Back on October 24th, things couldn't have been much worse for defenceman Alex Goligoski.
In the first eight games of the season, leading up to that day, Goligosk had failed to score a single point, was a -10, and his fancy stats weren't any better. Paired primarily with newcomer Sergei Gonchar, the duo never managed to click, and was being torched mercilessly by opposing teams on a consistent basis.
By the time the 24th rolled around, head coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough. Prior to that night's game, Ruff made Goligoski a healthy scratch, allowing rookie Kevin Connauton to make his NHL debut. Making matters even worse, it was the second time in recent memory that Goligoski had been healthy scratched, sitting for one game in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
It wasn't a pretty situation by any means, considering Goligoski's importance to Dallas' blue line, but you'd be hard-pressed to deny it wasn't the right move at the time.
But history seems to have repeated itself more than once with the man they call Goose.
After Goligoski was scratched last season, he responded in a big way, going on a tear up until the end of the season. Now, he appears to be doing the same thing after his most recent scratch.
In the 19 games since then, he has nine points and a +13 rating. His total season possession numbers aren't pretty, at -2.98 on-ice Corsi, but they've climbed up a long way from where they were in late October.
Goligoski's turnaround couldn't have come at a better time, considering the recent losses of defencemen Stephane Robidas (4-6 months) and Trevor Daley (4-6 weeks). Rookies Connauton and Jamie Oleksiak seem capable of playing at the NHL level in their place, but it's no secret that the Stars are going to rely much, much more heavily on Goligoski as the season progresses.
He leads the Stars in average ice time, at 22:39 per game, but that number is probably going to increase in the coming weeks. He played a season-high 30:13 in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, and then 27:31 in Saturday's 5-1 win over Philadelphia, finishing with two assists, a +4 rating, and a whopping 7 blocked shots.
"He really has been our best defenseman back there," Ruff said after the win against the Flyers. "I admire his bounce-back from sitting out. You have to give him a lot of credit. He knew he wasn’t good enough at the time and came back and wanted to make a difference. He deserves all the credit in the world for that. He’s really just taken the ball and run with it."
When looking at Goligoski's season as a whole, it's understandable to still be a little hesitant. His nine points in 27 games put him in a tie for 64th in the NHL for points by a defenceman, a disappointing number for a player that finished tied for 12th in that category last year.
However, when you watch the 28 year-old defender right now it's impossible to not see the positive impact that he is having for the Stars at both ends of the ice. Despite the slow start, his play is trending in the right direction, and that's certainly something to take some solace in.
The Stars, likewise, are trending in the right direction, with a record of 5-2-3 in their last 10 games, putting them only four points behind the 8th place Phoenix Coyotes. Considering Goligoski is leading the team in ice time, it's not a far stretch to believe that there is a correlation between the two streaks.
There's still a lot of hockey left to be played, and the Stars will have a ton of work ahead of them if they want to keep gaining ground in the seemingly insurmountable Western Conference, but if Goligoski can keep this current pace going and continue to be a stabilizing force then it will make all that work a lot more manageable.
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