I’d like to start by thanking the Carolyn and Merrin for sharing their blog space. As a regular reader, it’s a pleasure to have something I’ve written mixed in with all the great work the Bearded Ladies do. I’ll leave the pleasantries at that – short and sweet.
The Dallas Stars have hijacked the offseason news cycle.
Tyler Seguin posed for his now-infamous Zamboni photo. Jamie Benn’s love life commentary drew myriad puns on social media. The Stars inked over-qualified backup goaltender Antti Niemi. The team swooped in to capitalize on the Blackhawks’ cap squeeze, snagging Patrick Sharp in trade and signing defenseman Johnny Oduya away from the reigning champs.
But all of these events are well-known. Carolyn and Merrin cover all your Stars needs while Twitter, ESPN, and TSN do a great job providing everything from hot takes to Scott Cullen’s industry-leading analysis.
Instead, I intend to walk through some analytics to help uncover the Stars that haven’t shone brightly this summer. As Dallas looks forward to advancing its re-worked roster through the playoffs next season, it could be the play of several lesser-known skaters that helps provide the push the team needs.
While everyone is comfortable with celebrating the likes of Art Ross champion Benn and Zamboni-enthusiast Seguin, the secret power of the Dallas Stars is in the team’s underrated group of secondary players. Skaters like Jason Demers, Jordie Benn, and Colton Sceviour don’t grab the Dallas headlines, sure, but this trio of underrated contributors will be vital to powering the Stars to the postseason in 2015-16.
Drafted 186th overall in 2008, Jason Demers was seen as a long-shot prospect for the San Jose Sharks. He was drafted as an overager after a breakout season with the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL in which he posted 64 points in 67 games. Despite questions about his skating and decision-making, Demers became a fixture on the Sharks’ blue line by 2010, averaging between 18-19 minutes of ice time in four of his last five season.
While he doesn’t carry the name value of budding star John Klingberg or the sizzle of free agent signee Johnny Oduya, Demers has developed into an underappreciated NHL defenseman.
Though Demers suffered a slide after his trade to the Stars last season, he has always been regarded as a high-quality passer. His passing chart from his time in San Jose last season reveals Demers to be a 60th-80th percentile passers among all NHL defensemen. Though these numbers lagged in Dallas after the trade, Demers has a history of providing slick feeds to teammates.
*click here for more on what these passing stats really are and a little on how they are tracked
Without diving too far into the details, the impacts charts from @MimicoHero sum up Demers positive impact on his teammates well. Over his career, Demers has trended towards improving the work of his teammates in shot generation and suppression, while bolstering his team’s puck possession and goal rates. This kind of complementary influence on teammates can be easy to miss, which helps explain why Demers is rarely celebrated. But defenders like Demers are exactly the type of top-four blueliners that playoff teams rely on for steady minutes.
When compared against his peers in individual production and linemates impact, Demers shines. Many of his indicators show that he is actually a top-pairing level defender – at worst, a very good member of a team’s top-four group. Though Alex Goligoski, John Klingberg, and Johnny Oduya get the spotlight, Jason Demers deserves to be considered as a key part of the top-four group in Dallas.
Signed as a free agent and in the Dallas Stars’ system since 2010, Jordie Benn has never attracted much attention. The 27-year-old blueliner has posted some decent point totals at the AHL level but his game lacks anything close to his younger brother’s high-end skill.
Despite these shortcomings, Benn has quietly developed into a steady influence on the Dallas Stars’ blue line.
Benn’s passing is underrated. He ranks just below the 80th percentile in a number of important categories, including CC% – his Corsi Contribution percentage. This figure measures the number of Corsi events that Benn is directly involved in – a shot, a pass to a teammate who shots, or a Benn pass-pass-shoot combination. By driving his own strong possession figures – 54.5 Corsi For percentage, 2.9 points higher than team average – with his highly ranked CC%, Benn deserves recognition as a capable puck manager and passer. Considering the time Demers and Benn spent paired with each other, the two underrated defenders seem to complement each other well.
Benn’s impact charts show how quietly influential he has become. In terms of shot suppression and generation, Benn has been something between a neutral to positive influence on his linemates. In terms of puck possession and goals, Benn has reliably improved his teammates’ rates “against,” showing the ability to provide some shutdown qualities.
Benn’s HERO chart represents his style of play well. His individual points production and his impact on offense for his teammates generally rate as top-four quality. But Benn’s impact on goals against and puck possession are very strong, verging on top-pairing quality in first assists, goals against per 60 minutes, and Corsi For plus-minus. All told, Benn is a solid top-four defender whose puck management attributes are rarely appreciated.
Like Benn, Sceviour has grown in the Dallas Stars system since being drafted in the fourth round in 2007. However, Sceviour’s calling card is totally different. The 26-year-old right winger has scored at every level and still has the potential to take on a scoring role in the NHL. The knock on Sceviour is that he isn’t physically imposing (though, at 6’0, 200 lbs., he surely isn’t small). Despite potential upside limits, scouting reports describe Sceviour as a hard-working, two-way with setup skills.
Advanced passing stats show that the setup skills have yet to emerge at the NHL level. Sceviour ranks between the 20th and 50th percentile in most passing metrics. Sceviour is underrated. But, unlike Demers and Benn, passing just isn’t a big part of his NHL game.
Since graduating to the Stars’ NHL roster, Sceviour has shown an ability to improving the shot generation and suppression rates of his teammates while helping to improve puck management for those on his line. Sceviour remains on the wrong side of the goals against per 60 (red bubble) chart but his play is trending in the right direction.
Sceviour’s HERO chart outlines the ways in which the winger is underappreciated. Producing goals per 60 at a first-line player’s rate, Sceviour has demonstrated that his scoring touch at other levels has translated to the NHL as well. Sceviour’s impact as a puck manager (second liner verging on first liner in Corsi For and Against. His goals for per 60 rate is also strong.
Taken altogether, these advanced stats suggests that Sceviour can contribute goals at the NHL level. Though his ability to do so is underappreciated, greater ice time could help him prove his sniper strengths for Dallas.
Enjoy the remainder of your summer, Dallas Stars fans. With all the trades, signings, and photo shoots, even head coach/noted curmudgeon Lindy Ruff has expressed excitement at the roster he’ll have at his disposal in October.
But while you’re out buying ESPN’s “Body Issue” for shots of Seguin or out to nab your brand new Patrick Sharp jersey, don’t forget that Stanley Cup contenders rely on more than just a handful of star names. Instead, while Benn, Seguin, Chara, Sharp, Rask et al… will be expected to perform at a high level, under-the-radar contributors like Jason Demers, Jordie Benn, and Colton Sceviour will be expected to grow into complementary players that can help Dallas challenge deep into that playoffs next year.