I understand the sentiment of people who are frustrated with our backups. However, they are backups; Nilstrop has played what, 5 games in the NHL? Bachman hasn't played as well as he did last year? Of course the goaltenders have struggled, they are not Kari back there, Kari has been a brick wall in most games for our team. I am not saying that to excuse the soft goals that both of them have let in but we do have to have perspective on the situation.
The Stars defense is trying to figure out its identity and how to be successful as a unit, not just one line here and there. I believe the Stars defensemen are struggling with the system they are being asked to play in. The transitional game works well for quite a few guys. Brenden Dillon, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski and maybe even Jordie Benn seem suited to work very well in the type of system where they can control the puck and move it up the ice to set up our offensive unit. However, Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley have not played up to their potential this year, although Brenden Dillon seems to be excelling because he is just that good. Then there is Stephane Robidas who has played well and most likely will continue to play well in whatever system our team or another tries to put him in. However, that is only part of our defensive unit, Aaron Rome seems to be a third line defenseman that is there to add depth and from what I have seen does not add much to our game or system. Finally, there is Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn, who both have shown potential and that they will continue to get better, but neither have been overly consistent like Dillon has been. However, in the last couple of games I have really enjoyed watching Jordie Benn play. He is getting stronger and seems to be developing into a reliable defenseman in every situation. The Stars defense is struggling and I believe a different defensive scheme may work better for now, but in the future, and with some experience, I think that the transitional game we play will pay dividends for this group of players.
On a more positive note, our young guys are performing. From skill guys like Reilly Smith, Cody Eakin, and newcomer Matt Fraser to grittier guys like Brenden Dillon, Ryan Garbutt, and Antoine Roussel, I am pleased to see how well they have been playing. Dillon seems destined to be a top line defenseman, Roussel like a better and more skilled version of Jordin Tootoo, and Ryan Garbutt is a strong, fast third or fourth line winger that adds depth and grit to our team. Then there is Reilly Smith who is finally getting the minutes he deserves on the second line and seems to be taking advantage of it. I think last night’s goal was one of the best I have seen him score. It was definitely not the prettiest; however he drove to the net and worked hard to beat the defenseman to get his stick on the puck. Secretly, I have been worried about Reilly Smith being tough enough to truly earn a spot on this team and he finally proved me wrong last night, which makes me incredibly happy. These young guys are this team’s future and are making it hard for the management of this hockey club to hold them back. Patience is needed and the rollercoaster will continue, but even if this season does not end up with a playoff berth we will know, a season will very soon as long as these guys are around.
I will now step off of my soap box. Go Stars!