Marty Turco's return was dubious.
Janne Niinimaa's introduction continued to be.
But as much as it was easy to single out some glaring mistakes in the Stars' 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay at American Airlines Center on Friday night, the blame was placed squarely on the team.
In a 20-minute team meeting after the game, the Stars discussed why things have fallen apart in recent games, including a three-game losing streak (their first of the season) in which Dallas has been outscored 15-7.
"We've had some bad starts, but certainly that was our worst all season," said Turco, who gave up four goals on six shots and was pulled for the third time in the last six games. "To be unprepared like that, especially against these guys, there's really no excuse.
"It was just soft sloppy play that has been characteristic of ourselves. We've been getting by and pretending, and it's finally biting us."
The Stars dug another quick hole, this time on a horrible turnover by the recently acquired Niinimaa, who was manning the right point on the power play. The giveaway resulted in a short-handed goal by Tampa Bay's Brad Richards and a 1-0 lead at the 4:30 mark. Former Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor made that 2-0 at the 7:56 mark when he floated a soft wrister that Turco never saw through a crowd.
And after Niko Kapanen cut that lead to 2-1 on a nifty follow of a Philippe Boucher shot, Turco allowed his third goal 27 seconds later to pretty much decide the Stars' fate.
Turco, whose groin stability was in question before the game, said his health was not an issue in the goals allowed. And coach Dave Tippett sternly backed him up on that claim. When asked if he had any second-guesses on starting Turco, Tippett replied, "Not one bit."
The entire team has been struggling, that's clear. Still, the inconsistency of the Stars' No. 1 goalie has to be brought up at some point. He has allowed three or more goals in eight of his last 12 games and has sandwiched that around four games in which he allowed a total of three goals.
Turco said he takes responsibilities for his mistakes, but also pointed out the team is battling consistency problems.
"I wish I could bail our guys out every night. I try my hardest to do that, but that isn't going to rectify things in the long run. We have to think about what we want and how we're going to get it, because the team can't be successful without hard work. That's got to be our go-to ingredient every night."
Tippett agreed that this is a team problem.
"You've got to stop the bleeding," he said. "You don't fix things by talking about it. You fix things by doing.
"When we start recognizing that, the doing will start, and we'll get out of it."
While the news that Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard tested positive for steroids has cast the NHL into an unwanted spotlight, veteran Brendan Shanahan staunchly decried the notion that doping is a widespread problem in the league.
"Are guys going to get discovered? Sure, we've got over 700 players; we're going to have the odd guy," Shanahan said Friday. "But I've been playing for 18 years, and I've never heard a player talk about its benefits, I've never heard of a player taking it; I've never suspected a player I've played with is taking it."
Shanahan spoke after the Red Wings finished skating at a suburban rink, because they couldn't get ice time at the Pepsi Center or the Avalanche's practice rink.
The Berard suspension comes two months after World Anti-Doping Association chief Dick Pound publicly estimated one-third of the NHL's players use performance-enhancing substances.
"That's quite a statement," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I just think when you make general statements when you don't know, you're probably not doing yourself any favors."
Shanahan went further, saying that, "until I see anything close to Dick Pound's statements, I still think his statements are irresponsible and ridiculous."
Shanahan revealed that players are being educated about performance-enhancing substances - specifically, substances that act as contaminants even though their primary function isn't to enhance muscles.
Asked for an example, Shanahan brought up Propecia, the men's hair-loss prevention drug (it contains finasteride, a banned substance that can serve as a masking agent).
Shanahan said someone who tests positive for finasteride isn't necessarily taking it to hide anything illegal. But then Shanahan, who boasts a very full, healthy head of hair, saw the irony in his example.
"I guess if I get caught with Propecia...," he said laughing.