As we move into the new year, the Dallas Stars sit in a tight Central Division standings race, with Colorado and Winnipeg close and teams like Nashville, St. Louis, and Minnesota not far behind. There is still over half of the 2023-2024 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season to be played, but it's time to figure out one’s lineup and assemble the best group and systems possible as we move toward the playoff push and inevitable postseason play. The Dallas Stars have displayed resilience despite an average power play and defensive uncertainty at times, most notably through a “pre-Christmas miracle” buzzer-beater comeback against Nashville.
From an improvement standpoint, there is one key decision that I want to focus on: the case for making Ty Dellandrea an everyday NHL'er.
The Dallas Stars roster situation
The Dallas Stars have been extremely healthy this year. They have been the second-healthiest team this year by Cap Hit of Injured Players (CHIP) and had a fully healthy roster in 17 of their first 31 games of the 2023-2024 season. This means that, more often than not, there are 13 forwards and 7 defensemen with only 18 spots to ‘dress’ skaters, meaning two players on NHL payroll are sitting -- healthy scratched. We’ve seen Radek Faksa take a rest day, Evgenii Dadonov even sat for a game, but the player of importance in this article is Ty Dellandrea, who has not seen much ice in the last month. Dellandrea has only played five of the Stars' 13 games in December and hasn’t played more than a few games in a row this season. Keep in mind that this is a player who was close to 30 points in an NHL bottom-six role last season.
Ty Dellandrea has been dealt a bad hand, but has been expected to win the pot
Dellandrea’s 5v5 Offensive Zone Start % is 27.5%, second last to Radek Faksa, meaning that almost 3/4 of every shift begins with a DZ faceoff. If we compare this to the Marchment-Seguin-Duchene line, they lead the Stars with ~58% OZ Start percentages. I’m not saying that Dellandrea deserves to get OZ starts over the Stars’ best line this season, but this does contribute to the case of being dealt a tough hand from a deployment perspective.
Another case that backs up the ‘bad hand’ theory is Ty Dellandrea’s player card for The Athletic, created by Dom Luszczyszyn and Shayna Goldman. Dellandrea has been cast as the worst statistical player on the Stars with an Offensive Rating of -9 and a Defensive Rating of -3. The poor offensive number comes from his current pace of 10 points by season’s end, which can be partially attributed to such infrequent game opportunities.
On the defensive side, Dellandrea has been quite unlucky, with a 74th percentile ranking for xGoals on defense (great) while down in the 2nd percentile (2%) for actual goals (bad). This implies that while Dellandrea was briefly on the ice, opponents were scoring goals that maybe shouldn’t have gone in. This correlates to his 5v5 PDO, which is 0.875 and worst on the Stars, implying some unlucky shifts in his limited ice time. For reference, the only player in the entire NHL to have a worse PDO than Ty Dellandrea is Ryan Reaves (minimum 100 minutes of ice time).
When Ty Dellandrea has been given opportunities, he has played well. On the fourth line with Craig Smith and Radek Faksa, that line controlled 54.5% of the shot share and 64.4% of the shot attempt share in 34 minutes together, which is excellent for an NHL fourth line.
When playing with Jamie Benn and Wyatt Johnston this season, in 30 minutes they have 58.8% of the Shots On Goal (SOG) share but only 48.1% of the shot attempt share (Corsi). This is still fine because of the significant difference between Corsi to SOG. Simply put, the ~10% difference in their SOG share to Corsi share implies that when this line is on the ice, many shots by opponents are blocked and do not reach the net, and Dallas gets a good amount of their shot attempts on net, hence the elite SOG percentage. Furthermore, last season, in 303 minutes together, Benn-Dellandrea-Johnston out-scored teams 26-13, with a 51.5% shot share and 52.2% shot attempt share. If this was your NHL team’s third line, you’d be thrilled with the dominant finishing impact and respectable shot share numbers.
Ty Dellandrea’s Tools
For concerns about Ty Dellandrea’s speed and fit alongside someone like Johnston and Benn, here is my theory on 2023 Dellandrea: an ‘everyday Dellandrea’ is a tier above an ‘infrequent Dellandrea’. Specifically, using NHL Edge numbers from the last two seasons, here are Dellandrea’s skating and shooting trends:
NHL Edge Stat
Top Skating Speed (mph)
22.57 (66th percentile)
21.68 (Below 50th percentile)
Average Skating Distance per 60 (mi)
10.08 (85th percentile)
10.24 (89th percentile)
Top Shot Speed (mph)
85.68 (Below 50th percentile)
82.72 (Below 50th percentile)
Average Shot Speed (mph)
42.48 (Below 50th percentile)
40.73 (Below 50th percentile)
For Dellandrea who, either by habit or by deployment, is skating the distance of the top 15% of the NHL despite not being able to play every game, it’s no wonder why he seems slightly slower this year. He has not been allowed to keep his endurance and NHL physical involvement up.
Dellandrea’s options as a professional hockey player this season have mostly been practicing and personal training since he’s only dressed in half of the team’s games. If Dellandrea was playing every game, the motivation of being part of an NHL starting roster day in and day out plus the conditioning from actual NHL games could keep his skating and shooting speeds at a higher level that would effectively help the team.
You may look at Dellandrea’s -8 plus/minus and be weary of his impact, but Dellandrea’s small sample of unlucky and tough DZ-centric minutes does not demonstrate his impact in all areas of the ice when given the chance to play more. It sounds like he’s on his way out of Dallas at this point, with roster spots needed for guys like Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven very soon.
For a former 13th overall pick, Ty Dellandrea is also already aging his way out of the Dallas Stars’ future, as he turns 24 next summer. It will be interesting to see what the Stars do because I assume it’s been difficult to justify taking one of Sam Steel or Craig Smith out of the lineup due to their recent play. However, when balancing the present and future of the Dallas Stars, Ty Dellandrea is an asset worth salvaging as he provides positive on-ice impacts that warrant an everyday NHL spot.