The debates about the trade of James Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins in return for Alex Goligoski still come up when Goligoski's name is mentioned. People generally fall on the love it or hate it side, and there's not a lot in between.
The explosion of Neal's offensive numbers post that trade are often used as a measuring stick for Goligoski's value in Dallas. It's unfair because the two play completely different positions and came into completely different situations with vastly different expectations at that time. The high expectations placed on Goligoski's addition to the Stars stemmed from two places: Neal's offensive potential and the fact that Dallas was (and really is) still looking for that powerplay quarterback they've been really lacking since the departure of Sergei Zubov.
The signing of Sergei Gonchar should help free Goligoski of shouldering the entire powerplay quarterbacking responsibilities. That reduced pressure will help him to relax on the backend and just get back to playing.
We saw glimpses of that last season. After getting off to a rough start, he was a healthy scratch for a bit of a 'reset.' When he came back from that, he managed to get back to just playing and scored enough to put him in the top ten in defensemen in assists and top 20 in total points.
But many felt that performance still wasn't good enough.
He kind of fell victim to the "eye-ball" test. People would remember his defensive gaffs more than any positive contribution he made on the score sheet -- and there were plenty of those to choose from. But it wasn't just Goligoski that struggled last season, where the Stars finished ranked 24th in the league with a very pedestrian 2.94 goals against per game average.
The entire defensive unit is generally regarded as the weakest part of the Stars' current roster. However, the addition of a few defensive forwards like Rich Peverley and Shawn Horcoff in front should help the defense with defensive assignments. The trust that the defense builds with the forwards to know that they are going to come back and help in their own zone should help the defense as a whole be better this season.
If Goligoski can continue the forward progress his game made in the later part of last year, he'll be the jalapeno to our cool ranch -- the offense pop on the blueline on a team that should be better offensively this year, and is another year more experienced playing with one another.