Time once again to take a look back at the Dallas Stars season and continue grading the roster. If you missed out, I went over Coach Glen Gulutzan right after the season ended and then the goaltenders last week. Today I will continue moving through the roster, jumping into the defense. The Stars finished the season tied for 15th with 2.66 goals against per game this season, and they had the league’s 13th best penalty kill this season. While things didn’t change in terms of the Stars reaching the postseason, things did improve defensively. Gulutzan’s new system helped the PK jump up 10 spots from 23rd last season, and overall the defense was a little better this season. But in the end, they still have a lot of work to do and this team is still missing some top-end talent on the blueline. Now let’s look at how the key guys did this year.
Alex Goligoski: The Stars current top blueliner had a rough season in 2011-12. After a promising end of the 2010-11 season after the Stars traded James Neal for him, many had high hopes for him this season. But this season failed to meet many of those expectations. Goose’s broken hand early in the season not only cost him some games but also cost him production when he came back. He was great in February with two goals and eight assists, but over the last 19 games of the season he only had four points. That says a lot about his season. Add in the fact that this was his first season to not finish as a positive player, and it was a really rough year. The final tally of 9 goals and 21 assists for 30 points would have been great for most of the defenseman on this team. But not for Goose and not the expectations he will have to live up to. Final Grade: D. He will get better if the Stars finally are able to add some better defensman to this unit and get a true top-liner to play with him, but he is part of the powerplay issues and he has to show he is worth the money AND talent the Stars gave up for him.
Trevor Daley: The mobile blueliner finished his 7th full season in the NHL, all with the Dallas Stars. And at this point the Stars know what they will get from the 28-year old. With 25 points this season, he now has finished five years in a row with a points-total between 22 and 27. And the last four seasons he has finished as a positive +/- player. He finished tied with Goligoski for the most assists by a defenseman on the team with 21 while spending less time on the ice than Goose and Robidas. He still can get caught jumping-up too far at times, but Daley has impressed me a little over the last two seasons. With a defense that is still less than average and him continuing to play 2nd-pairing minutes, he has settled in to a role as a good two-way blueliner on the 2nd line. If the Stars improve the top-end talent, if could only benefit Daley and give him more room to roam. Final Grade: B. Not perfect and he could chip in more on the powerplay (when he does play on it) and rushes, but he has made less mistakes the last two seasons and the Stars know what he brings to the table.
Stephane Robidas: The rugged veteran completed another season in Dallas, but now the question is how many more he will play here. After scoring 10 goals and finishing with a career-high 41 points in 09-10, his numbers have dropped each of the last two seasons and they have drastically dropped on the powerplay. While Robidas finished the year tied with Goligoski for most time on the ice per game and we all know he is a warrior, his game is starting to slid. The hits are still there, the heart will always be there, and of course the grit is there. But at 35, Robidas has lost a step and overall reaction time has started to slip a little. Stephane is still an NHL defender, but not how the Stars are attempting to use him. He would make a great 4th or 5th blueliner to pair with a young player, but Dallas is still trying to use him as a top defenseman, something he never really was. And now he is among the most talked about players when fans and media talk about guys that could be moved as the Stars move forward. Final Grade: C-. Part of this is not even on Robidas, as I really do think he is overused and relied on too much, but that is what the Stars have had to do the last few years. But at the same time he is slipping and his play on the powerplay was horrendous this year.
Sheldon Souray: While it might have happened a few years later than many wanted, the Dallas Stars finally added Souray this past summer as GM Joe signed the veteran to a one-year deal to give him a chance at a fresh start. And while it wasn’t at all perfect, things did work for the Stars and Sheldon this season. The large blueliner added some physicality and tenacity to the Stars’ defensive-core that was missing, but he also provided some extra leadership on a team with many young names. Souray finished the season a +11 (tied for best among Stars blueliners) and averaged over 20 minutes on the ice per game. But the big “Wonderbomb” shot was very streaky. He started the year hot, but he finished the year with only one assist in the last 13 games he played and was almost a non-factor in the offensive end after Christmas. It wasn’t everything that everyone dreamed for, but in the end it was a success. Final Grade: B-. The offense was lacking for most of the season, but Souray did what the Stars needed him to do in the defensive end. He protected Lehtonen, intimidated at times, and for the most part showed that he can still be a good NHL defenseman in his own end.
Mark Fistric: The hard-hitting 25-year old saw his time on the ice increase this year. He played 60 games this season and saw increased time on the ice after the Stars traded Nicklas Grossmann to the Flyers. After the deal he had two of his three points this season, and he fit right in getting a little more time on the ice and regularly playing instead of splitting time. In the end Fistric isn’t an offensive blueliner and most know what he is all about. But despite being a physical and defensive player, he only had 41 penalty minutes and only 12 of those came after the trade. The stats don’t say a lot, but he continues to provide what he can to the team while avoiding heavy penalty minutes and goals against. He also proved to be an able penalty killer when he was called upon, finishing fourth on the team in shorthanded time on the ice per games when he played. Final Grade: B-. For a bottom line blueliner, Fistric provided what was expected of him. He prevented goals, didn’t take penalties, helped with the improved PK effort, and gave us some highlight reel hits. He isn’t a top-defenseman, nor will he likely ever be. But he gets the job done that the team needed and he provides a solid 5th-6th defenseman that can play with a young-mobile defenseman in the next couple of years.
Philip Larsen: In his first real NHL action, the young defenseman from Denmark lived up to expectations. The former 5th-round pick isn’t expected to be the next Sergei Zubov, but for a couple of years the Stars have made it sound like they thought Larsen could be a solid NHL player. After playing a combined 8 games over the last two season, Larsen made the jump this year as he competed in 55 games. In those 55 games he averaged just under 18 mins on the ice per contest, chipped in 3 goals and 8 assists, and finished with a +11 rating. He showed a smooth skating ability, great hands when he has the puck, and the knowledge to know where to be on the ice in both ends. He did have some bad plays and unwise decisions scattered in, but they were few and far between as the season went along. In the future Larsen could definitely be an option on the powerplay, but sadly he saw very little time on the ice with the man advantage this season (despite the struggles Dallas had), finishing 11th in ice time on the PP behind all regular defenseman except for Fistric. Final Grade: B+. Larsen did about what I hoped he could do this season, but I thought he would have more mishaps in his own end. Instead he showed more physicality than expected, showed his high hockey IQ we had heard about, and often showed poise. If he keeps this up, he could definitely be a good 2nd line defenseman and powerplay within the next couple of years.
Adam Pardy: This is one signing where GM Joe failed. Pardy looked like he could possibly another Grossmann or like he was just the next Jeff Woywitka. In the end the two-years for $4 million contract he received looks bad as he appears to be nothing more than a 7th-8th defenseman or AHLer. In 36 games played he finished with a -5 rating on only three assists, two of which came at the very end of the season when he was playing because of injuries. The final product was his worst season in the league so far, and he barely played. He likely ends up being a spare next season or being sent down to the Texas Stars, then let go once his contract is up. Final Grade: F.