The loss of Brad Richards has been mitigated somewhat in the minds of Stars fans by the additions of some key free agents that provide scoring depth and a plethora of other tools up and down the lineup. Michael Ryder and Vernon Fiddler will play significant minutes and the continued development of Jamie Benn and increased opportunity for 20-goal-man Steve Ott should ease the burden on Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson to manufacture more offense.
And then there is the power play. In all the Marc Crawford departure talk and all the Glen Gulutzan conversation, a topic rarely (if ever) broached was Dallas' middle of the pack, 18% power play that let them down in a big way down the stretch in March and crippled them on the road early in the season.
At 5:20 a game, Brad Richards played the third most power play minutes in the entire league last season. Dallas averaged a little over six minutes per game on the job, meaning he was out there for the VAST majority of the time.
Who fills in for him is going to be one of the main story lines at camp in my eyes. Let's look at the PP units that took the ice in his late February/early March absence. An analysis of the NHL official play by play for faceoffs taken while on the power play reveals a pretty clear picture on the first and second units constructed by Crawford...
|PP Unit 1:||Ribeiro||Morrow||Eriksson||Robidas||Goligoski|
|PP Unit 2:||Benn||Ott||Langenbrunner||Daley||Woywitka|
Those units went a combined 4/33 during Brad Richards' concussed hiatus, or if you like, a whopping 12%.
We've gone over Brad Richards importance on the power play to this team over and over again. During his tenure here, even if he didn't assist, the Stars scored something like 85-90% of their power play goals while he was on the ice. Research is included here last summer if you don't believe me, though that number may not have been quite as pronounced last season.
The wild cards in this conversation are Sheldon Souray and Michael Ryder. Do you put Michael Ryder out there with what we already kind of assume will be his line-mates in Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro, assuming chemistry allows? It's a logical train of thought but it also leaves your top two offensive threats in Eriksson and Benn off the ice. Still, Ribeiro is the teams top play maker without question and will likely be on the first PP unit.
Two years ago we were discussing the absence of Loui Eriksson from the top PP unit as he evolved into a 30+ goal scorer. Is this the year we have the same conversation about Benn?
Sheldon Souray prevents another enigma, and one that could be solved as early as the preseason. Can he provide effective play on the man advantage? Does he still possess that elephant gun? Can he still get it through? We fans hope he can, and wonder what it would be like to see a Goligoski/Souray manned point, but if not then Robidas is still capable and willing to put the time in.
Little offense here is meant to Jeff Woywitka, who put in some really important minutes for this team last year, when I say that the Stars fans I know will be happy to see these other choices available for the second power play unit, however it shakes out. Goligoski and Souray present exciting possibilities for running a power play from the point like the Stars haven't been able to do in some time, and should boost garbage goal opportunities for players like Morrow and Ott around the net, but the question remains: "How do you compensate for the loss of Brad Richards?"
What would your idea PP units be?