pes•ky [pes-kee] (adj): annoyingly troublesome (see also: irksome, bothersome)
Pesky doesn’t sound like a description you’d use to glorify someone. You may something like, “man, that pesky kid next door drives me nuts.” You may look out of the side of your eye at that “pesky” co-worker that always looks ever everyone else’s shoulder. We aren’t exactly talking about positive connotations here.
No matter how we use the work “pesky,” we’re usually using it because we’re trying to be nice. Hey, it’s better than offending people with a perfect progression of four-letter words. At least it’s more acceptable.
Only in hockey would a team take on an adjective that means “annoyingly troublesome” and take it as a compliment. The Dallas Stars have gone one step further this season; they’ve taken the name as a motivational compliment and are wearing it as a badge of honor. Follow any of the Stars on Twitter these days and you’ll see them dropping a #PeskyStars within their 140 character message.
Are they getting ready for the game? They’re preparing to be pesky. Did they win? They were pesky. Are they trying to put a loss in the rearview mirror? They’ll be peskier next time. At least they’re consistent.
But why? Where in the world did this come from? Of course, there’s no better person to ask about peskiness than agitator extraordinaire, Steve Ott.
“I don’t know,” Ott replied when asked about the origin of the nickname. “I think we all decided to give Twitter a try, after a win, that’s the style or mentality that we play with to win in this league. We’re not going to usually out-skill a team, we’re going to have to try to find a way and ‘pesky Stars’ was kind of our inside joke of just us all being worker bees.”
First, major points for incorporating “worker bees” into a response. But that doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know. A quick look at the roster yields Adam Burish as another likely candidate to understand the pesky branding. It’s not difficult to picture the ever talkative Adam Burish dropping the knowledge:
“We started the season, we were just joking around before the game about how we wanted to play. The coach will sometimes say, “Everybody’s gotta play like fourth liners. Everybody’s gotta play like so-and-so.’ A couple of us just said, let’s be pesky. Pesky Stars tonight! Pesky Stars tonight! Let’s be pesky out there tonight. That’s kind of where that came from—it just stuck and everybody kind of liked it and it was funny, so it’s just gone from there.”
It must be a coach’s dream to have all 18 skaters buy into the fourth-line mentality on a given night. It’s one thing to have bottom six guys playing with an edge, but when the skilled guys are giving the extra effort and battling for those 50/50 pucks, it can take an average team and put them in the playoffs.
“We have to be a little bit hard to play against and pesky,” head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “I think if we can take that pesky label and even roll it even more in the fact that we have to start creating points… it’s something we have to embrace to get into that 7th or 8th spot.”
That’s a lot more tactful than Herb Brooks (or Kurt Russell) saying, “Gentleman, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” But really, Gulutzan just said the same thing to his team.
A bottom seeding in the Western Conference playoffs is exactly what the Stars are hoping for after their inconsistent first half of the season. Yet there’s plenty of hope for fans in Big D, because for the first time since the end of October, they’re healthy. Sometimes a team is inconsistent because of youth. Sometimes they’re inconsistent because of disinterest. But for the Stars, there seemed to be a direct correlation between the number of names on the injured reserve list and the losses piling up in the standings.
After all, we know that a pesky team is going to bring the effort on most nights. Now with just about the entire roster available to Gulutzan (Brendan Morrow is bouncing between the roster and IR like a super ball), we should see what this team is really made of down the stretch. They currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference; they’re only two points out of the final playoff spot and they have a pair of games in hand.
Plain and simple: A playoff spot is theirs for the taking if they play well over the final 30 games of the season.
Defenseman Mark Fistric talked about the optimism that was surrounding the team as they came out of the All-Star break last week. “It’s kind of refreshing to have everyone available and feeling really good,” Fistric said. “It’s kind of like coming out of [training] camp, in the way that we came out there and I think we had an 11-3 start, so we’re going to treat coming out of this all-star break like coming out of camp. We’re going to come out with a full line-up and the guys have a lot of energy, and we need to have a good push here in the last half of the season.”
For the record, the Stars have a pedestrian 3-2 record since the aforementioned All-Star break. We’ll have a few weeks before Joe Nieuwendyk has to make the decision whether he wants to make a run at the playoffs with this collection of players or if he wants to put the “For Sale” out in front of American Airlines Center.
The one thing we know: each and every guy on the roster is going to give as much effort as possible to maximize this group’s chances. Yeah, I’ll take a team with a bunch of pesky guys.