Tom Wandell's speed sends many a pursuer to the sin bin.
While the Chicago Blackhawks roll on in their unlikely bid at a historic comeback in thrilling fashion Dallas Stars fans are left to wonder what might have been while Canucks fans publicly curse the Stars for arranging the match-up in the first place. Let me assure you, we do not apologize and especially not if game 7 goes the way the hockey world hopes it does.
So Hawks fans are gearing up for a historic and juicy game seven on Tuesday and we're still trying to figure out who owns this team, who will coach it and who will be on the roster next year. Such is life for those on the outside looking in.
We're going to look at all facets of the Stars in the coming week because as we continue to look forward with hope, we must also look back and figure our what happened last year and which pieces are of most value. Today's item of intrigue is penalties drawn.
Rather than look only at a differential on minors taken versus minors drawn (a number you cannot get from NHL.com) I've broken it down by how many minors a player draws per 60 minutes of even strength ice time because, of course, not all minute allotments were created equal last season (as Marc Crawford detractors well know...) and the results are interesting.
Dallas was 6th in the NHL this year in power play opportunities and 2nd last season. Compare that with 15th and 13th in Dave Tippett's last two seasons with the team. As an aside, is that a by product of Marc Crawfords system that will be missed next year or coincidence?
So who was the best at drawing penalties for the Stars and putting them "on the job"? There are some surprises here, particularly at the center position and as usual Jamie Benn is going to be pretty front and center in the discussion. Let's take a look...
|Minors Drawn||Drawn Per 60 MIN ESTOI||Minors Taken||Minor Differential|
Biggest Surprise: The first thing that jumps out at me is Brad Richards. What is he doing all the way there? This is the Stars' dynamic play making, Mr. Everything superstar man and he very rarely sends anyone to the box when compared to the other "top six" type forwards Dallas has. Chalk it up to differences in playing style and injuries this year to a certain extent but as a function of "per 60 minutes even strength time on ice," that number and his ranking among forwards is surprising to me.
No Surprise: Jamie Benn is near the top of this list as we all knew he would be and is arguably the most effective in this area on the team. His differential of plus 12 is second only to Loui Eriksson and his minutes (over 300 less than many other Stars forwards this year due to injury) are in for a mega-increase next season.
James Neal, had I included him in this would have had a differential of only +1 in his time in Dallas and would have been pretty middle of the pack in the per 60 ESTOI number, making it yet another reason why Jamie Benn is a much, much more complete package at left wing (or center) for the Stars.
Steve Ott is right where you'd expect and usually managed to send almost as many to the box as trips he himself takes. You'd like to see his results cancel each other out a little more of the course of a season but this is what Steve Ott does and you live with it. Morrow comes out on the right side of it, but only just, and his drawn penalties are normally the results of matching minor roughing situations more so than hockey plays, though he does drawn some in front of the opponents net.
Tom Wandell is looking good toward the top of this list and it's an underrated part of his game that stems mostly from his speed. Wandell will be a big part of this rotation next year should Brad Richards depart and it will be his last, best chance to take big strides in his game. If he can continue to draw calls at a high rate AND get more ice time then his value is higher than many perceive.
The Stars have only two forwards with a negative differential in minors drawn/taken, which is a good sign, while the defensemen are all in the red, but that's to be expected.
With such a high ranking in overall power play attempts it's not a secret that they can get on the job, but it was a strength they were unable to capitalize on often enough last year. It's the task of the man who fills that coaching vacancy to turn that around while hopefully keeping their PP opportunities plentiful.