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Lonnie White ON THE NHL

Fading Stars May Get an Overhaul

April 09, 2002|Lonnie White

The Dallas Stars aren't done yet, but based on their lackluster effort in a 3-0 defeat to the Kings Monday night, they should get their golf clubs ready.

After winning five consecutive Pacific Division titles, the Stars have become a shadow of their former selves this season as they remain two points out of the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

But do you think the Kings really care?

Probably not. Remember, it wasn't too long ago when the Stars made the Kings' world a miserable one. From Nov. 8, 1995 to Jan. 26, 2000, Los Angeles went 22 consecutive games against Dallas without a victory, so adding one more nail in the Stars' coffin shouldn't be a problem for the Kings, who have their sights on bigger and better things.

Unless the Stars rally and sneak into the playoffs--and avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 1996--this has been a season to forget for the 1999 Stanley Cup champions. Dallas and its $57-million payroll started the season losing, then fired Ken Hitchcock as coach, made a few mini-runs along with a late trade and now the Stars are losing again under interim Coach Rick Wilson.

With Monday's loss to the Kings, Dallas dropped to 2-5-1-1 over its last nine games, including a weak loss to the Mighty Ducks on Sunday. Not the type of play associated with a team fighting for the playoffs.

"Usually we're the ones getting teams frustrated and our goals are the ones that come," said Dallas center Kirk Muller after the Stars recorded only two shots on goal in the second period on Monday. "We're just not in control like we generally are."

Even if the Stars do make the playoffs, expect some changes in the Lone Star state this summer. Word has it that management has an eye on former Star and current Montreal assistant Guy Carbonneau to take over for Wilson next season.

If Dallas does decide to make this move, Carbonneau will have his work cut out because there are plenty of teams in the West who would love nothing else than to keep the Stars down.

NHL Awards

With less than a week remaining in the regular season, ballots are being filled out for the league's individual awards. Here's a look at the individuals I think should win:

* Hart Trophy (to the player "judged the most valuable to his team").

Calgary's Jarome Iginla is not only the league's leading goal scorer with 51, he's on pace to become the first Ross Trophy winner to have more goals than assists since Bobby Hull did it for Chicago in 1965-66.

But there are those who say Iginla should not become the first player of color to take home the league's most-valuable-player award because the Flames are not in the playoffs. That's a bunch of hockey sticks.

Iginla, the league's lone 50-plus goal scorer, has had a remarkable season. He scores 25% of Calgary's goals and has a hand in nearly 43% of the Flames' total offense. Iginla is as tough as they come and he's in the top 10 in plus/minus despite playing on a team that has been outscored all season.

Iginla gets the nod over Colorado goalie Patrick Roy, who's having a solid season with the league's best goals-against average, but there are some holes in his bid too. Roy is not even a clear-cut choice over Montreal's Jose Theodore for the Vezina Trophy, and is he a more valuable player than his teammate Joe Sakic?

Even without Roy, the Avalanche would probably still make the playoffs. Without Iginla, the Flames would be looking up at the Mighty Ducks and probably fighting with Atlanta for the title of the league's worst team.

Runners-up: Roy, Detroit's Brendan Shanahan and Theodore.

* Norris Trophy (defenseman who "demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position").

Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom separated himself from the pack by taking a late-season break. With Lidstrom resting a sore groin in Detroit (wink, wink), the Red Wings got waxed on a three-game West Coast trip last week. Detroit sorely missed the smooth puck-moving defender in going 0-2-1 against the Ducks, Kings and San Jose.

Chris Chelios should get consideration with his eye-opening league-leading plus/minus rating, but Lidstrom is the main quarterback behind the Red Wing system and should pick up his second consecutive Norris.

Runners-up: Chelios, Colorado's Rob Blake and Washington's Sergei Gonchar.

* Adams Trophy (coach "judged to have contributed the most to his team's success").

Of all the postseason honors this will be the closest competition because so many coaches have done an outstanding job.

Phoenix's Bob Francis has gotten more out of his team than anyone expected. Boston's Robbie Ftorek will gain votes for turning the Bruins into one of the best in the East and the Sutter brothers (Chicago's Brian and San Jose's Darryl) have certainly gotten the job done with their teams.

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