The Stars contingent scratched their heads when division rival Nashville bought out the contract of their best forward. The confusion transformed into joy when the Stars signed him for a mere $3 million to contribute for the ’23-’24 season, a lower cap hit than Ryan Suter and Radek Faksa. Heading into the season, Matt Duchene was widely considered to be a luxury addition to an already stout forward group.
After 15 games, highlighted by Tuesday’s OT winner, Matt Duchene’s impact has risen far beyond that of a traditional depth signing and he’s become a key fixture in the team’s continued success.
Dallas’ top priority each of the past 3 offseasons has been to find a truly complimentary piece to Tyler Seguin. Step one of the personnel regime change was splitting up Benn and Seguin, however bittersweet, and then creating productivity on their respective lines.
The headline of their divorce was subverted by the emergence of Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson in recent seasons but the fact remained that they were not matching their pay grade. While Benn rediscovered himself as the on-ice mentor for young Wyatt Johnston in last year’s Bennaissance, Seguin is learning to speak “freaky-deaky” Dutch.
Matt Duchene has done what no other addition can provide for Seguin: create space. Opponents are forced to respect Matt Duchene at all times, as an elite facilitator on numerous fronts and a similar speed threat to Seguin himself. Duchene gains the zone to distribute the puck to Seguin or Marchment and allows them to pick their locations, at even strength and on the second power play unit. With this newly acquired open ice, we’re seeing Seguin dip back into his old bag of tricks.
Reinvigoration for Tyler Seguin is primary, but secondary is the immediate chemistry developed with Mason Marchment. Marchment struggled to find his footing in his first year in victory green and was relegated to fourth-line duties at times, especially after Max Domi and Evgeni Dadonov were acquired at the trade deadline.
This season is shaping up quite differently, as the trio now boasts the 3rd best goal expectancy of any forward line in the league (behind Staal’s line in Carolina & Barkov’s line in Florida). The group is not sacrificing offense for defense either as they all boast a +/- of at least 6 for those who prefer traditional statistics.
Gone, but not forgotten, are the days of the Stars being a one-line team. Under Rick Bowness, the expectations for offense rested solely on the shoulders of the first line and this mindset was installed more or less by Ken Hitchcock in the post-Ruff era.
The strength of the Stars is now their depth and Jason Robertson doesn’t have to score 109 points to win this team to a top seeding in the Central Division. The Stars have 8 players with double-digit point totals through 15 contests, meaning 8 players they can count on to score in 2 of any given 3 games.
The all-important question when it comes to stat compilation is: How does this equate to wins? In practicality, the Stars have won 3 of the 4 games that have gone into overtime this year with this even distribution of trust among the forwards.
75% win rating in those games far surpasses last year’s clip of 36% (8-14), so the Stars are grabbing points in the standings that previously would have been left on the table. As the season progresses these extra points add up and the early lead Dallas has will soften the grind of April and May hockey.