Including the healthy scratch on Monday, the number of games without a Denis Gurianov point this season passes the half-dozen mark. The early scoring drought comes at a particularly dubious point in Gurianov’s career, fresh off the disposal of a coaching staff that hindered his development and limited his opportunities.
In fact, Pete DeBoer mentioned Denis Gurianov by name early on when speaking on keys to turning this team around offensively. Now that the team has turned it around, it appears Denis has been left at the station. To surmise how this will play out we’ll highlight the immediate impact, qualify our expectations, and recall a similar figure in recent Stars history.
The fallout of Denis’ early pace can be seen in the play of his linemates, when they’re playing on separate lines. Wyatt Johnston is centering Gurianov’s line currently, and he’s netted three goals apart from Guri. First, on opening night with Seguin on the power play, secondly with Wedgewood’s crease vacated for offensive benefit (another score facilitated by Seguin, for what it’s worth), and once more last night from Dellandrea’s newfound centering pass talent.
A downfall of previous regimes was to squander talented youth by playing them on lower lines thus lengthening their learning curve, as Guri himself can attest. With Denis in the press box, Johnston saw his career high in time on ice Monday night leading to the aforementioned empty net tally.
Speaking of ice time, we were all spooked when Jamie Benn played less than 12 minutes on opening night, to which DeBoer assured us that this wouldn’t be a regularity. Lo and behold, Jamie got some chances playing without Denis on his wing and we saw him facilitate a pair of goals against Montreal for Hockey Night in Canada.
Jamie’s ice time has indeed seen a slight uptick as the season progresses, yet he’s at the point in his career where he needs to be the beneficiary of a high-level shooter to effectuate his game. We’ve seen a demonstrations of such talent from Guri in years past, but he wasn’t the last wingman Benn’s had that hit a draught during a time the team depended on him.
While the development of Johnston and maximization of Benn’s cap hit are both key to the Stars’ 3 year plan, a key figure from recent history highlights the optimal escape plan for sunk costs. Val Nichushkin was a rusty, Russian, right-hander in the ’18-’19 season just like Guri appears to be to start ’22-’23.
To mirror Gurianov’s ups and downs, Val followed a stellar rookie season with a hip surgery that effectively eliminated his sophomore campaign. Couple that with a self-imposed exile to Russia for two seasons and Val was fortunate enough to toss a measly 10 assists and no goals on the stat sheet in 57 games to close out his time as a Star.
Of course, the current league leader in points was also able to hoist the Stanley Cup last year with his new team. The key phrasing to Val’s reinvigoration is that last bit, the whole “new team” thing that allowed Val to operate with less pressure and less associations with the bumpy start to his career beyond his rookie year.
The Rocky Mountain state has seen Val register 112 points in his 189 games (.6 ppg) and benefitted from the depth scoring the Stars lost out on when he failed to flourish in Victory Green. One could speculate a number of different reasons, tied to the change of scenery, that allowed Val to find such return to form. Unfortunately for Stars fans, he had to make that change to find out.
From a fan’s perspective, you should always want good players on your team. Not every team is the right fit for a player, despite the qualities that we may enjoy about them on or off the ice. As challenging as it is to admit defeat on a 1st round pick, perhaps it is time to leverage the potential that we’ve seen from Guri into a liquid asset that can contribute to this team’s candidacy for a Stanley Cup. Further, giving him a fresh perspective in a new city could give him the spark he needs to revitalize his top-tier shot and finishing capabilities.
There is currently more gloom than doom, when it comes to the tenure of Denis Gurianov in Dallas. He played a vital role in the bubble run displaying his offensive firepower and could very well utilize last weekends healthy scratch as his wake-up call, launching him into the contract year his agent surely desires for him.
Activating that part of his game would not only benefit the team in the short term, but grant him an avenue to find a new home more suited for his growth. A productive Denis Gurianov could easily play the part of a middle-six right winger of a Cup team, and that’s what Stars fans should be considering the most when it comes to his status. For Denis, in the words of Dr. Geoffrey Mount Varner, “what matters most is what you do next.”