Can Bowness fix Dallas Stars’ problems?

stars bowness
Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

How much can an NHL coach fix, and which things are out of their hands? It’s a question that lingers, and really bubbles up during crises (consider the chicken-and-the-egg arguments about Canucks coach Travis Green). Such questions are also quite interesting when it comes to Rick Bowness and the Dallas Stars.

About a week ago, Bowness tersely insisted that he identified Stars’ problems, and would fix them.

Since then, the Stars finally earned their first(!) regulation win, and also won two in a row. Yet, after a humbling 7-2 loss to the Wild, people might be wondering about Bowness and the Stars once again.

So, what are the problems? And can Rick Bowness fix the Stars’ problems?

It’s crucial to zoom in on the specifics of this season, then zoom out to the Stars’ bigger picture.

In some ways, the 2021-22 Stars are more of the same

A week ago, PHT’s Sean Leahy discussed the Stars’ lack of scoring touch. Make no mistake about it, the Stars aren’t exactly lighting up many scoreboards.

Now, while the Stars would like to score more often, it’s also worth mentioning that this isn’t necessarily a new issue. Since 2019-20 (Bowness’ first partial season with the Stars), Dallas averaged 2.66 goals per game, tied for eighth-worst in the NHL. They haven’t been a top-10 team in goals since 2015-16 when they … scored more than anyone else.

(Pours one out for a style of Stars team that died far, far too young.)

Ultimately, the Stars do this by design. They want to limit scoring chances against, get the key saves, and hope they can score by luck or counterpunch.

Systems-wise, the 2021-22 Stars aren’t that far off from recent versions. You can see from this Hockey Viz chart that the Stars’ offense isn’t overly threatening this season, although they manufacture their fair share of high-danger chances:

Meanwhile, their defense is stingy, like usual.

Boring? It sure can be. Just ask Tyler Seguin, who’s embraced the boredom on multiple occasions.

Indeed, it’s a refrain you hear around hockey all the time. Of course, it’s easier to defend boring when it works. But when you’re losing and you’re bland? Yikes.

Considering the Stars’ sometimes-Tron-tastic uniforms, the lower moments feel like a nap at a rave.

Either way, it seems like Rick Bowness’ image as a “players’ coach” has been taking some big hits. You’re already rolling the dice morale-wise with a system like this. Then pull stuff like healthy scratching Riley Tufte in this sort of context? Brutal.

Can’t blame a Stars player if they felt ever-so-slightly less obliged to block a shot that night.

Live by the goalies, die by the goalies

Yes, goalies can swing the fates of even the most explosive offensive teams. Still, it’s not outrageous to say that all-defensive teams are that much more vulnerable to goalie slumps. The margin of error can be that much slimmer.

Ultimately, goaltending is the relatively “new” issue for the Dallas Stars.

After enjoying some absolutely bonkers years of goaltending from Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, Stars goaltending went from a strength to neutral to a weakness. Hockey Reference’s version of Goals Saved Against Average provides a fascinating snapshot.

2020-21: -5.2 GSAA (Anton Khudobin’s -7.24 GSAA ranks second-worst in the NHL).

2019-20: Exactly zero, remarkably. (Khudobin: -2.4; Jake Oettinger: +2.4.)

2018-19: +31 thanks to elite work from Bishop and Khudobin.

2017-18: +49, as Bishop and Khudobin were just on another level.

Realistically, the Stars couldn’t have expected that ride to last forever. That said, the team couldn’t quite brace for this screeching halt.

Generally speaking, they’re giving their goalies a solid chance to succeed with such a commitment to defense. As far as Bowness goes, the best “fixes” he can offer boil down to choosing the right goalies. Increasingly, it seems like Khudobin is in a funk. Braden Holtby‘s been solid, and Jake Oettinger may warrant more looks.

But it might just be true that the goalie gravy train ran empty. Considering the age of Khudobin and Bishop (whose health is in limbo), the Stars can’t act totally blindsided.

Tougher big-picture Stars questions

Credit Bowness for this much: the Stars really have been playing better lately. Particularly since he insisted he could fix them.

During the last three games, they tied the high-danger chance battle once (13 -13 vs. the Red Wings) and won it twice. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case in that Wild shellacking, but the Stars did their part at even-strength.

We’ll get a better idea about Bowness’ tweaks as the Stars approach a key stretch.

All of that said, it’s possible that the Stars’ issues exceed Bowness’ grasp.

Murky future

Not long ago, the Stars’ mixture of obsessive defense, elite goaltending, and a few offensive difference-makers created a fairly potent broth. To some, that run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final served as a proof of concept.

Yet, with goaltending a glaring question — if not a reliable weakness — it’s fair to wonder if the Stars need a different approach.

Look at their salary structure, and you’ll see some problems (Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin) and a long-term commitment to Miro Heiskanen. Beyond that, the Stars need to make key, looming decisions:

  • Splendid sophomore Jason Robertson is in a contract year. Might want to take care of that, in case the 22-year-old jumps another level as a pending RFA.
  • John Klingberg, 29, is in a contract year and understandably wants a raise from his bargain $4.25M. Will the Stars pay up? As is, it’s a tough sell. Getting less ice time than Heiskanen is one thing, but the Stars tend to trot out Esa Lindell more often, as well. That said, if the Stars decided to emphasize offense more, then Klingberg makes more sense.
  • What does the future hold for Joe Pavelski, 37, and Alexander Radulov, 35?
  • Roope Hintz, 25, is a steal at $3.15M. That contract only lasts through 2022-23, so the Stars must tread lightly (and hope people don’t get the hint that Hintz is a borderline star).
  • Their goaltending situation is unclear. Especially if they don’t think Oettinger is starter material.

Overall, there are plenty of questions for the Stars. Conceivably, Bowness could fix some of the smaller Stars problems, or at least try to mitigate issues. As far as the larger identity of this team goes, though? That’s a tough call for just about anyone.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Caps 4-3

    penguins capitals
    Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

    The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

    An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

    “His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

    Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

    Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

    Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

    “It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

    Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

    Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

    Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

    “It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

    It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

    Not this season.

    While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

    Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

    Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

    DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

    “I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


    Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.

    Devils defeat Senators 5-3, clinch playoff berth

    devils senators
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    NEWARK, N.J. — Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist, Mackenzie Blackwood had 25 saves and the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night.

    “It means everything to the group. I went into the dressing room after the game and just said that I was proud of the work that was put in, proud of where we got to clinch tonight to be one of three teams that have an X next to their name,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “All the work that’s been put in, the adversity they face during the year. The adversity they face right at the start of the season to where we’ve got to now.”

    New Jersey could have clinched its first postseason berth since 2018 with a win, but it happened before their first intermission when the Florida Panthers lost to the New York Rangers in regulation.

    “I had a lesser role then,” said Jesper Bratt, who was a rookie for the Devils in 2017-18. “I would say at a younger age, it’s kind of like you think that just because it happened your first year that it might happen every year. And then it goes pretty fast with reality that was not the case and you got to work extremely hard for it.

    “It’s a really tough league. So this feels really good. It’s been a lot of years with struggle, not winning, and it’s just awesome coming out now playing these kinds of games and getting that.”

    Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils and Tomas Tatar scored an empty netter with 42.3 seconds left to put things away.

    Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Mark Kastelic scored for the Senators and Dylan Ferguson had 30 saves.

    Tkachuk scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Senators the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first period. The Devils responded midway through the first period with Hughes’ 40th goal of the season on a breakaway, going five-hole to tie it.

    Nick Holden gave the puck away and Bratt scored his 31st goal of the season on the breakaway 2:24 into the second period to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. Mercer’s 23rd of the season came just over a minute later.

    The Senators answered midway through the second period when Thomas Chabot scored his 11th goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-2. They knotted things up 16:03 into the second when Kastelic scored his fifth of the season.

    “We were confident going into the third period. We felt like the game was there for our taking,” Travis Hamonic said. “They score on their chance, and that’s game.”

    Hamilton scored 3:34 into the third period to give the Devils the lead. His 19th goal breaks the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman, surpassing Scott Stevens – the Devils great whose number is hanging in the rafters – record of 18 in 1993-94.

    NOTES: This was the first game for the Devils backup Blackwood since Feb. 19. … Nico Hischier has a six-game point streak after recording two assists.


    Senators: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

    Devils: Play at New York Islanders on Monday night. —

    AP NHL: and

    Kings tie franchise mark with point in 11th straight game

    kings jets
    Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

    LOS ANGELES — Viktor Arvidsson had two goals and the Los Angeles Kings matched their longest point streak in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

    Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Alex Iafallo netted a power-play goal for Los Angeles, which has earned points in 11 straight games for the fourth time. The last occurrence was 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles.

    Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.

    Arvidsson – who has 22 goals on the season – has four in the last four games while Doughty has found the net four times in the last five games.

    Arvidsson’s first goal came 82 seconds into the game. Trevor Moore won the faceoff in the offensive zone and made a backhand pass to Arvidsson, who snapped it into the net from the back of the left faceoff circle.

    He also had an empty-net goal late in the third period.

    The Kings extended their lead to 2-0 five minutes into the second period on the power play. Phillip Danault made a great pass between Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon and Hellebuyck as Iafallo buried it into the short side of the net.

    Doughty extended the lead to 3-1 27 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from outside the right faceoff circle near the boards after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff.


    Winnipeg got its first power-play goal in seven games with 1:23 remaining in the second period when Dubois took a cross-ice pass from Kyle Connor and scored from the left faceoff circle to get the Jets within 2-1.

    The Jets got a five-minute power play after Los Angeles’ Blake Lizotte received a five-minute match penalty for a vicious cross-check to Josh Morrissey’s face. The goal came with 33 seconds left in the man advantage.

    NOTES: Danault picked up his 300th career point and 200th assist. … Winnipeg’s Connor set a career high for most assists in a season when he got his 47th on Dubois’ goal.


    Jets: Travel to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

    coyotes suspension
    Donald Page/Getty Images
    1 Comment

    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”