Puck moving defensemen series: Dallas Stars

After a strong 2015/16 season, the Stars failed to make the playoffs in 2016/17. They allowed 262 goals against during the regular season, 2nd most in the entire league (trailing only Colorado). The Stars did not get great goaltending – 5v5 SV% in the bottom tier of the league. But how did their blue line fare? We explore.

***Note: To read up on our methodology, feel free to access the home page (link here).

12JUL2017 - Stars - v1.JPG

Rapid fire observations

+ Stephen Johns was impressive in 2016/17. His PMF score of +1.28 was second highest on the team, despite facing solid QoC while paired with Dan Hamhuis on the 2nd pairing. His DAM of +1.95 was highest on the team, highlighting his ability to minimize opposing scoring chances and play a complete game. At 6″3 and just 25 years old, it should come as no surprise that the Stars elected to protect Johns in the 2016/17 expansion draft. Johns should cement his role as a 2nd pairing d-man in 2017/18.

+ Marc Methot was acquired in a trade from Vegas and provides grit and experience on the back-end. While Methot struggles as a puck mover (PMF of -1.33), he’s solid defensively (DAM +1.20). It is important to also consider that Methot faced top pairing QoC while on Ottawa. In Dallas, he might have the luxury of slotting in on the 2nd/3rd pairing, in which case he would be a very solid, defensive option who can be paired with one of the younger puck-movers.

+ Esa Lindell (just 23 years old) played 22 minutes / night alongside John Klingberg, posting a PMF score of -1.33. While his ability as a puck mover appeared to be below average, it is important to recognize that he faced top pairing QoC and this was his first full NHL season. At 23, the Stars will be hoping Lindell continues to improve and takes a big jump in 2017/18.

+ With the addition of Methot, the Stars have some flexibility around Lindell. Perhaps he’s better suited as a 2nd pairing and Methot can slide up the lineup and take some tough minutes away from him.

+ Dan Hamhuis was again extremely solid in 2016/17. His puck movement factor of +1.86 was best on the team. Take Jason Spezza: his CF% with Hamhuis was 55.5% vs just 47.8% without him. That’s a consistent trend with most Stars’ forwards and defensemen. Hamhuis is efficient in his own zone and drives possession for his teammates. A knock on Hamhuis is his lower-end defensive ability metric (DAM -1.50). Perhaps at age 34 his ability to suppress scoring chances is diminishing.

12JUL2017 - hamhuis 17.JPG

+ Still, at $3.75M per year, Hamhuis was a bargain signing for Jim Nill and the Stars in the 2016 off-season. He’s been a consistent, strong, top-pairing puck mover for most of his career. While he did face slightly weaker QoC in 2016/17 (2nd pairing on Dallas), his ability as a puck-mover does not appear to be on the decline – yet.

+ John Klingberg might have the highest upside among Stars’ defenders. Klingberg played top pairing minutes 5v5, facing the toughest QoC while paired with Lindell, and plays an important role as quarterback on the Stars’ power play. While some may be surprised by Klingberg’s -0.03 PMF rating, there are a couple important factors to consider.

+ First, -0.03 is a solid rating – akin to a #4 defenseman. While it’s not top-end, it’s highly respectable when considering the tough minutes Klingberg played 5v5. Of all forwards he faced 5v5, he spent the most minutes against Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Nathan Mackinnon. Unlike other offensive, young defensemen, Klingberg really isn’t sheltered. In addition to the top QoC he faces, he starts more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive one. Consider the difference between 2015/16 and 2016/17:

12JUL2017 -- klingberg.JPG

+ Klingberg’s +4.38 in 2015/16 was outstanding. Those are elite numbers. While part of the decline in 2016/17 can likely be attributed to an overall down year for the Stars, the increase in quality of competition that he faced is sure to factor in. He went from facing 2nd/3rd lines to top line competition. Still only 24, look for Klingberg to take another step next year.

Verdict

Jim Nill has made some shrewd moves this off-season to help take his Dallas Stars to the next level. With Radulov joining Seguin, Benn, and Spezza up front, expect their offense to regain 2015/16 form as one of the league’s top units.

While the addition of Methot adds nice depth to the blue line, expect the real gains to come from within. Lindell (23), Klingberg (24), and Johns (25) are all young, impressive, taking on big roles, and potentially still improving. Complemented by the veteran presence of Hamhuis and Methot, expect the Stars to boast an improved defense group in 2017/18.

With Ben Bishop representing a huge improvement in goal, it is not unreasonable to see Dallas as one of the most improved teams, overall, heading into next season.


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