Derek Roy skates past Michael Ryder as he tries to trip him. - Rick Stewart
Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan has some shiny new toys to play with.
This offseason we saw the Stars make several moves. You may not recall. It's been over six months since the moves were made. Once again, thanks lockout.
They pushed Steve Ott , Mike Ribeiro, and (mercifully) Adam Pardy into the nether regions of the Eastern Conference. They brought Aaron Rome, Cody Eakin, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, and Derek Roy into the fold. Aaron Rome was profiled here way back when. Ray Whitney was discussed here. Mike Ribeiro's obituary can be found here.
Since the season is finally on the cusp of happening we can finally look forward to how the Stars new players can be deployed.
Aaron Rome is coming to Dallas to help shore up the defense. The defense has had depth issues for years. The Stars signed Adam Pardy to fix some of the issues and, well, that didn't go particularly well.
Rome is expected to play a tough gritty defensive game for the Stars. Really, he doesn't sound much different from Mark Fistric to me.
What this says is that Fistric played against better competition in similarly treacherous starting position and, despite playing on a much worse team, he was on the ice for quite a bit less offense against than Rome. The big difference between the two is offensive ability. Rome can be expected to give the Stars quite a bit more offense than Fistric which, I imagine, will give him a decent amount more ice time. The Stars would need to use Fistric in a much stricter defensive role. Rome appears to be useable all over the ice.
Cody Eakin is the main roster piece the Stars received in their trade of Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals. Eakin is a fast two way player that should provide a spark that the Stars have needed for several years. He's known as a very competitive player with offensive upside. The idea is that he will come into the Stars lineup as the third line center between Brenden Morrow and Tomas Vincour once the season gets underway.
Eakin is currently tied with teammate Reilly Smith for the lead in points in Austin at 23 in 34 games. He only has 14 penalty minutes in those 34 games to go with 82 shots on goal. The Capitals protected Eakin a little in his time in the NHL last season. He took 51% of his draws in the offensive zone, and he didn't see the most difficult average competition, but it wasn't an outrageous situation. If he is going to come in as the Stars third line center the kid gloves will be off immediately.. If he isn't up to the task the Stars could be in trouble should they need to turn to Vernon Fiddler again.
Ray Whitney is 40 years old. Ray Whitney has not scored less than 55 points since before the lockout. Ray Whitney is now a Dallas Star, and this is a good thing. No one expects Whitney to be a Dallas Star for more than a couple of years. The move was immediately mocked when it was announced, and it's ridiculous.
At times last year the Stars relied on Steve Ott, Adam Burish, Tomas Vincour, and a one legged Brenden Morrow as top six options. Every single one of those guys is an NHL caliber player. None of those players deserved the top six minutes they got last year.
Whitney is a playmaking winger who will add depth up front for the Stars while Reilly Smith and Alex Chiasson marinate in the AHL. He has experience playing against top competition. 36 forwards in the entire league played against a higher average quality of competition. Despite playing against the top lines of the opposition he put up 77 points. He isn't likely to do that again, but even 50 points would be an improvement on what they got out of several spots in the top six last year.
Now is the time where we salute Jaromir Jagr. He is also very old. The Stars were also mocked when they announced his deal. He fits for many of the same reasons that Ray Whitney fits. He's an experienced veteran with a track record of offensive production. The main concern Stars fans should have had with both Jagr and Whitney was that over the course of the season they would get worn down.
Once again, thank you lockout! Jagr and Whitney only need to be really good for about 48 games now. They should be able to handle that. They both have a history of playing against tough competition (albeit away from their own net), and there is little reason to think they won't be fresh for a 48 game run.
Jagr is here because he puts pucks in the net. He's going to the hall of fame even if he retires tomorrow because of his ability to put pucks in the net. He has 665 goals in his career; a career that includes missing a year due to the 2004/05 lock out, two lockout shortened years, and three years spent in Europe. He's been one of the best scorers in league history, and the Stars are going to ask him to park it beside Jamie Benn for 48 games then see what happens.
The key with Jagr isn't so much what he does in 48 games as a Star. Ideally he would go nuts and push the Stars into the playoffs. More importantly the Stars need his experiences to influence the careers of their young offensive talents. There is no one on the roster that can't learn a thing or two about goal scoring from Jagr. Benn and Loui Eriksson can pick up little things here and there to improve their game. Tomas Vincour, a fellow Czech who has issues getting into scoring position in the offensive zone, could learn a lot from playing with him for 48 games.
The Derek Roy acquisition is the one that I am personally the most excited about. He is here for two reasons: to replace Mike Ribeiro and give the Stars lineup more flexibility. As we saw last year, Ribeiro needed protected minutes to produce, well, anything. He was bombarded on a nightly basis early in the season until Coach Gulutzan started protecting him with easier minutes.
The Stars likely won't need to do that with Roy. In his career the Sabres haven't gone out of their way to protect him. Roy saw some relatively difficult minutes last year for a player with a weak defensive reputation. Over the past three years Ribeiro scored 2.11 points per 60 minutes at even strength. Roy scored 2.08 points per 60 minutes at even strength. The chances of the power play being as poor as it was last year without Roy are slim also. He is going to be a key player for the Stars for as long as he's willing to sign his next extension. His offensive ability and the fact that the Stars don't really need to worry about him giving up gobs of scoring chances against will be keys to the season.
Roy should be skating on the second line with MIchael Ryder, and, probably, Ray Whitney. The line isn't perfect, but Whitney and Roy have a history of dealing with more difficult minutes than Ribeiro while still making plays. Despite his coming shooting percentage drop, it isn't out of the question to think that new linemates will keep Ryder scoring at a healthy clip this year, too.
Depth. It's nice.
Joe Nieuwendyk has provided the pieces to give the Stars the depth and flexibility to get back to the playoffs. They are hardly an immaculate collection of talent, but the talent they have added should be enough to provide for a more consistent effort in the coming 48 games. Gulutzan's new toys can play in almost all situations, provide offense all over the lineup, and should give the Stars growing young nucleus plenty of experience on which to fall back.
This should be fun.