The last two weeks haven’t been easy on Glen Gulutzan.
The Dallas head coach has seen his team lose four of six, fall out of first in the Pacific Division and into a dogfight just to make the playoffs.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News thinks Gulutzan might have issues with his players.
This theory stems from errors Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott made in Monday’s 5-4 loss to Calgary. Ribeiro gave the puck away on Calgary’s second goal (which seemed to be a real momentum-changer) while Ott’s careless tripping penalty led to the game-winning tally.
“Those players do play close to the line, but the lines weren’t blurred last night, they made mistakes. Ott’s case, it wasn’t retaliatory, it wasn’t in the heat of the battle, and Ribby’s is what it is. He made a read and it wasn’t there. It was really uncharacteristic, because he knows the game so well.
“I think we’re beating it up a bit. Ribs just doesn’t make those mistakes -- probably as soon as it left his stick, he knew. I don’t think that needs to be addressed. Something needs to be addressed if it’s reoccurring. That’s not going to reoccur. I think we have to move past it. We’re still in it, so we just have to be a little more focused.’'
At the end of the game, Ribeiro played 22:29 and Ott played 20:46. At no point did they seem to miss a shift or get any kind of message that their play was unacceptable. Maybe, Gulutzan screamed between periods. Maybe, he felt the team couldn’t win without Ribeiro and Ott playing a lot. But the bottom line is he has a way to send a message and he’s not using it.
Yes, Eric Nystrom was out of the game with an injury and the Stars were down on their forwards. But if you have to sit Ribeiro to play Jamie Benn or Jake Dowell, then do it. If you have to sit Ott to play Ryan Garbutt, then do it. Not only would the intended players get the message, but so would the entire team.
Another issue Gulutzan’s facing is what to do with Brenden Morrow. The captain and veteran leader has been dropped to the fourth line (Adam Burish has taken his minutes, which speaks volumes) but, as Heika points out, Morrow “has given a lot to his franchise, and probably deserves a little leeway.”
The Morrow issue -- and how to handle Ribeiro/Ott -- are tough predicaments for a veteran head coach, let alone a rookie like Gulutzan. Will he be able to make the tough decisions to get Dallas into the playoffs?