The Dallas Stars defense has been a work in progress for a number of years now. Essentially ever since Sergei Zubov left, there has not been a stable core of defensemen (apart from Robidas) for the Stars to rely on. And while everyone is always on the search for "the next Zubov," odds are that a guy like that is never going to be replaced. Certainly not by a single player.
When the Dallas Stars signed Brenden Dillon, it did not create a lot of fanfare. No one really knew the name, or anything about him. He was an undrafted free agent that teams had passed on when they could have picked him up the previous year. At the time of his signing, it was seen as a depth move -- a way for the Stars to restock the cabinet a bit, without spending in free agency, or having to trade away assets for a player. It was one of those "low risk, high reward" kind of signings that you see every so often.
That whole "high reward" part of it is certainly being realized now, though, as Brenden Dillion has become the backbone of the Stars defense this year, despite being a rookie. In fact, there are a number of games where you can't tell whether the number one defenseman on the team is him or Stephane Robidas. That's quite an accomplishment with less than 45 NHL games under his belt.
Brenden Dillon has come a long way in half a season - just look at his ice time.
The rookie defenseman started in the AHL, made the Stars out of training camp, and was averaging almost 25 minutes a game for a six-game stretch in mid-March. He has been scaled back in recent weeks, but he still ranks fourth among all rookies in average time on ice at 21:10 and second in total ice time at 889:32.
That's a big step up for anyone, but especially for Dillon. The 22-year-old was a late bloomer and didn't play superstar minutes growing up. He logged significant ice time in his final year in junior hockey in 2010-11, and then saw his minutes creep up in the AHL during the first part of this season.
"Even then, I don't think I was playing 25 or 26 minutes," Dillon said. "It's been a challenging season, but it's been a lot of fun."
While there is some thought that Dillon (6-3, 228) could start to show some wear and tear from the extra ice time, his coaches and teammates aren't that concerned.
"I think Dillon is a real physical specimen, so those minutes don't bother him," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He has the body, he has the big frame, but he also can skate. He doesn't get trapped in his own end and have to take the abuse, because he can skate himself out of some of the problem areas. He's efficient, and he doesn't burn energy when he doesn't have to."
Brenden Dillon has certainly become something special, and Stars fans look forward to seeing what all he can accomplish in the upcoming years. Maybe one day, twenty or so years down the road, we can look forward to the day when Stars fans are on the search for "The Next Dillon" instead. Only time will tell.
Coming up in today's links: A big schedule change for a Stars game, proof that the hockey gods must hate us, and be careful if you go to a baseball game, because a hockey game might break out.
- The final home game of the season has been picked up by NBC. This shifts the game into prime time (read: East Coast) viewing, and will now start at 6:00 PM instead of 7:00. If you're going to the game, or meeting the DBD staff there, make sure you plan everything a full hour earlier. [Dallas Stars]
- The Stars have also recalled Reilly Smith from the AHL under emergency conditions. That means Chiasson is likely out for at least the next game. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The NJ Devils have now dropped 10 straight games. They have become yet another example of how spending foolishly can hamper your team, if you lock down players for extremely long term deals. I don't think it's a stretch to say we'll see other teams who did the same last summer in a similar situation soon. [Puck Daddy]
- There is a fair amount of hate across the media for Alex Ovechkin. I'm not sure why. My best guess is that it has to deal with him not being the Canadian golden child, and that he has not had the strongest work ethic in the past. But you can't deny what he's accomplished this season. [Puck Daddy]
- There will be six outdoor games next season. And wouldn't you know it, the NY Rangers are playing in two of them. An Eastern Conference team in a giant market getting extra attention? I'm so shocked. I have my shocked face on. Can you tell? [Puck Daddy]
- You want proof that the hockey gods hate us? How about the Blues managing to beat the Canucks last night, making it nearly impossible to catch them in the standings now? [NHL]
- Or, how about the fact that the Wild won last night, making it nearly impossible to catch them in the standings now? [NHL]
- Or, that the SJ Sharks beat the LA Kings last night, making it nearly impossible to catch them in the standings now? [NHL]
- That leaves us battling for the #8 seed, against Detroit, and Columbus, who both play tonight. Some losses from them would be huge for our odds, which are currently sitting at 20.8%. Eesh. [Sports Club Stats]
- No matter where we are in the standings, at least we aren't the Colorado Avalanche. There are times I feel bad for Ralph and Razor having to do the play by play for a frustrating season, but that is nothing compare to what these guys do. Just listen to the dejectedness when Columbus scores to win in overtime. I laugh and cry at the same time.