Alex Goligoski was all the rage for Dallas Stars fans last off-season. His 15 points in 23 games last year down the stretch, coupled with nearly 27 minutes a game in every situation helped keep the downward spiraling Stars in position to play that "win and you're in" game on April 10th, even if it didn't work. A full season of his work on blue line would surely produce numbers not seen around these parts in a few years, we thought.
Fair or not (not), people whispered Sergei Zubov's name and talked of "puck moving defensemen" and "power play quarterbacks." Could Alex Goligoski put up 50 points? More?
The season came and it didn't quite work out like everyone had planned. A broken hand derailed his season for a time and he put just seven points on the board in his first 23 games. As the trade deadline nears and Joe Nieuwendyk's decisions (past and future) come under scrutinty/speculation, the Alex Goligoski vs James Neal topic rears it's ugly head more frequently and just won't seem to go away.
Neal's immense struggles to end the 2010-2011 campaign and Goligoski's quick start here had Stars fans feeling pretty good about the deal in July last year, but those good vibes evaporated quickly when Neal went on a tear this season riding shotgun with Evgeni Malkin. The questions then came and they're perfectly natural.
Lucky for those of us who still think dealing from a position of strength to fill a gaping hole was a good move, Alex Goligoski is surging in a big way as the pressure builds, even if the team as a whole is not.
His big second half push after the jump...
|Goals||Assists||Points||Shots/Game||Points/60 min played|
|First 23 Games||3||4||7||1.86||0.842|
|Last 21 Games||4||13||17||2.10||2.066|
Goligoski has ten points in his last ten games and 17 in his last 21 contests overall since Christmas, a scorching pace for a defenseman that's closer to what many had envisioned heading into the season after his performance down the stretch last year after the trade deadline.
He has nine points in eight games and a plus-two rating since he signed that extension on January 23rd. He's been directly involved with six of the Stars' last twelve tallies and was on the ice for eight of them.
His 24 points ranks him 30th in the National Hockey League among defensemen and he's played about 12 games fewer than most guys at the top of the list. Give him 12 more games and medium production levels and he'd easily be up in the top 15 in the league, approaching the top 10. It doesn't work like that, of course. Everyone gets injured, but you get the picture of what his value his not only to this team, but compared to puck movers from around the league.
The onus is on Alex to put together a more consistent year as his new contract kicks in, but the potential for elite-level production is clearly here. $4.6 million a year will be viewed as a bargain if he's able to take a big step forward in the consistency department.
People will point to his plus/minus rating (-4 this year) and say that he struggles defensively. We could talk about that all day. We could talk about his zone starts and his QUALCOMP. We could talk about how many scoring chances he generates. We could talk about how he's had to drag around other defensive partners this year when not playing with Robidas and the positive impact he's had on their CORSI ratings and scoring chances. We could also remind you that in the two years the Stars missed the playoffs in Zubov's tenure here (again, an unfair comparison, I know), the Russian was -2 and -4 on those seasons, respectively. Sometimes good players have to make due on mediocre teams.
It's easy to forget just how valuable Alex Goligoski is to the team now and moving forward when the prevailing opinion these days (and Tom Gaglardi said this publicly the other day as well on with ESPN radio) is that they lack top-six talent. James Neal isn't here any more and that's always going to rub some people the wrong way, but it doesn't need to.
He's proving with this strong push in the last 20 games that his early season struggles were an aberration. 17 points in 21 games is the Alex Goligoski Stars fans should (within reason) come to expect, and this is the one you can compare to James Neal, if you still can't let it go for some reason.