We continue our look at the individual seasons for the 2011-2012 season for the Dallas Stars this evening by examining the second set of forwards. In Part One over the weekend (click here to read it), grades were given for Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Vernon Fiddler, and more. Today you will finally see the grades for Jamie Benn and Steve Ott, and make sure to keep an eye out for our final set of grades this weekend featuring Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, and a few others.
Jamie Benn: The budding superstar took another step forward during the 2011-2012 season. Jamie set new career bests in goals, assists, points, shots, shooting percentage, plus/minus, and game-winning goals. In 71 total games, Benn finished with 26 goals and 37 assists for 63 points, and he had the highest points per game ratio on the team at .89. Not bad for a season in which Benn spent a lot of time as the only consistent member of the 2nd line. His linemates were rotated constantly between injuries and juggling by Gulutzan, and showed at times that Benn was left to carry the 2nd scoring line. But he flourished and again took another step forward. While he played a good amount of center this season, I think most of saw that long-term he needs to be back on the left wing. But he garnered national attention at times and even represented the Stars at the All-Star weekend. He finished the year +15 and played a good amount of time on the penalty kill, showing that he isn’t just developing into an offensive star, but all-around Next season could be the year where Benn jumps another level up and reaches the 70-point mark with Eriksson. If the Stars add a good 2nd-line center or even another weapon next to him, the numbers could be huge next season. Final Grade: A+. Why he finished the year 7th in PP time per game on the team is baffling. With the departure of Richards, Benn didn’t slip at all and when it was all over he and Ryder made up for the lost offense in even strength play. The powerplay was a massive failure, but Benn even finished 3rd in PP points. There is not anything more that could have been expected of him at this point.
Steve Ott: Another year in the black and gold for “Otter” without a championship lifted. He faced trade rumors (even becoming one of the center topics of the trade deadline), the normal criticism he receives for his play, and he even had to step up as a leader with the captain out for extended periods. But in the end Steve Ott passed in the final grades and the 29-year old remains one of the pivotal members of the Dallas Stars. Seeing a lot of time between the two lines this season, Ott finished with his second highest points total in his career at 39. While his 11 goals weren’t impressive, his career best 28 assists shows that he truly has become a better all-around player over the years, now contributing in multiple facets of the game. His +5 rating was his best for a full season and his 55.5 faceoff percentage was the best on the team among the top faceoff takers. In the end Ott was called on to play a role that was larger than any had filled before. His minutes increased with the lack of true offensive weapons and centers, and he quietly became a de facto captain when Morrow was out. Steve’s best role is likely when he anchors the 3rd line and offers a change-up when the coaching staff needs to shuffle the lines, but he continues to be one of the players that can fit in wherever he has to. Final Grade: B+. More goals would have been nice, but in the end the team shouldn’t have to rely on Otter to be a big offensive contributor. It is expected that you can get 30-40 points from him and a lot of minutes. That is what he gave them. A lot of penalty killing minutes, less penalties, and the energy and grit we have all come to expect.
Tom Wandell: Another former 5th round pick of the Stars, Wandell has had just a little bit less success at the NHL level than Benn. The Swedish center finished his third full season at the NHL level with 6 goals and 9 assists to tie his career high at 15 points. But Wandell had 15 points two seasons ago when he only played in 50 games while being scratched quite a bit. Since that impressive start, things have been rocky. Wandell has been passed over for some free agent signings and now a few young prospects could push him for a roster spot this summer. Down the stretch Wandell was one of the least used players on the roster, often starting but only playing a couple shifts after the first period unless the game was out of hand. Only Dowell and Petersen played less shifts per game. While he might have a future as a bottom-six forward, it no longer appears that Wandell will ever be an offensive weapon or important player for the Stars. Final Grade: D. He did what you might expect from a 11th-14th forward on a team, playing a few minutes while chipping in a few points and not allowing a lot against. But this was likely Wandell’s last chance to impress and earn more time in Dallas. He is now a restricted free agent this summer and with guys like Vincour, Glennie, both Smith’s, Fraser, and free agent signings fighting for time, he very likely could be wearing a new sweater next year.
Eric Nystrom: What a season for Nystrom. The former 1st round selection was a spare for the Minnesota Wild at the start of the year. Because of Sean Avery the Stars traded for him simply for the cap hit, hoping he could contribute something to the team. In 74 games the grinder contributed 16 goals and 21 points overall (both career highs) while playing mostly on the left wing of the third line. It was a great story early in the year and the success that he and the 3rd line found helped the Stars start the season off at the top. But as the season moved along, Nystrom slowly slipped back into his normal role of a bottom-six grinder. He had only one goal over the last two months of the season and stacked up a -10 rating by having a -12 from January on. It’s hard to be upset with the results, as the goals did help the Stars early in the year and it was great to watch. But after the miraculous start, Nystrom become just another average 4th liner in the 2nd half of the season and it might have hurt the team that they left him on the third line for so long. Final Grade: C-. The second half of the season is probably closer to what many expected and what Nystrom’s really going to bring to the table. But the impressive first half earned him a passing grade and made the move worth it for Dallas.