There's been a lot of talk about the size of the Dallas Stars leading up to the season, particularly on the blue line.
After all, the Stars lost the large frame of Sheldon Souray (6-4, 238) to the free agent market and then traded Mark Fistric (6-2, 233) just before the season started. Heck, even Adam Pardy, despite his on-ice struggles at times, took up 6-foot-4, 220 pounds of space when he tried to clear out the net.
To fill those holes, the Stars added an average-sized defensemen in Jordie Benn (6-1, 200), an average height but solidly built Aaron Rome (6-1, 218) and and a larger, still maturing body in Brenden Dillon (6-3, 210). The losses, combined with the returns of average-sized or smaller players in Trevor Daley a(5-11, 198), Stephane Robidas (5-11, 196), Philip Larsen (6-0, 190) and Alex Goligoski (5-11, 181), has raised some concern about how the Stars defense will match up when faced with some of the larger forward groups in the league.
But how does the Stars defense actually measure up? James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail found the averages of height, weight and age for each team across the league but didn't break it out by position. So faced with an unanswered question and some time on my hands before the start of the season, I decided to run those averages for defenses across the league.
A couple notes before we get to the numbers. These were all calculated Friday evening based off of the opening day, 23-man rosters, and the numbers will obviously fluctuate as player are injured, signed or traded. Also, several teams are carrying eight defensemen for the moment, and all eight were taken into account when that was the case. Players on injured reserve or and those who are expected to be out for a long period of time were not included to the best of my ability.
One team, the Vancouver Canucks, technically has nine defensemen on their opening-day roster. But since Jim Vandermeer was projected to be the 13th forward rather than the ninth defenseman in the reports I read, he was not included.
Now, on to how the defenses across the league stack up, starting with average weight.
|Team||Weight (in pounds)||Rank|
|New York Rangers||202.75||27|
For what it's worth, the Anaheim Ducks come in 11th at 210.29 pounds, so the Pacific Division definitely trends toward the heavier side of the ledger. I'm not surprised at all by Philadelphia leading this category, but I didn't expect to see the Avalanche or the Blue Jackets up so high. Perhaps it's just been too long since I've seen either of those teams.
Because weight alone is only one part of size, let's take a look at the average height of the defenses.
|Team||Height (in feet)||Rank|
|Tampa Bay||6' 3"||1|
|Los Angeles||6' 0.84"||27|
|St. Louis||6' 0.72"||28|
Hmm, that's not much better for Dallas. And the Canadians may jump the Stars in average height once P.K. Subban is signed, depending on who the 6-foot defenseman replaces on the Habs roster. Dallas and Montreal are also the only two teams with three defensemen listed at less than six feet tall.
Some other things that I took note of include despite having the giant Zdeno Chara, the Bruins average is dragged down by the rest of their roster. Also, the Kings defensemen are built like tanks, with the fifth heaviest corps to go along with an average height of just under 6-1.
So there has to be some good news for the Stars in here, right?
|Team||Age (in years)||Rank|
|New York Rangers||26||3|
Because the data is not as easily available as height/weight/age, I did not calculate the experience of each defense based on games played. Minnesota, for instance, has only one rookie as compared to two on Dallas, though it also does not have a decade-long veteran like Stephane Robidas on the higher end of the scale. Those numbers would be very interesting to look at eventually.
But the Stars are definitely on the younger end of the scale with only one player older than 30 and three players 25 or younger. This can be viewed one of two ways. The Stars have a core to grow around for several years, including possible additions of highly touted Texas Stars players. On the other hand, the relative youth also signifies a bit of inexperience. Dallas started two rookies on opening night, and rookies do have a definite adjustment period.
All of this is not to say the defense will definitely struggle because of these issues. After all, size and age are only part of a much larger picture that defines the ability of a player. Small and quick guys can be just as dangerous (if not more) than large lumbering ones, and great hockey sense and positional awareness more than compensate for young or old age. Time will tell if the Stars have enough positives to make up for what they might lack in size and strength.
But those numbers do matter to some extent. Younger players are generally less experienced and more prone to silly mental mistakes, as Jordie Benn demonstrated so nicely in the opener. Smaller players can be at a strength or reach disadvantage to larger forwards and have more difficultly clearing bodies in front of the net. Goligoski, for instance, can try all he wants, but at 5-11, 181, he's going to be at a distinct disadvantage trying to move a player like the 6-2, 225 pound Ryane Clowe.
Some of this will be solved with time. Jamie Oleksiak (6-7, 254) and Patrik Nemeth (6-4, 233) are a year or two away and are projected to be mainstays on the defense for a while. And time in the NHL, which players like Dillon and Benn will get plenty of this year, will be a huge positive down the line even if there are some growing pains at the moment.
Still, it's something to consider when evaluating what moves this team might attempt to make during the season and understanding which teams will pose more of a matchup problem than others.
And it shows that Dillon and Rome are going to be extremely important to the team this year. At 218 pounds, Rome, who is currently battling a groin injury, is the heaviest guy on the defense, and Dillon is a strong 6-3, 210. The Stars need one or both of them to be a player they can rely on during games against teams with large power forwards or a strong net presence.