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.
Writing the "Is THIS the year?" article about Trevor Daley and his potential offensive contributions has become something of an annual custom for those who offer commentary on the Dallas Stars. In Dave Tippett's final seasons, when Sergei Zubov was ailing and Philippe Boucher was injured, he was looked to by the fans and the coaching staff to provide a spark from the back end. When Marc Crawford brought his up tempo style and used phrases like "activate the defense," it was theorized Daley would benefit greatly.
While everyone was waiting for him to turn into a puck moving dynamo who could pour in some power play points to boot, it's possible he became something else entirely: An all around solid NHL defenseman who will keep himself on the right side of the +/- ledger and add 25-30 points a season, and do it consistently no matter who's coaching him.
Joe Nieuwendyk and his staff evidently felt this way when they awarded him a six year extension just before the New Year worth a total of $19.8 million that will take the (now) 27 year old through 2017. In hindsight, given the market, it's a modest number for a solid contributor who is a good age in this league for a d-man. There is, after all, nothing wrong with 25-30 points from a blue liner who now has Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas, and maybe even Sheldon Souray producing as much or more in front of him.
It's those new players and the dynamic the changes create that make this an intriguing season once again for Daley. With Brad Richards gone, the four-forward look on the first power play unit is probably a thing of the past, so he should continue to see (we can only guess right now) second unit time. On the other side of the ice, his nearly two minutes of PK time a game could go up with Karlis Skrastins leaving a big hole to fill, probably by committee.
Daley should be a second paring kind of guy for the Stars, but it remains to be seen how the pieces fit around that and what the parings might look like. After a season of playing with Jeff Woywitka, Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen, one thing is for sure: things are going to change for Trevor this year...
Continued after the jump...
Robidas and Goligoski played together down the stretch but Nick Grossman was injured for much of it and we were unable to get a clear picture on what a more traditional Grossman/Rob pairing might look like with Goligoski also in the lineup. Daley finished down the stretch with Woywitka primarily.
Should the Goligoski/Robidas pairing stick from late last season, Trevor Daley could find himself with Nick Grossman: A very solid second pairing, leaving Souray, Adam Pardy and Mark Fistric to battle it out for the third set. Temptation usually is to put a stay at home guy with a skill guy and call it balanced. Daley is on one side of that paradigm with Robi and Goligoski while Pardy, Fistric and Grossman are on the other. Souray is a bit of a wild card and, if healthy, could be called a little of each because of his size that goes along with that elephant gun from the point.
Regardless of how the pairings work out, Daley's health is critical to the overall success of this defense. His nearly 23 minutes per game were second on the team last year and he's played 81, 74, 82, 75, 77 and 82 games for the Stars since becoming a full time contributor. Like his offense and his plus/minus numbers, consistency is the name of the game. If he keeps it all up, consistency might become this young man's calling card, funny though it may be to think about after all the grief he's been given over the years.
Perhaps Joe Nieuwendyk said it best: "Trevor is a big part of our team and an important member of our blue line. At 27 years-of-age, we feel his career is pointing up. We expect him to continue to develop and grow as he takes an even bigger role on our team. We are pleased to have him under contract for another six seasons."
The addition of Goligoski to the front end of the defense and the help coming in waves from the back end (Larsen and Dillon, then Nemeth and Klingberg, then later Oleksiak and Vance) has turned any further development from Trevor Daley from a necessity (when defense was an issue organizationally) to a luxury. If his game does take another step forward this year, then the Stars will look that much more solid on the blue line.
In the mean time, I would expect 23-27 points, about 80 games played, a +6 on the season, and further reduction of his PIM's (as has been the case in the last several seasons) because that's what he does. Year in and year out.