|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
White diagnosed the team pretty simply in two points: inability to pick up road points and a particularly bad road trip in January and February.
“You have to be able to navigate those circumstances and find ways to win games and get points at various times of the year,” White told 100 Degree Hockey via phone on Thursday. He continued on to the California trip, “We didn't garner points. Instead of finding ways to get to overtime, we’d give up the empty netter. There were no lineup excuses. We didn’t score; we didn’t get the big save.”
The stretch of games that White said “probably cost us the opportunity” kicked off on January 16 in San Diego. Coming off three straight wins at home and a five-game point streak, Texas dropped every one of their five road contests on the trip. Close games in San Diego and San Jose gave way to not close games in Tucson, concluding with a 4-0 defeat on January 23. Texas came home and earned just one win on a three game stand and went on the road for a split at 2-2. In all, they went 3-9 and dropped themselves from 21-11-3-2 to 24-20-3-2, a significant dip.
“Getting that extra point was vital,” said White, clearly thinking back to the Stars’ 2017-18 squad that collected a boatload of points by making it to overtime. “That was some of the messaging for the more experience guys and the young guys alike. You have to find a way to get points on the road. We struggled on the road on the whole.”
Texas finished the year with a .421 road win percentage, sixth worst in the league. Their home percentage (.658) was 12th best. The sting of not getting can be a good motivator for summer workouts though, “It stings, and it should carry over to the fall.”
White is clearly excited by the youth movement with players coming in like Jason Robertson, Tye Felhaber and Jake Oettinger. Another big name is Joe Cecconi, who missed the last three games of the season. 100 Degree Hockey confirmed that Cecconi returned home after the Iowa homestand and had surgery. White expects he will be at Dallas Stars training camp. His surgery, upper body in nature, carries a lengthy recovery, so he will miss development camp and Traverse City as well. Texas definitely missed his defensive steadiness despite his youth in their last three games.
Among AHL contracted players, White called out Brad McClure, Colton Hargrove and Colin Markison as having good seasons for Texas. From the sound of it, Texas has interest in all three. On McClure, he said, “He plays fast and fits into the mold of our character and he scored some big goals.” On Markison, he added, “Colin Markison is Colin Markison. We missed him when he was out. He’s a good AHL player for a bottom six group.”
Even though they didn’t make the postseason, White notes that they played meaningful hockey right up to the very end. “Those were meaningful games all the way through and the level of hockey was good based in what we had. We asked a lot of some young players, especially down the middle.”
At the same time, they are taking a no excuses mentality. “There were some great things with the way the team played down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to get us in. Our guys have to grab it. These guys get a chance to work on those things to get them ready for next fall.”