(Heh. The Wizard of Ice. I got a chuckle out of it. But yeah...)
Allow me to make a potentially controversial statement. After I make the statement don't check out. Keep an open mind about the idea I am going to present, and if you think I'm crazy after hearing my case then by all means say so. Hear me out first though. Alex Goligoski is the most valuable defenseman the Stars have acquired since Philippe Boucher (think Sydor-level value), and as he enters his prime he has a real tangible chance to carve out a special place in Dallas Stars history.
What is an Alex Goligoski?
Goligoski is an incredibly skilled offensive defenseman. When he arrived in Dallas it was immediately apparent how skilled he was. He skated with a purpose up and down the ice, he was making pinpoint passes through opposing defenses with ease, and he proved to have a very deadly shot. The area of his game that received, and still does receive, the most criticism is in his play in his own end. I think it's a very fair criticism, and I see no problem at all with offering constructive criticism. It would be hard for anyone in any walk of life to improve at a given craft without such criticism, but in the case of Goligoski I think the defensive criticisms have the ability to hide his value from some.
The label “offensive defenseman” has a negative connotation that follows it every time it is uttered. The phrase generates an unpleasant image for most hockey fans. They think of players like Marc-Andre Bergeron who only have one job: crank the puck on the power play. They think of fast wiry guys who shy away from the physical game. Goligoski isn't that type of player, and that label shouldn't have to imply that the player is completely useless defensively. In fact, Goligoski put up a very respectable defensive GVT last year. Defense is hard to quantify, but his defensive GVT was still impressive in the five range.
The point is that the most important idea in player evaluation is "does a player do more good on the ice than bad?". Does the player contribute a net positive, and if so how positive? I think that idea gets lost in the shuffle more often than it should (see Ribeiro, Mike) when it comes to judging player quality. We shouldn't make the same mistake with Goligoski. Last year Goligoski had a 13.3 GVT, which basically means he contributed 13.3 goals more than a replacement level player (Jeff Woywitka) would be expected to contribute. That was good for the 16th best full season total of any defenseman to put on a Stars uniform. Of the 15 better seasons 9 were by Sergei Zubov, 4 by Darryl Sydor, 2 by Philippe Boucher, and 2 by Derian Hatcher. Keep in mind that Sydor and Boucher both played a significant number of shifts with Zubov, and it puts the season Goligoski had in clear focus. The man is a legit offensive terror who has a chance to explode in a full season as The Guy in a D corps.
What we need to keep in mind with Goligoski is upside. He played last season at 25 years old. He is close to entering his prime while trending towards being a dominant force offensively. In Pittsburgh he wasn't The Guy on the blueline, and he never would have been. After the trade from Pittsburgh he was given more responsibility, and one got the sense that he relished being counted on to be such a big part of the Stars plans.
So what happened when he got to Dallas? He flourished.
In 60 games with Pittsburgh, Goligoski had 9 goals and 22 assists for a 9.6 GVT. In 23 games with Dallas he had 5 goals, 10 assists, and a 3.7 GVT. His production shot through the roof. He scored more goals as a Star last year than any other defenseman, he had the third most assists in a Stars uniform of any defenseman, and he had the third highest GVT among all Stars defensemen.
He did all of this in 23 games. Ultimately it is a relatively small sample of data, but the results couldn't be more encouraging.
I've made my case, and thank you for taking the time to consider it if you have gotten this far. I understand that some people are skeptical of the offense first, second, and third player, but in this instance there is little reason to be. Appreciate him for what he is. He is a phenomenal offensive talent that won't embarrass himself defensively. Goligoski has a chance to make himself an anchor for this franchise for years to come, and his production as a Star leads me to believe that he is everything GM Joe was looking for when he stepped out into the marketplace and shipped James Neal to Pittsburgh.