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.
#28 / Defenseman / Dallas Stars
Jun 01, 1986
|2011 - Mark Fistric||60||0||2||2||-3||41||0||0||0||0||30||0.0|
Key Stat: 235 - the number of hits Mark Fistric recorded throughout the season, good for second on the team (behind only Steve Ott) and first amongst all defensemen. Fistric has arguably the best hip check of all the defensemen on the team, and always plays with the physical edge to his game.
The Good: Fistric was a bit of a revelation this season on the penalty kill. The trade of Nicklas Grossmann to the Philadelphia Flyers left a hole for the Stars to fill in that area, as the big man garnered quite a bit of PK time on average. Fistric's short handed time on ice in 2010-2011 averaged 1:20 per game. This season, he averaged 2:13 in just three more games played.
Fistric also led the Stars' defense in goals against per 60 minutes of ice time at a 1.78 average. On the flip side, the Stars also aren't scoring much when Fistric is on the ice: he has the lowest goals for per 60 minutes on defense. Most likely, this is due to his high amount of time on the penalty kill (where the Stars weren't afforded very many short handed chances) and the fact that 54.5% of his starts occurred in the defensive zone.
The Bad: Many Stars fans can appreciate the physical edge to Fistric's game. He plays the game with hard checks and the lost art of the hip check. On December 3, 2011 Fistric's physicality led to a bad hit on New York Islander's Nino Niederreiter. The play would get Fistric suspended for three games for charging. While the clean hard hits are a pleasure to watch, when it crosses that line it hurts the team. Unfortunately, that was not Fistric's first brush with the NHL's Department of Player Safety. He was fined the maximum allowed under the CBA last season for hitting (now teammate) Eric Nystrom with a helmet during a fight. That previous fine marked Fistric as a "repeat offender" and did help to contribute to the suspension length, but he shouldn't be putting himself in the position to be suspended to begin with.
At the beginning of the season, Fistric struggled to get into the lineup consistently, often slated as the number seven or even eight defensemen. With the strong showing of Philip Larsen out of camp, it took injuries for Fistric to see ice time night in and night out. After the trade of Grossmann, he became a regular in the lineup, but you have to wonder where in the depth chart the Stars see Fistric long term with some of the young guys like Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon looking to make the jump to the NHL. Will Fistric continue to be a sometimes healthy scratch, or is he going to be a regular on the blueline?
The Bottom Line: When given the opportunity, Fistric has been a solid shut down defensemen. He has the physical edge to his game that many of the Stars blueliners lack, especially given how undersized many of them seem in relation to the rest of the league (Robidas, Goligoski, Larsen.) With Sheldon Souray becoming an unrestricted free agent and his re-signing a question mark, it is expected that Fistric will be a part of the blueline moving forward. He made good strides this season in improving his defensive play, and was part of the reason the Stars' penalty kill jumped so much in the league-wide rankings after Grossmann was traded. The real question is what role he will play on the team moving forward next season, and a lot of that may depend on free agent signings and the development of the guys in Austin.
The Vote: Rate Fistric 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 he was here. Vote after the jump.