DALLAS -- The decision to start Marty Turco in his first return to Dallas after nearly a decade as a Dallas Star was about as easy a decision as Joel Quenneville will face this season.
I guarantee you there was no hesitation on his part. And why should there be?
Forget the fact that the Hawks play back-to-back games with some decent travel in between. That alone would be a reason to split up the netminders.
But this isn’t about strategy or even wins and losses. It’s about one word: Respect.
Turco has earned it, not just because of his years in Dallas but because of how he’s handled himself with the Hawks this season. His situation is different than Cristobal Huet last season. Huet had a great defense in front of him but still let in soft goal after soft goal.
A glass half-full perspective on Turco could say his defense has let him down more than not, and his goals-against could be classified only as weak, which is one step up from soft. But Turco has been the good soldier, just as Huet was before him. I’m sure most fans think he’s supposed to be a good teammate.
And they would be right, but the converse is true as well. They need to be good to him. That’s why starting him is actually good strategically as well. The Hawks should put on a solid effort in front of him. It’s the least they can do.
It’s the same strategy Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks -- and countless other coaches -- employed when deciding on Antti Niemi to start the first time his team played the Hawks this season. Niemi was struggling but McLellan knew, not only would he rise to the occasion, but so would his teammates. The result? Niemi is 3-0 against the Hawks this season.
Quenneville has been through these kind of situations countless times before, and there are no guarantees. It famously backfired on him in Montreal the first time former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner (with the Canadiens) Jose Theodore played there as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Theodore got bombed, and Quenneville didn’t pull him because most of the damage was done in the third period, and Theodore’s night was an embarrassment.
More than likely after Friday’s game, Turco will fade into the background as he did in the first half of the season. There will be no guarantee of another start in Dallas when the Hawks return in March.
But for this one night, it’s all about Turco, his contribution to the Stars, and his new teammates’ willingness to get him a win.