by PuckStopsHere on 02/19/09 at 04:02 AM ET
When Sean Avery was suspended by the NHL in early December, the Dallas Stars were dead last in the West Conference. From that point on, things have clearly improved. They have the eighth best record in the league since the suspension and would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, as they are seventh in the west.
It is easy to put the blame onto Sean Avery for the bad start, but things are not that simple. Dallas’s goaltending has significantly improved. Marty Turco had been off to a pathetic start, but has turned things around. Perhaps the most significant change for the Stars has been the return of Jere Lehtinen to the lineup. Due to injury, he had played only three games before the Avery suspension. He has now appeared in 20 games and been a vital cog to the Stars.
Dallas has turned their season around. While it may be true that Sean Avery was bad in the locker room, there are at least a couple more significant reasons for the Stars improvement than his removal.
Dallas is also having problems with injury. Their second highest scorer, Brad Richards, broke his wrist recently and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Brendan Morrow, their captain and Sergei Zubov, their top defenceman have also been on the longterm injury list for a long time with knee and hip injuries respectively. I don’t think a team with that many key injuries will manage to capture a playoff berth in the tight West Conference.
The fact that Dallas is in the race, given how poorly they started is an amazing thing. The Dallas Stars were a streaky team last year who got hot at the right time and made the semifinals. Their streakiness has continued this year with a horrid start that they are recovering from. It looks likely that injury may prevent a full recovery, but it has been a good attempt whether the Stars make playoffs of not.
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