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Archive for September, 2009

It’s just the pre-season. It’s just the pre-season. It’s just the pre-season.

Last night’s 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues did not sound good. Ralph and Razor finally did the broadcast on The Ticket for the first time, so that part sounded good. But the game was awful.

Five goals on 19 shots is a lot for Marty Turco to give up, but I don’t know if they were his fault or not. It sounded like everybody on the Dallas side of the ice had no idea what was going on. I get that they are learning a new system and it takes a lot of skating and it’s not fully internalized yet, but I’m still worried.

I’m not convinced that when they do learn the system and it finally becomes second nature, that it’s really going to be much better. I only know Marc Crawford on reputation and it’s not necessarily a good one. He is not famous for having winning systems.

For some reason, everybody assumes that once his system is in place, the wins will start rolling in. I’m not really ready to assume that. If they get to the point where everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but they’re still losing, I doubt Crawford will say, “Yeah, that’s the system. It just doesn’t seem to work.”

I’m worried. I admit it.

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Wayne Gretzky finally did the Phoenix Coyotes a favor and stepped down from all his duties, most importantly his coaching duties. I know I’m not supposed to say anything bad about Wayne Gretzky, but he was a terrible coach. In his four years there, despite lots of high draft picks and plenty of young talent and the occasional overpayment for a veteran, he never got them into the playoffs. Yet despite that fact, he was never going to be fired. The whole Coyotes front office was stocked with his pals, and even if it weren’t, nobody would have ever fired him.

So he did them a favor by taking it out of their hands.

To replace him, the Coyotes tapped our beloved Dave Tippett to coach the team. Tipp will bring some actual coaching to the team and instill some discipline, some hard work, some commitment, and…well, a system.

Tipp is a great coach. He can whip that team into shape in no time. I think we’ll see right away the glaring difference between a team with the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, behind the bench, and a team that’s being coached by an actual coach.

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Mike Heika talked to Marc Crawford after Tuesday’s game about the “spotty” play of the Stars.

“We are going to correct the things we can and go back and reinforce the system’s strong points of play, but we are also going to demonstrate some patience as well. It’s going to take a constant reinforcement to get it.”

I think this is a good plan, this demonstrating some patience, but I don’t know if we’ll really see that when the games start counting.

The Dallas Stars got such a terrible start last season that they’re determined this one will be good. But if they’re still trying to learn the system and trust their own creativity and end up losing some extra games, I wonder if the coaching staff will bail on the whole patience thing and just play the half of the team that is already getting it.

I don’t think it will behoove guys like Fabian Brunnstrom to lose playing time because he might make a mistake. Or if he isn’t scoring like crazy in the first few games.

The same goes for the young defensemen like Niskanen and Fistric. Really all of the defensemen are going to need some patience.

Of course, I can’t see any of this new system yet, or how well anybody is playing it. I’m just going by what Mike Heika says, essentially. It just sounds, from the quotes I’ve been reading, that it’s pretty different from what our veterans are used to.

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Pay attention, boys.

Pay attention, boys.

I finally went to a training camp practice today and it was great fun. Myra and The Kid joined me for the second hour and we analyzed the X’s and O’s together.

Mostly I took pictures, but not very good ones. I have a new camera and I don’t know it very well, so I’ll need some practice with it. I do know I need to override the shutter speed, first thing. Every picture was just a little blurry from all the movement.

This was the first time I’ve seen Marc Crawford run a practice and the main difference from Dave Tippett was that I could hear that he was talking. Tipp’s voice was so low, even when he was yelling, it didn’t escape the rink. Crawford’s probably yelling at the same volume, but he’s WAY up the register.

I followed Mark Fistric around a little bit and he looked pretty good. They did a lot of drills I’ve never seen, of course, and one was for stealing pucks and breaking up passes and Fistric did well. Kind of surprisingly, Krys Barch was doing a good job of poking the puck off the coach’s stick before he had a chance to try to get it past Fistric.

(R to L) Sitting, sitting, standing, working.

(R to L) Sitting, sitting, standing, working.

Fabian Brunnstrom was in the second practice and while they were waiting for the Zamboni to finish re-surfacing the ice, we got to watch him practice his stick handling. It’s fascinating to watch. He was doing his school figures during another lull and carrying the puck backwards and forwards in circles. Before the drills started, I caught him working on a trick shot (although I hate to call it a trick shot because I can see how it could come in handy plenty of times) where he flips the puck one-handed, back-handed, top shelf.

You’re never so good you can stop practicing, kids.

I have a feeling, that started the last month of last season, that we’re about to see what all the hubbub was with Bunny. I expect to see him take off this season.

Crawford had them doing what I decided was a “get back” drill that was fun to watch. They simulated losing the puck in the offensive zone, then racing back to take it away from the forward before he got a shot off. It really showed how Nick Grossman is an underrated skater. He and Fistric both had no problem getting back.

Trevor
Trevor Daley, of course, was just flying around all the time. That guy can skate.

Other than that, there were a lot of kids I didn’t recognize without a program. It won’t be long now until the real games get started.

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I’m going to attribute it to the long off-season, but I am going to need more work to be able to follow what’s going on.

First, the Tampa Bay game last night, broadcast on Tampa radio (online) really shone a light on how out of shape I am. It’s hard to follow on radio as it is, for a TV girl like me, but it’s even harder when it’s a crazy stranger calling the play-by-play. I’m a big fan of Dan McDowell’s “Homer Call of the Week” bit on the Ticket, and the Tampa guy would be a perfect candidate. He just about blew out my computer speakers when Tampa scored and when Dallas did, he just said, “Score.”

Still, I was grateful for a chance to hear the game. It sounded like Brad Richards was really into it. He had a goal and a shootout goal, and I hear that he was all over the ice. Just the stories about him and how he’s 100% healthy and 100% on board with the new system make me assume that he’s just beaming all the time.

This could be very good for us. If Morrow and Ribeiro continue with their top-line-ness, and Brad and Loui are the 2-punch, it could be very good.

I’m listening to the game against the Avs on Denver radio and while the play-by-play guy is a little more normal, Peter McNabb is the color guy and he is not my favorite. Far from it, in fact. But, you take what you can get.

The score is not in our favor as I listen, but I can’t tell why that is. I’m easily distracted. He’s mentioned Beaudoin several times, and pronounces it differently each time.

I think I need a few more workouts, maybe a couple of play-by-play listening drills before I’m ready for the start of the season.

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Andrew’s Dallas Stars Page had this quote from Brad Richards…

…on the the pace of the scrimmage and activation of the defensemen:

“I’ve been in the league nine years and most of the time I’ve played that type of system. I feel at home. I love it. I feel that’s the way the game should be played. No disrespect to the coaches that coach that way, it’s all about winning and what your personnel is. But for guys like Niskanen, Daley and Robi, who can jump up on plays and have good speed, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Maybe this will be a re-breakout for Brad. And for Nisky and Robi and Trevor, too. I’m all for speed and excitement and offense, as long as we don’t forget to get back and help the goalie. Breakaways can be fun, but not if it’s the other team headed toward Marty.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of defense. I’d rather see a 2-1 win than a 7-6 loss. Sure, I’d love to see a 7-1 win, so if that’s what the new system means, I’m all for it. But if it means giving up 3, 4, 5 goals a game, I am NOT all for it.

Turco might have his work cut out for him. Even more so than usual.

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Tomorrow is the start of Training Camp. Finally, it’s here.

I don’t think I’ve ever wished more for a season to start than I have for this one. Last season was such a mess, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a new season starting. But now that it’s here, I need it. I need it to clear out last year’s cobwebs.

This is the Nine-Ten* season. Last season is dead and gone. We don’t ever have to mention that one again. We don’t have to wonder what could have been any more. Now we can turn our attention to what this season can be.

Nine-Ten can be the best the Stars have had in a long time, but it could just as easily turn into a circus again. Who knows what Crawford and Huddy are going to be like? Who knows how all the young kids are going to handle the big coaching changes? Or how the veterans are going to handle it, for that matter?

I expect them to try really hard at first, hoping to get a better start than the season we’ve all forgotten about. I just hope that they know what they’re doing. I have a feeling that confidence is going to be a big factor.

If they don’t get a good start, I wonder how Crawford will respond. Will every mistake land a kid in the doghouse? Will he give them a chance to learn? Our three d-kids, Mark Fistric, Matt Niskanen, and Nick Grossman, are all coming off their sophomore year, so they should be past that hump and starting to make names for themselves. They still have a few years before they hit their peak, but it’s not going to help them if they’re afraid to make mistakes.

For all I know, Marc Crawford isn’t like that anymore. He says he’s changed. I have no idea what kind of coach he is on a day-to-day basis. I’ve only seen him behind opposing benches and read unflattering things about him.

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