Will Dallas Stars Be Able to Grow on Defense?
Much has been noted about the Dallas Stars going into the summer with an engaged owner with deep pockets for the first time in at least five years. The fans of Dallas were told that in the free agency period, the Stars would address their need for getting younger and according to owner Tom Gaglardi, “will sacrifice this season and miss if we have to [the playoffs] in order to get younger.”
That task started on draft night when the Stars traded away one of their top centers in Mike Ribeiro to the Capitals for Cody Eakin. The unproven Eakin played in 30 games for Washington, but it is currently unknown where he will fit immediately in the lineup, assuming the season starts on time. The youth movement continued by trading fan favorite, Steve Ott and less highly-looked upon, Adam Pardy to Buffalo for Derrick Roy, the Sabres top center.
However, the two most significant moves came when the Stars signed former Phoenix right-winger, Ray Whitney and future hall-of-famer, Jaromir Jagr. Even though these two showed they still have plenty in the tank and the skill to find themselves near the top of their respective teams, there appears to be a hole that was left unaddressed and that was the defensive corp.
During unrestricted free agency, Dallas saw Sheldon Souray head west to join Anaheim however they did sign Aaron Rome, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. As that does address the age gap the Stars were looking to reduce, the leadership of Souray will be a large hole to fill.
But where Dallas lacks on the blue line, pure and simple is their size. When compared to their counterparts in the Western Conference, the Stars are the shortest team with an average size of 6-foot tall among their active defensemen and second-to-last in average weight at 202.67 pounds (Calgary reigns as “lightest” at 199.25 thanks in large part to TJ Brodie tipping the scales at 182 pounds).
In retrospect, the Edmonton Oilers, whom have come under fire for not addressing their weakness on defense (Oilers GM, Steve Tambolini is on a very short leash), despite the fact they have the largest defensive group in the West, averaging 6’3” and 214 pounds. What seems to be the big issue with the Oilers’ defense is they also have one of the oldest groups at 28.14 years.
Despite the fact the Stars have the smallest defensive group and one of the oldest, at just over 27.5 years, there is no doubt that general manager, Joe Nieuwendyk has made significant draft moves in obtaining some of the most talented and quite large blue liners, most notably Jamie Oleksiak and Brenden Dillon. Dillon at 6’3” and 210 pounds appears to be the most ready to make the jump to the big team from the AHL. Patrik Nemeth and Oleksiak could end up seeing their last extended period before making the jump to Dallas.
Perhaps the mantra of #InGMJoeWeTrust is one the Stars fans should take to heart. Dallas didn’t make any significant moves to immediately improve the defensive corps, but that might end up being the best move of all. Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley are the Stars’ number one. Mark Fistric signed a one year deal to avoid arbitration and has this season to prove that he will be physical presence that has been missing since Derian Hatcher was the captain. From there, Stephane Robidas has seen his best years and Philip Larsen is an up-and-coming youngster who will establish himself for years to come. The holes on the blue line will leave the door open for the likes of Dillon and Oleksiak and even Jordie Benn to make the jump up I-35. Regardless of the labor situation, this might be the final year where the blue line will be a detriment. Next year, Dallas will replace the blue line with a brick wall.