Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 25 or more games this season (and are still with the team) and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.
#36 / Defenseman/ Dallas Stars
Dec. 7, 1989
|2011 - Philip Larsen||3||8||11||11||16|
Key Stat: 55 games played - Larsen entered the season with the AHL's Texas Stars and eighth on the team's defenseman depth chart. But an early-season injury to Alex Goligoski opened up a spot for the young Dane, and he grabbed hold of it with authority. While he did miss three weeks with a concussion in January, Larsen established himself as one the Stars top six defensemen, a big step for any player.
The Good: Didn't appear overmatched and provided some desperately needed puck-moving skills on the back end. Like any defenseman seeing his first major time in the NHL, he made some mistakes, but Larsen showed composure of players with many years under their belt and very rarely made the same mistake twice. He also had a nice physical edge for a player of his height and build and took comparatively few penalties for a defenseman. He also was one of only three Stars defensemen to finish with a positive scoring chance differential at even strength.
The Bad: For all of his puck-moving ability, he struggled mightily on the power play, even more so than the rest of the team, the worst Stars defender by a factor of three when it came to creating scoring chances. He also saw negligible penalty kill time, which is not uncommon for young defenders but something you would hope he could grow into. He was also inconsistent offensively at even strength, going long stretches in the final two months without points, and he had some positional and communication lapses defensively at times. While none of those are concerning given the extended growth curves of young defensemen, they are definitely areas to work on.
The Bottom Line: As a young defensemen, it's important to remember that they take a long time to reach their full potential. Larsen is just at the beginning of that curve now, and he compares very favorably to other youngsters the Stars have brought up in recent years. While he might not have scored as much as, say, a young Matt Niskanen, he did not have the advantage of playing alongside the great Sergei Zubov, and his defense was much more solid. He is an RFA this summer coming off of an entry-level contract with an $850,000 cap hit. My guess is he'll sign a bridge contract of 2-3 years and just over $1 million in a cap hit. The Stars hope he'll continue to improve and be a big part of their defense for years to come.
The Vote: Rate Larsen below on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season. Poll is after the jump.