In this One Year Anniversary Special of the 2BL podcast, the Ladies talk the Stars’ Year of Winning, Carolyn lives her best life, Merrin sits atop the sober throne of judgement, the Winter Classic is a thing that happens, and we reveal truths about Toboggan Moen that may shock you. Happy New Year!
This coming weekend, the Dallas Stars Sled Hockey Team is hosting a a big charity game to help them raise funds to participate in the brand new Texas Sled Hockey League composed of teams from Dallas, Austin, and Houston. Not only will you get to see some of the nation’s best sled hockey players in action, but Tyler Seguin and Jordie Benn, as well as Dallas Stars Alumni President Bob Bassen will be there, showing off their sled hockey “skills”.
The Dallas program provides the opportunity to play sled hockey to local disabled kids, adults, and veterans, totally free of charge. The program raises funds to pay for all of the necessary equipment, ice time, and as much of the travel expenses as they can for their players to travel and compete. Ice time for practices run the team $1,200 a month and the projected cost to host a “league weekend,” where each team will travel to play each other in one of the cities, is around $2,500, which for a brand new league like ours, is a ton of money
But what is Sled Hockey? Why should you care about sled hockey in this great state?
It’s here. The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the final vote in the Why So Star-ious Tournament of Heartbreak and Elation.
It has been a long and rocky season, full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, which is why we felt the need to name the tournament thusly. And you, good readers, came through for us, picking one of the best moments of the season to pit against one of the worst.
Remember, you’re voting here for the moment that best encompasses the Stars season as a whole. A moment, frozen in time, that we’ll be able to point to as we sum up the season for our grandchildren. Voting closes on Wednesday at 12pm Dallas Stars time.
The Facial Hair Final
On February 17th, the Dallas Stars took on the St Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. They were only 5 points out of a playoff spot, and if the Stars were going to take a stand and make that final push, someone had to step up and be that leader.
To no one’s surprise, that person was Captain Jamie Benn. Even veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Jason Spezza, both captains themselves at one point, have been impressed with Jamie’s leadership off the ice, but that night Jamie silenced his critics by scoring not one, not two, but three goals in the 4-1 victory, and helping the Stars stay in 2nd place in the league in goals per game.
That’s right, Jamie scored a hat trick, his first ever in the NHL. Unfortunately, there was no rainfall of caps because it was an away game, but we were treated to this:
I imagine Tyler “Hat Trick Machine” Seguin probably knows what he’s talking about. Here’s the video if you want to bask in the glory of Jamie’s hat trick. Which you do. Because it was awesome.
But this isn’t the story of just the one Benn, no. Jamie’s hat trick is going up against the deflection heard ‘round the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. That’s right, this match up is the battle of the Benns.
On March 3rd, the Stars took on the Islanders at the AAC. Tyler Seguin still hadn’t returned from his injury, but for the first time since October, Patrik Nemeth would be donning the Victory Green. Ruff dressed 7 Dmen for the game, intending on sheltering Nemeth with some easy, low minutes in the offensive zone. But on the first shift of the game, Matt Martin kneed Trevor Daley, and that plan went to pieces.
Daley, as most of you know, plays extensive minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill, in addition to being a potent offensive weapon. Someone was needed to step in and play that role, and quickly, because their playoff chances were slipping through their fingers.
Who could possibly do that for us?
Yeah, you heard me. Jordie Benn stepped up, played the most 5v5 minutes on the team, and even played 4.5 minutes on the power play, an unusual assignment for him. Jordie led all defensemen with a 62% CF% and blocked two shots while generating as many individual shot attempts as Jason Spezza. It was one of the best games of Jordie’s career so far.
Until the Islanders, in an attempt to force OT, pulled their goalie and put the extra attacker on the ice. The Stars handled the first 1:24 with aplomb, blocking shots and helping Kari, but with 1.1 seconds left and Tavares streaking to the net, Anders Lee desperately centered the puck, hoping their captain could save the game. Instead, it bounced off Jordie’s skate and right past a flummoxed Lehtonen.
The Stars did go on to win in OT, so they kept the dream alive for another few days, but this image of Jordie will be burned in our minds forever.
So, it’s come down to this: which Benn brother had the Most Star-ious moment of the season? You decide.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise at this point that Carolyn and I are huge fans of the Bearded Benn. (He is, if you couldn’t guess, the inspiration for the ginger-bearded selfie we took the blog name from). On this evening of reflection and renewal, we’d like to offer you a meditation on Jordie Benn’s beard, as it is the fullest, cleanest, and fluffiest one we know.
The ginger-bearded brother of our stalwart captain can easily be considered the most maligned man in the Dallas Stars fandom right now. Click on any article about Dallas’s woes and you’ll see at least two or three people squawking about the need to glue his ass to the bench.
And for four games, Lindy Ruff did just that.
Did it work? Was that the magic cure for the team? After all, the Stars did win 3 out of those 4 games.
As I spoke about earlier this week, one of the best stats to use to compare a player to his competition is Corsi, a possession metric. Possession is equally as important for Defense as it is for Offense, because if you have the puck, the other team obviously doesn’t.
First things first – how to read this graph (all numbers through 12/12 & can be found at waronice.com):
Both the blue line (Jordie) and the red line (Dallas) are Overall Corsi, 5v5 in all score situations. Dallas is an overall team number (including Jordie).
The green line (Jordie) and the purple line (Trevor Daley) are Corsi Relative % 5v5, all score situations – basically a measure of how much they helped or hurt the team’s possession.
I have squared off the section of games where Jordie was sitting. Do you notice anything different? Yeah, me neither. The Stars’ best possession games were against Minnesota (5-4 OT Loss) and Arizona (3-1 victory), with an abysmal showing against LA (5-4, victory).
It’s pretty easy to see why he was benched, though. He’s had a string of bad possession numbers, starting on 10/28 all the way through the 11/16 Chicago drubbing. Since his return, though, he has been a better than average puck-possessor for the Stars. In fact, he & Jason Demers have posted the best CR% for any d-pairing that Ruff has put together thus far. It’s a small set of data (only three games), but I expect to see this pairing an awful lot going forward.
Why did I put Daley’s CR% on this graph? Well, if people are going to single out Jordie Benn for poor possession, it’s only fair to see what one of our highest paid defenseman is doing for us. And frankly, it’s not much. Daley was all over the place at the start of the season – in fact his Corsi is sitting at a lifeless 44.2%. Jordie’s is 51.75%.
It’s encouraging to see Daley start to level out, as the wild swings mean inconsistency in game, which is never something you want to see from your top Dman.
As has been pointed out several times – you’re less likely to possess the puck if you’re starting in the defensive zone! Remember, this graph is 5v5, so Daley’s considerable time on the PK isn’t being held against him. That said, Jordie Benn’s Offensive Zone Start % is -6.39%, which is lowest of all seven dmen.
Jordie Benn starts in his own zone more than any other Dallas D man and still has a better Corsi than Trevor Daley (or Goligoski, for that matter, though he’s not charted), and yet he’s the number one problem?
Of course he is, Carolyn! Did you not see that turnover?
Now as labeled, this graph measures give aways, as captured at hockey-reference.com. While there is some (read: a lot) of subjectivity in what constitutes a giveaway, and how a giveaway differs from a turnover, I’ve tried eliminate most bias by keeping the data source constant.
Now there are three separate statistics being measured on this graph. Everything is a rate, as this eliminates the issue of different amounts of games our defense has played.
The first two lines to study are the Blue (Giveaways Per Game), and the Red (the same measure with the total Dallas numbers). On average, the Dallas Stars defense has 0.712 giveaways per game. Jordie Benn, 0.708. Yep. He’s average when compared to the rest of the team. Those big spikes? That’s Goligoski at 1.00 and Klingberg at 0.96.
I’m not saying this is good for Jordie. It is, objectively, pretty terrible. The Minnesota Wild’s D-core are posting an average of 0.444 giveaways per game. Out of their eight defensemen, only one is posting an “above the Dallas Stars” average – Matthew Dumba at 0.75.
But pointing fingers at Jordie for turnovers is ignoring the larger problem of being a giveaway prone defense. Maybe it’s more tolerated from a rookie like Klingberg, but when Goligoski is making 4.6 million a year, a giveaway per game isn’t acceptable.
But Carolyn, his turnovers are what are killing us in tight games!
Are they really though? If you check the second box, the green line (5v5 Close Giveaway %) and purple line(total Dallas percent) examines that. The 5v5 Close literally means “in situations where the score is +/- 1 goal”. The Stars’ total percent of giveaways in close situations is 40.4%. Jordie Benn is right on average at 41.2%. While Jokipakka is the largest outlier with 4 out of 4 giveaways during close game situations, Daley’s spike is the most concerning.
64% of Daley’s giveaways come during close score situations. In raw numbers, that’s 9 out of 14. Again, it’s one thing to see a rookie lose his composure in tense games, but can you really excuse that behavior from Daley, who wears the A?
Well, you argue, Daley is our top defenseman, he’s going to play more when the games are close! Of course he’s going to have more turnovers then compared to everyone else!
Ehhhh that doesn’t really pan out. When you look at the bottom of the graph, everyone’s giveaways per minute played during close situations are relatively flat, with Jokipakka being the notable exception.
So yes, while turnovers are killing the Dallas Stars Defense, pinning all the blame on Jordie Benn, who makes $700,000 a year is misleading. He definitely can, and should, be asked to get better by the coaching staff, but there are far bigger turnover problems than the elder Benn.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with Jordie’s play. He’s taken 7 penalties (the most of any dman), but he has only had 2 in the last 5 games (same as Klingberg, and Demers has had 3, not to mention our forwards). He’s right up there with Goligoski in blocked shots (1.38/game and 1.39/game respectively), but the other large part of being on defense is positioning.
This graph is a little bit difficult to interpret, but basically, there are three areas of the ice that skaters shoot from: the outer most zone, a middle range, and then right by the crease. The more ‘red’ the area is, the more other teams are taking shots against Dallas there, relative to league average. Green is neutral, and blue is better. On the left you have shots against with Jordie on the ice, and on the right, without him on ice.
The first thing that jumps out is how much more red the graph on the right is compared to the left. This is bad news for Jordie Benn dectractors; without Jordie, there are 5% more shots on net directly in front of the crease and a whopping 20% increase on the wing.
What this tells us is that he’s being particularly effective on the perimeter at preventing shots. However, he does leave some work desired in protecting the goalie from all of those centers who love to crash the net. This is a huge area of opportunity for him, especially because it’s a giant weakness for the Stars overall.
The Graph on the Left speaks to Dallas offense, so we’re only really interested in the one on the right. That 1.3 right on top of the net? That means the Dallas Stars are letting teams get off 30% more shots right in front of the net than average. 30% more!
Jordie certainly can help with that – he’s still 14% above league average in that zone, but he’s not the worst offender on the Stars Defense. Unfortunately, that title goes to…
Notice how the colors are flipped on that graph vs Jordie’s graph? Yeah, that’s bad. And for 3.3 million a year, that’s really, really bad.
Here’s my grain of salt before everyone clamors to trade Daley: Daley, as a top Dman is going to be defending first line offense more than Jordie. Also these Hextallys (found at waronice.com) represent season wide stats which don’t show short-term trends, and as the Corsi chart shows, he has had a rough start to the season, but is trending upwards in possession.
Why do you keep mentioning salary, Carolyn? That has nothing to do with possession!
You’re right, to an extent. However, to say that salary isn’t commensurate with level of play is ridiculous (Kane & Toews anyone? Bueller?). So the crux of the matter is that Jordie Benn is being paid less than any other Dman the Stars have right now.
Yes, all of them, even the rookies, are making more money.
Per capgeek.com, there are 12 other defensemen in the league making $700k. That’s it, twelve. And here I’ve written about 1700 words comparing him to the other Stars Dmen, when really there are only 12 people in the league in the same situation.
Oh wait…if I take out anyone who has played less than 5 games in the NHL this season, I’m left with this:
That’s five guys making making the same money. Jordie has played the most games, and has a higher Corsi than all but one of them. Say what you want about Jordie’s play, but I guarantee you Jim Nill is happy with that ROI.
It feels like Stars fans are falling under the influence of the old Availability Heuristic, “A mental shortcut that occurs when people make judgments about the probability of events by the ease with which examples come to mind.” Jordie Benn makes one turnover – Jordie makes the most turnovers. Jordie is out of position – Jordie isn’t blocking shots. We lose a game – Jordie lost us the game.
When things don’t go my way, I turn to data to find out why. That doesn’t work for everyone (nor should it, god, how much time did I spend on this?), and that’s fine. But you have to remember – this is a team sport. One player isn’t going to be the reason the Stars lose…or win…anything.