Dallas Stars Thrive Under Marc Crawford…Finally

Drew Miller and Adam Burish
Photo by Anna Enriquez

Tim Cowlishaw observes something I just recently noticed: Despite being a team that’s relatively similar to last season’s, the Dallas Stars are playing much better this year.

Cowlishaw has some interesting theories on why that’s happening. He suggests:

  • Dallas’ goaltending is a bit more consistent this year, which certainly helps things
  • The team got slightly younger, when Mike Modano left for Detroit and Jere Lehtinen retired, which also could boost team performance.

But Dallas coach Marc Crawford has his own thoughts on the reason for the turnaround this season:

…in a funny way, I think [Brenden] Morrow is kind of a renewed guy. Last year, he was having to watch some of his buddies in decline and deal with coming back from his injury at the same time. So while we’ve got some great new chemistry guys in Adam Burish and [Andrew] Raycroft, we also have kind of a new Morrow.

It kind of sounds like Crawford is almost blaming Modano and Lehtinen and even goalie Marty Turco, another Morrow pal, now with Chicago, for Morrow’s struggles last season, as he attributes some of this year’s success to Morrow.

Maybe part of last season’s struggles were veterans not wanting to adjust to a new system — especially one that’s both faster and more physical. That would also explain why the Stars made no effort to retain Modano this summer, once he Favred his retirement plans.

A big part of the Dallas Renaissance might be players finally getting used to Crawford’s system, which is pretty much the opposite of previous coach Dave Tippett’s. Where Tippett thinks players should only skate backwards, Crawford believes players should only skate forward.

With Dallas as playing as well as they are, playing the way that they are, the acquisition of Jamie Langenbrunner is an especially great move for the team.

Langebrunner is made for Crawford’s system, which is basically a high-speed forecheck. When the Stars have that system clicking, it’s like trying to play against an NFL offensive line. Langenbrunner, in addition to providing leadership, gives the Stars a legitimate scoring threat on their third line, plus the ability to move Langenbrunner around to give another line a jump.

So given how the Stars are clicking and with Langenbrunner now in the mix, I suspect the Stars are going to do some damage in the playoffs.

And ultimately performance is more important than understanding the reason for the performance.