3/26/18 – The Stars Need a Collective Hug

The Dallas Stars have a media scrum after every game. Every team does. Players get to bask in the glory of wins in front of the media and feel like they’re in a firing squad after a loss. Imagine doing that after eight losses in a row and spiraling right out of the playoffs. No thanks.

I saw the John Klingberg portion on the post game show. The Stars send the quotes out after the game. This is the transcription, but the words don’t do what he said justice.

On difficult result and how it’s changed so quickly over last few weeks:

I don’t know. We don’t deserve to win right now. Like Meth [Methot] said, we were doing all the right things before games, coaches give us all the information, we just don’t execute enough. We don’t have any confidence at all the way we are playing right now, on d-zone, neutral zone and o-zone. We didn’t do anything right and you can tell there is no confidence now. It’s tough to play, then.

On the losing streak being surprising after resilience of the team all year:

I don’t know this. This is something that builds on for a while. Obviously we had a real good confidence in the team around Christmas, started with the homestand, then we won one game, lost one game and kept going like that for a while. Then we have been losing a lot of games here now. Obviously the confidence gets shaky and it’s tough to play.

How do you regain confidence after loses:

For sure. We have six more games. If we play perfect, then maybe we have a chance, it will be tough, but we have stay professional and try to do it.

I tried to find the video, but it doesn’t appear that the Stars posted it on the website. After watching it on the post game show I don’t blame them if they didn’t. I have never seen Klingberg so down.

You can read anything into that you want, but none of it is ideal. It is human though, and I think too often the human element is forgotten. Ken Hitchcock looks beaten down too, and he has the last two games.

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but when I look at them I think of my students around November. I work with the students who have never passed a state exam before. One class in particular was just completely mentally done before Thanksgiving. They exhibited many of the same traits you see from the Stars.

There is no amount of anything I can do to guarantee every single one of them will pass the STAAR exam. I had to realize that and adjust to do everything in my power to get the most out of them. So, I changed my approach. We stopped stressing about tests because, well, what did it matter? The class average was always a 30. We still did them and took them seriously, but we stopped stressing.

I started letting them see their own mistakes using a program called IXL. They started fixing them on their own so I didn’t have to seem like I was coming down hard on them – they did it to themselves. Our relationships improved, and the students who have bought in are improving. They listen to music and work most days without me having to say much to them after I teach a lesson or we go over a strategy.

Grown adults playing hockey will need specific approaches to their own situation, but no one performs at their highest level when they are stressed out. You can point to “clutch” performers who perform well in high stress situations, but I would argue that those players aren’t actually stressed. These Stars clearly are for whatever reason.

Being competitive is natural, but so is being human. Professional sports takes the “professional” aspect way too literally. Hockey is the worst about it. This season is over. There is no longer any real external pressure. These guys seriously need to relax and make the best of the next couple weeks before vacation. No matter how much pressure they put on themselves right now it isn’t going to change reality.

Real life sucks sometimes, and accepting inevitability can be really tough. They need a collective hug and a pat on the back. I know I probably sound like an asshole half the time, but I am 100% serious.

2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s

One thing I never could have understood when I was growing up is how much people change as they age. I don’t know if you can really grasp it until you experience it. I’ve changed in a lot of ways, and one of those is how I watch sports, for better or worse.

This Twitter exchange got me thinking about that idea.

The Dallas Stars are in a very rough stretch. They’ve played some bad hockey, and when the luck dragons show up on top of that it just looks gross. I mean they outshot Anaheim 40-17 Wednesday night, but still lost 2-0 to a soon to be 38-year-old backup goalie. Younger, more tasteless, me would have cracked a bottle of Southern Comfort open up somewhere during the five squandered early third period power plays.

I fully acknowledge that outcome should make me crazy. It would have made younger me crazy. Two things have sucked most of the emotion out of sports for me: the Texas Rangers and #PeskyStars.

The dramatic heel turn the 2011 World Series took had a, so far, unchangeable impact on me. Obviously there are more personal heel turns that would mean more, but I’ve never experienced anything that dramatically crushing. I’ve gone through my share of bad things (hospital stays, bad parental relationships, poverty, divorce, etc), but the unexpected highest height of the sport immediately becoming the lowest low is something I didn’t recover from emotionally.

I blame the #PeskyStars too. There was nothing really fun about them for many years, and they #GotPesky right as I began seriously writing about the team. Imagine wanting to write (for free) about a sport you love and trying to find things to say about that. Some nights it wasn’t easy.

What happened for me was I withdrew emotionally and tried to just see what was going on. I lost a lot of that fan instinct, again, for better or worse. I don’t enjoy games the way I used to, I enjoy moments and plays.

Watching Miro Heiskanen play those five Olympic games was a treat. Seeing all the intricacies of what he brings to the rink nightly was more rewarding than any specific Stars game has been for me since, I guess, 2009? I don’t even know.

I love watching John Klingberg play. Alexander Radulov is a joy. Guys who bring that spark and visibly have fun (ie mainly Europeans and Russians in particular and Phil Kessel) give me the most satisfaction from hockey these days.

I want the Stars to be successful. I get sucked in watching the Stars dominate a hapless opponent. Even last night as they shredded Anaheim in the third period I was into it. I’m just not emotionally invested in worrying about bad luck anymore.

Good process can lead to crap results. The Stars weren’t perfect against the Ducks, but outshooting a team 40-17 is going to win many games in this league. If they do that every game in a seven game series they’re probably going to win, but even then they still aren’t guaranteed.

Game six in 1999 was won on a goal that shouldn’t have counted by the stupid rules of the time. It’s fun to laugh at Buffalo, but that game only got to overtime because Jere Lehtinen beat arguably the best goalie of all time short side through a tiny hole between his knee and the post.

In game two Craig Ludwig scored. If he doesn’t score on a limp shot from the point that game goes to overtime. If you ever wonder if God cares about sports go rewatch that series from beginning to end. There is no God that anyone would willingly follow who would allow some of those things to happen in a sporting event if they were really invested. The Stars were the more talented team by far but it’s not a stretch to say Buffalo could have easily won.

The cold reality that there is no justice in sports, only good processes that sometimes are out of players’ control. That hit me hard a decade ago. An illegal goal no one wants to review can scar a small city forever. A lazy fly ball to right field can miss a fielders glove by a foot and make a goat out of a regular all star while emotionally crippling an adult.

Sports are fun. I have no more expectations of ultimate success even though I’ll enjoy it, I think. Everything is math and at any point the luck dragons can come up and stomp on the dreams of even the team with the most sound process. We’re just along for the ride.

Eat Arby’s.

Hey, click these:

2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines
2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues