If there is one thing clear about the NHL
Playoffs, it is that it is riveting and addicting in short order. If
there is another thing clear about the NHL Playoffs, it is that if your team is
not in it, it is just not the same.
I can remember an actual time around here where the playoffs were taken for
granted. The Stars entered every season guaranteed that they were
going to the post-season, the question from October on was simply what seed
were they going to be? Would they get home ice in the first 2 rounds
or all the way throughout the playoffs? Was there an easier road with
match-ups, or do we just let the chips fall where they may?
Having worked in sports radio in Dallas-Fort Worth since 1998, I can honestly
tell you that I remember in our daily show meetings that there were times after
a playoff game that we had better things to do then break down “just a 1st
round game” the next day. Not proud of it, but as goofy as it
seems now, hosting a Round 1 playoff game against Edmonton back in the day was
not treated always as a big event. It was a routine event that was
treated slightly more importantly than the regular season. It was
going to happen and the Stars were going to win.
Wake me up when things get good in Round 2, was the attitude that seemed to
exist in this city a 10-15 years back.
Well, we have learned. We have been served our helping of humble pie
and then some. We have promised that we will never take a playoff
berth for granted. What silly, entitled, and spoiled fans we may have
become. And now, we beg for mercy and a chance to play again in the
greatest tournament in sports.
Of course, that will have to wait until at least next year. And for
now, we are left to sift through the rubble of what remains of a 5th successive
season that ended short of the mark.
Before we close the book on 2012-13, which was actually only 2013, we should
make sure we know where this team sits in some important statistics that have
put them where they are. Some of this has been touched on in previous
entries, but it doesn’t hurt to throw it all in together now that we can see
the season as a whole:
Goals Per Game – Starting with ’08, the last time the Stars
were in the playoffs.
Goals Against Per
And obviously, in a game like hockey, if the number up top (Goals for) is
smaller than the corresponding number below it (Goals against), then your team
is struggling to win. And, this is the 5th season in a row that the
issue has been as obvious as the sunrise.
But, let’s dig deeper.
Shot Differential +/-
There is one major issue with the stat above, and that is that despite the
numbers getting worse almost every year, we also have to deal with that small
detail of shots per game as this last year was merely 48 games and the other
seasons were 82. Gulp. Let’s look at it by shots per
Shot Differential Per Game:
Oh boy. That one smarts. We were under the impression that
the 2013 team was better than the 2012 version. I guess this sets
that one back a bit, doesn’t it? If no metric in hockey correlates
with winning like shot differential (actually shots attempted rather than shots
on goal is the most ideal) then we have issues and they are getting
So, why are they losing the shot differential? Are they shooting less
or conceding more? Both.
Shots For Per Game:
Interesting to see that the offensive output this season was very low, despite
more power plays, but on par with the numbers from the 2008 team that we all
yearn for. The big drop has been on the other end.
Shots Against Per Game:
This is where we come back to the idea that the defense corps have never been
properly replenished with quality since the good old days. This isn’t
goaltending. This is the fact that there is too much rubber being
shot at Dallas nets. And it has been consistently bad since Mr Zubov
left with Mr Boucher and Mr Norstrom back after the 2008 run.
Even Strength Goal Differential:
This is another one that correlates to winning quite a bit. Are you
the better team when the game is a 5-on-5 game and we leave special teams out
of it? This was the calling card of the 2012 team, and that is why
the theory was that if you improved the power play, you would get into the
playoffs. Well, that worked, but even strength fell off considerably.
Let’s look at the Power Play.
Power Play Conversion %:
So, they got the PP back to a reasonable spot, where they ranked 18th in the
NHL as opposed to 30th, but they lost their gains at equal strength.
But, percentages are only half the battle. What about
opportunities? If you are never on the job, your percentages don’t
Power Play Opportunities per game:
That is interesting. It was going down every year, and this season,
the Stars drew far more power plays than in 2012. However, that
number is still the 5th best out of 6 years. Power Plays increased as
did the conversion rate, but it was not enough to overcome the shot differentials
nor the equal strength issues.
Power Play Opportunities Against per game:
Again, this game is way easier if you are on the job more than you are trying
to kill off others power plays. This has really only been an issue in
the post Brad Richards’ era the last 2 years. This year was way
better, but again, it is tough to draw penalties if you seldom have the puck.
And the Stars, since Modano and Richards were great together back in
2008 and 2009, this team hasn’t seen the puck as much as they need.
Penalty Kill Percentages:
This has been something the Stars have desperately needed to improve upon, and
they have done a solid job of getting better with. They ranked 17th
this year, which is back from 2012 when they were 13th, but this has not been a
real sore thumb in a few years.
Faceoff Win Percentage:
As you know, this correlates to shot differential often, as you can’t shoot if
you don’t have the puck. And if you are losing face-offs as much as
any team in hockey, you don’t have the puck enough. We are a long way
from the days of the Stars having Modano, Carbonneau, and Nieuwendyk down the
middle for face-offs.
I could share more numbers, but I am guessing by now, you are paralyzed by
these. One more is worth looking at, which is Points Back from the
Points Out of the Playoffs:
As you can see, in a 48 Game season, finishing 7 points out is the equivalent
of 12 points out in a normal length season.
There are plenty of things that need to be done to improve, but as we hear
rhetoric about different ways to improve, you might like to have this
bookmarked to compare the discussion with the raw numbers.