Vernon Fiddler is an extremely useful player for the Stars. He's good at taking face-offs, plays excellent defense, and is an all out grinding player who never quits on a play or a game. He has come to represent the style of play the Dallas Stars have wanted to go forward with, although he doesn't really have the offensive skill of the players that have been called on to carry the team forward.
Fiddler, and his partner in crime Eric Nystrom, drew a lot of heat from us and other fans in the beginning of the season through no real fault of their own. Glen Gulutzan loved to play them in all situations and would trot them out in any and all situations during games to a point of confusion among fans. There were countless times where late in games we would ask why Fiddler and Nystrom and whomever was on their line was lining up in the offensive zone when the Stars were down by one or two goals; or when Gulutzan elected to use them on the second powerplay unit.
But, again, that's not really Fiddler's fault. He's the type of player who will do anything asked of him and do it with 200% effort if it means the team will do better. He performed admirably in all situations and even contributed heftily to the little run the Stars went on towards the end of the season. While it was still questionable to play him offensively so much down the stretch, there was no question that his play had earned him more ice time.
This is what we should remember Vernon Fiddler's season for. He was one of the players who really put the team on his shoulders when veteran guys like Morrow, Jagr, and Roy were no longer available to the team to contribute points. He was there when the top six was depleted and had to be sewn up with an amalgamation of rookies and grinders. And he did his job extremely well. Vernon Fiddler really showed why the Stars have a lot of faith in him and why he should be looked at as one of the leaders of this team with two years left on his contract.
If I had to grade him for his season I'd give him a solid B/B+. He put up numbers we should expect from him; it would have been nice if he contributed a bit more offensively throughout the season but he made up for that by being one of the offensive catalysts for the team when it needed that most. In terms of defense, he was once again used in all situations when the Stars needed to prevent a goal or shut down a top line and he used his speed and grit admirably on that front. He even ended the season with a +4, the best of any player on the team.
While it is pretty bad that +4 is the best plus/minus on the team, it speaks to how hard he worked and how well he played defensively that he still managed to be a positive player even though he didn't put up many points. As much as we may wish his services shouldn't have been needed as much as they were during this year, Fiddler stepped up for the Stars and gave it his all.
In the end, he was the solid Vernon Fiddler we should expect and even more. He maintained a great grinding presence for the whole year and went hard every shift of every game. Then, when the team was looking for leaders and really anything positive after the trade deadline he stepped up to fill part of that hole and give the Stars some hope for a playoff run.
While the purpose of this is to grade his season, I don't think his work in that short period of time can be overlooked because he showed why guys like him are essential to any team. He became more than just reliable Vern Fiddler in those weeks and went from a glue guy to a leader who brought an intensity and focus to a team that had been lacking those qualities for much of the year.