Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill has been the recipient of much media praise lately. Due to his acquisitions of top tier players, the Stars gave seen one of the quicker “rebuilds” of the modern NHL. Yet despite the brilliance of the Tyler Seguin or Jason Spezza trades, one move by Nill clearly hasn’t panned out – Sergei Gonchar’s two year $10 million contract.
To say that Gonchar hasn’t performed as expected would be an understatement. He was brought on by Nill to help quarterback and revitalize the Stars powerplay. He didn’t get the job done, despite given favorable opportunities, and end up losing his spot on the top unit, and eventually getting limited powerplay time, if any. Dallas finished 2013 23rd on the powerplay, converting on 15.9 percent of 290 opportunities for 46 goals. In 2012, the Stars ranked 18th at 17 percent. Had they converted at 17 percent in 2014, it would have equated to about three extra goals during the season. It doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but for a team that lost 19 one-goal games last season, three more goals could have made a difference in their final standings, and ultimately their playoff position.
Gonchar was brought on to help bring offense to the defensive corps, where he finished third on the Stars defense in scoring. Third in defensive scoring doesn’t sound too bad, but considering Gonchar’s 22 points were just about half of leading defenseman scorer Alex Goligoski’s 42 points, it would seem obvious that everyone expected more production . For added perspective, Jordie Benn finished only two points back of Gonchar and Benn has a cap hit of only $700,000 compared to Gonchar’s five million.
He was expected to be a calming, veteran presence, there to help a group of youngsters learn how to succeed on the NHL level. Gonchar finished last amongst defensemen in plus/minus (minus 12) and third last on the team, again despite being put in favorable situations by Lindy Ruff. On this front however, it wasn’t all gloom and doom. Gonchar also helped Valeri Nichushkin get adjusted to the North American game and lifestyle. This is something that can’t be measured statistically, but one has to assume that Gonchar simply being here helped Nichushkin exponentially.
Nill deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done for Dallas so far, yet not all of his moves have worked out. In the near future, I’ll take a look at some options for Gonchar going forward, as it has become clear that there are some better, cheaper and younger options knocking on the door for Dallas. Nill has made a lot of solid moves so far, but to this point the Gonchar signing has not been one of them.
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