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On the Radar: The Defensive Debate

Wednesday, 08.27.2014 / 4:04 PM / On the Radar
By Josh Bogorad
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On the Radar: The Defensive Debate
For all the moves they made, the Stars left the defense virtually unchanged heading into the new season. After the buyout of Aaron Rome, Dallas has five defensemen on NHL contracts - Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, and Sergei Gonchar.

The Dallas Stars had a great offseason. They landed a top-end #2 center. They acquired a skilled winger that fits into either line of their top-six. They re-signed a highly effective one-of-a-kind, fan-favorite and an underrated, reliable center who can be a face-off specialist to multi-year extensions. They also added depth by signing a big, back-up netminder and versatile NHL veteran forward. By all accounts, the Stars are an improved team heading into a brand new season. However, for all of the positive moves Dallas made, for some people, one lingering question remained.

What about the defense?

For all the moves they made, the Stars left the defense virtually unchanged heading into the new season. After the buyout of Aaron Rome, Dallas has five defensemen on NHL contracts - Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, and Sergei Gonchar. Additionally, restricted free-agent, Brenden Dillon is expected to be re-signed soon to give the Stars six one-way contracted guys on the blue line. They also have a pool of youngsters who will challenge for playing time from the start of the season, and considering that teams dress six defensemen a night, it’s a safe bet that at least one guy outside of that half-dozen will crack the opening night roster.

So, exactly why did the Stars stand pat on defense this summer as they revamped everything else?

In a recent Q&A on the Stars website, General Manager Jim Nill answered that exact question. One reason he gave as to why Dallas did not land a defenseman was that no available player fit what the Stars wanted for a price they felt comfortable spending. Given who the Stars currently have on their blue line, most would agree that a depth defenseman is not what anyone is calling for. The Stars have depth. What those asking for a change want to see is a high-end #1 or #2 defensemen. After seeing the Stars land Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza in back-to-back summers, they want to see the equivalent on defense. But it just wasn’t out there this year. And in a short period of time, Nill has proved that he will pull the trigger on the right move when it’s there. But also that he won’t force it when it’s not.

Nill surveyed his options and didn’t love what he saw. He didn’t believe that a 38-year-old Dan Boyle or 37-year-old Willie Mitchell was the right fit at over $4 million a year. He didn’t want to spend $5-plus million on Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen. No one can accuse the team of not wanting to spend this off-season. They dished out more than $15 million in new contracts, with deals for Dillon and Cody Eakin still to come. They just wanted to spend wisely, and did not find that value on the open market.

So instead of reaching for something that wasn’t there, the Stars front office looked at their roster and decided that they were ok as they are. And that was another thing Nill brought up in his interview. He pointed to the Texas Stars and their championship run, crediting the defense as a big reason for their success. Focusing back on those youngsters who plan to earn a roster spot in training camp, Nill singled out four guys specifically. They are Jyrki Jokipakka, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, and Jamie Oleksiak. Additionally, Cameron Gaunce filled in for nine games last season and proved that he can be counted on as well. All of a sudden after adding those names to the mix, five NHL contracted defensemen quickly turns into 11 guys on the back end, and a fierce battle in training camp.

Last year a total of 12 different defensemen suited up for the Stars. But only five of those were everyday guys in the lineup. So, even though the Stars didn’t add a defenseman in the offseason, there are guaranteed to be new faces as regulars this year. Nill is banking on those guys to contribute heavily.

The emergence of the minor league guys, plus the lack of value on the NHL’s open market were more than enough to give Nill and company the confidence they needed to play their current hand. However, there is one more pivotal reason that they were comfortable making that decision.

Stay tuned, and we’ll dissect that one next week.

Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for Stars television broadcasts. He can be seen 30 minutes before face-off on ‘Stars Live’ and immediately after games all season long on Fox Sports Southwest. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 66 42 17 7 196 179 91
2 NSH 65 41 17 7 193 158 89
3 STL 63 40 18 5 197 159 85
4 CHI 64 38 21 5 188 152 81
5 WPG 65 32 21 12 180 175 76
6 VAN 63 36 24 3 182 173 75
7 MIN 63 34 22 7 179 163 75
8 CGY 63 34 25 4 178 162 72
9 LAK 63 30 21 12 171 164 72
10 SJS 65 32 25 8 185 183 72
11 COL 64 28 25 11 170 183 67
12 DAL 64 28 26 10 199 212 66
13 ARI 64 20 37 7 139 218 47
14 EDM 64 18 36 10 145 213 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 64 23 38 -4 61
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 64 15 37 -5 52
J. Klingberg 50 10 24 2 34
T. Daley 61 16 17 -10 33
C. Eakin 61 15 15 0 30
A. Hemsky 58 9 17 -9 26
A. Goligoski 64 2 24 2 26
A. Roussel 62 12 12 -10 24
S. Horcoff 60 8 13 3 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 26 13 10 .906 2.95
J. Enroth 13 25 2 .900 3.30
 
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