Few names make our Defending Big D traffic pop like "Fabian Brunnstrom." The hype and buzz that preceded his coming to the Stars is something that puzzles many even today and it created a lasting attachment for some fans that endured all the way into yesterday afternoon, amazingly.
People were asking on Twitter "Why did the Stars trade him? He's still developing!"
That's the problem. He was always "developing", and now the Maple Leaf web site has a post up claiming he could be a "late bloomer," precisely what he was labeled nearly three years ago when the courting of Mr. Fabian began: A late bloomer. Someone who wasn't drafted but then (in 2008) would be like getting a high first rounder. Hopefully.
Three seasons later and he's traded for an even bigger bust in the Leafs system, minus the cost, which is what this is all about.
Reaction on the net seems mixed. "They're lucky to get a bag of pucks" is mingled with "he could still be something special" and "he scored 17 goals one year!". The irony is that the Stars might have derailed his development with the very promise that convinced him to come here. He wanted to be in the NHL. Les Jackson made a commitment to keeping him here at this level when it seems now that the AHL would have been a better path for him, and one toward which most other NHL teams would have pushed him.
In the end it's just another failed experiment with a prospect. The hockey world is positively littered with them. A change might do him some good. His tools are fantastic, but the execution is lacking and there's one thing in particular missing from his game that I don't think you can teach...
The first time I saw Fabian at training camp I said "Wow, he's a big boy. He's big, he's got hands and he can skate." That seemed the perfect combination. Size and skill, right? They say you can't teach thugs and spares skill, but you can teach the skill guys how to play defense and kill penalties.
There's one other thing you can't teach: Grit and physicality.
Fabian doesn't possess those things (right now) in adequate measure to be a success in the National Hockey League. As big as he is and as talented as he might be, he's pushed off the puck easier than Chris Conner was. He doesn't have the temperament for it. Can you find that in the minors?
Meanwhile, while fans were waiting to see what the second season of Brunnstrom would bring, Jamie Benn came from out of nowhere, just as big, just as skilled, but possessing that which Fabian didn't have in large quantities. He uses his body. He fights. He hits. He plays a power game. He was what we thought Brunnstrom would be, and that extends to playing on a line with Morrow and Ribeiro.
Brunnstrom was given every opportunity after his rookie season to claim that spot on Ribeiro's right. He didn't. Benn did. Then training camp rolled around AGAIN this year and the exact same thing happened. Fabian was given every opportunity to claim a role with skilled players and failed to take advantage.
Call it a testament to the Stars depth at forward, call it mismanagement from the beginning (lack of AHL time), call it whatever you want, it just didn't work out here.
He's one hell of a nice dude. He talked to me when I wandered into the locker room my first ever time and I'll always appreciate that, but it wasn't meant to be in Dallas, and now he goes as part of a pure salary dump.
He was a victim of his own YouTube clips to an extent, yes, but he was also a victim of his own hubris. His time here was marked repeatedly be a consistent insistence that he NOT go to the AHL. In the end he did.
He got more than a fair chance from the Stars, but with his no-AHL demands, maybe he never gave one to himself.