Once again the Dallas Stars are facing some very serious mid-season adversity. Every since their last postseason appearance in 2008 the Stars have had to deal with incredible odds in an extremely competitive Western Conference. Whether it has been long-term injuries to Brenden Morrow or Brad RIchards (sometimes at the same time) or debilitating injuries on the blue line, it seems as if no season can go by without the injury bug hitting the Stars hard -- and usually at the same time.
This season is no different, as the Stars are dealing with concurrent injuries to Brenden Morrow, Alex Goligoski, Adam Burish, Trevor Daley and Kari Lehtonen. What at first appeared to be a serious injury to Vernon Fiddler will apparently not keep out of tonight's game, so the Stars have received at least some good news. However, on a roster that is one of the lowest-paid in the NHL and attempting to use team work over talent level for success this season, these injuries to some of the top players on the team can be devastating.
The good news is that -- unlike past seasons -- these injuries are hitting the Stars in November and not March, giving the team time to work through the adversity and still have plenty of time for a postseason push. An incredible 11-3-0 start to the season gave the team a bit of a buffer with which to work, although the Stars would be wise to try and turn around their 2-6-1 slump sooner than later.
Of course, a turn around while missing your star goaltender, your captain and your emotional leader -- not to mention two of your best puck-moving defensemen -- is a tall task indeed. To do so would require players to step into the spotlight who have yet to truly take that next step, yet have shown the potential for greatness.
The story of Tomas Vincour through 31 NHL games has remained the same since his NHL debut last season. He is a player that exemplifies everything that Glen Gulutzan preaches, someone who plays hard and makes plays nearly every shift but has yet to find a way to turn that play into actual scoreboard production.
Vincour has been a source of great joy yet subsequent frustration for the Stars and their fans and his lack of scoring is troubling in a league where ultimately the only thing that matters is the score at the end of the game.
Through 31 NHL games, Vincour is minus-7 with just one goal and one assist. For a player that is touted to have top-six forward potential, a projected point total in 82 games of just three points is not exactly what one would expect. No matter how good or how exciting he may look on each of his shifts, ultimately Vincour must start to put the puck in the net to make the investment in him at the NHL level worth it.
What's amazing is how so far in his career, Vincour is equating to what would termed a "AAAA" player in baseball -- someone who plays exceptionally well in the minors yet fails to translate that production to the majors. The history of the NHL is littered with players that suffered from this phenomenon, who never could find their production potential against top competition.
Vincour has never been a goal-scoring phenom, with his best season coming when he scored 27 goals in 53 games his final season in the WHL. Last season, he had just 5 goals in 41 games at the AHL level and just the one goal and one assist in 24 games with Dallas. What stood out last season was the fact that Vincour played much better overall at the NHL level instead of the AHL, despite only having the singular goal.
This year, Vincour was given a big chance to make the team out of training camp and because of injury played in the first few games of the season. Unfortunately, he struggled and saw his minutes decreased and the team made the wise decision to send him back to the AHL to get more experience as a top-six forward
What has happened since then has been remarkable, as was easily the best player for the Texas Stars through 15 games, scoring 10 goals and three assists and was easily the team's most consistent even-strength player. His newfound ability to hit the back of the net has led a resurgence in excitement surrounding his prospective future with this team and there was some thought that his addition back into the NHL lineup would provide some much needed energy and scoring punch for a team that has been struggling for nearly a month now.
Unfortunately -- and once again -- his scoring acumen has disappeared at the NHL level. In seven games with the Stars this season, Vincour has just six shots on goal which is right in line with his 1.0 SOG average last season with the Stars. Compare that to his 3.1 SOG average and 21.7 shooting percentage at the AHL level and the reason for his scoring inability at this level starts to become much clearer.
Vincour passes every aspect of the eyeball test, with the exception of one. He works exceptionally hard along the boards both offensively and defensively and has proven to be one of the more effective two-way players on the team. He has worked diligently to become a well-rounded forward and it shows in his focus on defensive responsibility, although it's his hard work on offense that continues to impress.
Yet Vincour routinely passes up scoring opportunities and fails to put himself in position to make the play in front of the net. Vincour is a finisher, a forward who's hard work does wonders for his teammates yet who is ultimately at his best when he's firing the puck at the net. For whatever reason, Vincour has decided that he will defer to his teammates when it comes to offense, often attempting to make the pass instead of firing the puck at the net.
Vincour is a player who excels at the perimeter yet has failed to translate that hard work to prime scoring positions on the ice, most notably right in front of the net. With his size and tenacity, you'd think that this would be his bread and butter at the NHL level yet he continues to stay to the outside and let his teammates get the scoring chances instead. He's done well in creating chances himself, although we've yet to see his primary and secondary assists start to accumulate.
With Morrow out for the next few games, Vincour is getting top-line minutes next to Mike RIbeiro -- one of the best playmaking centers in the NHL. You'd think that a player like Vincour would excel in such a role and with the Stars needed offense more than ever -- especially with Goligoski, Daley and Lehtonen injured -- the Stars are going to need Vincour to finally find that production he obviously has bottled up inside.
Vincour has the potential to be a very good -- even great -- player at the NHL level. A great combination of speed, size and physicality along with the scoring potential to be a true power forward has fans extremely excited about what he could bring long-term to this team. At some point, however, Vincour is going to need to prove that he can score at this level and that he is not a "AAAA" player.
No better time than the present to start proving all of us who believe in him right.