ATLANTA - APRIL 10: Eric Godard #28 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fights with Eric Boulton #36 of the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on April 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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.
Eric Godard was a relatively late addition to the Dallas Stars free agent class of 2011, signed well after the frenzy of July 1 had died down. His coming to the Dallas Stars was a bit of surprise at first, considering the team already had a similar player in Krys Barch and Godard will never be adding much offensive production anyway.
When we started to think about it, however, the signing made sense. The Stars had lost Brian Sutherby and Brandon Segal to free agency, two players that provided some grit on the third and fourth lines. More importantly, those two players were more than willing to jump out on the ice and throw some muscle around, even if they were at a disadvantage most of the time and never were able to really get the upper hand in a fight.
When you factor in all of the additions the Stars have made this summer, replacing Segal and Sutherby with better depth players like Radek Dvorak and Jake Dowell, then adding a player such as Godard made sense. Joe Nieuwendyk has preached a desire to be "tough to play against", a goal to put together a team that is hard hitting, mentally tough and one that stands together when faced with adversity. Just a few seasons back we witnessed a team that would get pushed around without standing up for each other, something that had to drive Nieuwendyk crazy.
Godard is a guy that will certainly add another level of toughness to this team, who will stand up for his teammates and be effective in doing so. Is that all Godard is going to be, and is that all he needs to be?
Godard was frustrated leaving the Penguins after last season, feeling he deserved more playing time after appearing in just 19 games last season. One reason for his truncated season was a lengthy suspension that resulted from his jumping on the ice to defend his goaltender in the famous scrum between the Penguins and Islanders in the spring. Before that game, and certainly after, Godard had seen decreasing ice time after appearing in 145 games in two seasons between 2007 and 2009 -- playing in just 64 games in the past two seasons.
Godard's ice time for the Penguins last season is very similar to that of Krys Barch, playing just a handful of shifts each night. While his offensive impact was minimal at best, Godard was not a reliability on the ice and surprisingly didn't approach each game ready to fight. Overall, that's what he is best at and his primary purpose on a hockey team is to add some tenacity and toughness.
What sort of impact with Eric Godard have on this season? Like Barch, he'll likely be used sparingly once again on the fourth line but will provide a level of physicality that is going to be needed on this team as they fight to get back into the postseason once more. For too long, Barch has been the sole provider of the true "fighter" on the team. Barch is going to have another level of fighter on this team now and the hope is that together, whether one, the other or both are actually playing, the level of effectiveness of their presence on the ice will be raised.
As much as we love to see Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn pounding the faces of opponents, we all learned last season how dangerous that aspect of the game can be. Best leave it -- for the most part -- to the players that do it best.