Over the next month, Defending Big D will be counting down the most important "impact" players for the upcoming season for the Dallas Stars. Starting from the player we believe will have the smallest influence on this season to the player with the most, we'll countdown from #23 all the way to the top as we get ready for what we hope will be a very promising season.
While some players will have a bigger impact on this season than others, and while those contributions may be more important than some, the strength of the team as a whole will be what truly makes this team successful this season. No one player can make or break a team and the Stars will have to rely on the depth of the roster and the successes of many if the hopes of making the postseason once more are fully realized.
Krys Barch is a polarizing figure for Dallas Stars fans. Barch is a fan-friendly, approachable player who is perhaps the most public of any player on the team. He's respected around the NHL as one of the hardest working players off the ice and he's embraced his role on this team over the years as the "enforcer", despite the fact he isn't the most skilled fighter throughout the land. For a player of his caliber, signed to a somewhat-significant contract, his contributions over the past year have been mostly underwhelming.
The use of Barch in hockey games by former coach Marc Crawford was puzzling at best and increasingly frustrating as the season wore on. Favored to dress for games over more-worthy teammates, there were games where Barch would play less than three shifts. There were multiple games when Barch would be on the ice for just a shift, and never step on the ice again. His TOI averaged less than five minutes a game for the season and for the most part he was out on the ice to fight -- and most times that didn't go exactly as planned.
Marc Crawford was supposedly Barch's biggest supporter, the driving force behind his contract extension and the one who had him dressing for games night after night. What is frustrating is that Barch isn't the worst hockey player to ever play in the NHL and has shown flashes from time to time that he's more than just a fighter. Limited in shifts and minutes and never used for more than fourth line depth, Barch embraced his role on the team and received extremely limited opportunities in return.
He's not the most versatile player and he's never going to be a special teams ace. With the addition of five new forwards to the Dallas Stars roster, most of which are more versatile and productive than Barch, it's going to be interesting to see just how many minutes new coach Glen Gulutzan will hand the scrappy fighter. With Eric Godard now on the team, is Barch freed up from being nothing but a fighting forward -- someone who can embrace taking on more of an energy line role and who won't be afraid to be more than just a guy who is on the ice to drop the gloves.
Because of his contract, Barch will never please every Stars fan. He's a great person and a great teammate, mentoring young players as they enter the NHL, yet he'll struggle to ever be more than a fighter who perhaps isn't the best fighter out there. It's honorable to step on the ice night after night knowing your job is to get your face pounded -- just ask Brent Severyn -- but it's not the most glamorous job there is.
The question for this season for Barch is whether he can ever be more than that and more importantly, will he get that chance? Barch is likely facing even more limited minutes and more scratches this season but if he is truly the hard working player he's become known to be, then here's to hoping his motivation to get on the ice propels to another level with the Stars.
As it stands, we feel that -- unfortunately -- Barch will likely have the least impact on this season than any other Stars player. That's not to say his contributions are not needed, as any team is only as good as the depth of their roster. Barch is still important to this team on some level, but can he ever be more than what he's always been?