it was going to be tough; it was the second game in as many nights for the Stars, all on the road. In addition, they're embroiled in a controversy that has received a lot of press and put them under the microscope.
What I wasn't expecting last night, though, was a strong game out of #9. Mike Modano almost single-handedly brought the Stars back into the game. Down 3-0 in the third period, Mo notched two goals, and had the Stars within one in the final minutes of the game. But, with Turco on the bench, and the extra skater in, Matt Niskanen made a poor decision with the puck (he had a few last night, but this one couldn't be covered up), and the Oilers tallied an easy open-net goal. They put an extra nail in a coffin that was already well sealed seconds later. A defensive breakdown by Fabian Brunnstrom left an Oiler unchecked in front of the net, and a redirection gave us the final score of 5-2.
New Stars forward Mark Parrish was hit in the face with a puck last night and didn't return to the game after the injury. That could cost the Stars another forward. It's been a long time since I've seen the team this depleted by injuries. You hate to use that as an excuse, but it's hard not to offer it up as an explanation for the 9-12-2-2 record.
But, that said, the Stars are returning home. They get to play in front of their home crowd, which all teams love to do, and hopefully they can pull some inspiration from that. The next two games are against opponents that have also struggled this season, and are very winnable. The third game is against the hated Red Wings, and that will be a difficult one to win. But if the Stars can get another two wins under their belts, and are winners of four of the last five games they've played going into the Detroit tilt? Who knows...
Sean Avery and Stars Co-GM Brett Hull are meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York this morning to determine what further punishment will be doled out for Avery's comments on Tuesday. But, regardless of what fines and suspensions are given out by the league, Avery is going to have to face his team when he comes back to Dallas. And, from the reactions they've had the last couple of days, that may be the biggest barrier to him returning to the Stars lineup any time soon.
Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett has his finger on the pulse of the team better than anyone else, outside of the players, and had this to say:
"From a coach's standpoint, I try to build a team that has an atmosphere where players care about each other and play with each other and play with continuity, and I find it hard to believe that Sean could come back in that dressing room and we could find that continuity again,"
Tippett had been talking to the media just minutes before Avery's off-color remarks, and had been defending him. For Tippett, the biggest insult wasn't the words Avery made - it was the pre-meditation of the statements, and the way he went out of his way to break a promise he gave the coach. Tippett said:
"It's frustrating for me to go out and defend the guy. It's disappointing, because in the morning with all the stuff going on in the media, I approached Sean and asked him if he was going to talk to media; he told me, no. He talked to our PR people and he told them, no, he wasn't going to talk to the media ... and to have a calculated response like that ... it was a calculated statement for what I feel was personal gain."
Many players have come out and denounced Avery's words as well. But it runs deeper than this incident, and that is becoming more and more obvious. The words that have been used - "unacceptable", "disappointing", "embarrassment", etc. - go to describe the team's feelings about Avery himself, and not just his stupid remarks. Avery may be back in town with the team on Friday, but I have a feeling it will be some time before we see Sean Avery in a Stars jersey again - if we do at all.