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Dallas Stars midseason grades: Defensemen

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The Dallas Stars are 45 games into the season and in the midst of the break for the All Star game. Since DBD didn't get up and running until after the true halfway point we're going to take the opportunity now to take a look at how each player has done so far this season.

This has been a rocky season for the Dallas Stars defense. For a team known as a defensive minded group and one that year in and year out fights for best goals against in the league, the rash of goals to start the season has been astonishing. A few young defensemen who played exceptional last season have crashed back down to earth and the Stars traded for a popular veteran as the team struggled to gain some consistency in front of the net. While the defense has improved lately, there is still a long way to go before the Stars are back to being the tough defensive team we have known for years.

Doug Janik: 13 games; 0G, 1A, 1 Pt; -2 rating. Janik has been a healthy scratch for most of the season and hasn't made much of an impression when he does play. One would hope that on a team desperate for veteran defensive help Janik would be able to step up mentor some of the younger defensemen yet so far the coaches have chosen him as the odd man out more often than not. Grade: D-

Andrew Hutchinson: 23 games; 0G, 2A, 2 Pts; -7 rating. Acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on Nov. 30, Hutchinson has stepped into the everyday guy role for the Stars. Not flashy or spectacular yet isn't afraid to step up into the rush with the puck. Had a rocky first couple of games with the Stars and then settled into his position. Has not had worse than a -1 rating since November 29th. Grade: C

More after the jump.

Nicklas Grossman: 44 games; 1G, 4A, 5 Pts; -10 rating. Grossman has been a frustrating player to watch this season. He is inconsistent and seems unsure on how to properly use his size to his advantage in front of the net. Some of the Stars' biggest defensive breakdowns have come in the crease area as opponents have had easy goals off rebounds and cross-crease passes and that falls on the defensemen to cover the backside of the net (some blame goes to forwards as well, not backchecking in time to get the extra player). However, the biggest issue this season has been the wall of bodies constantly screening the goalie. Grossman has had a tough time clearing players from in front and giving his goal a lane to see through. Grossman has the size and reflexes to become a better-than-average player in the NHL if only he learns how to use his size properly. The good news is that, like the team, Grossman has started to show signs of improvement lately. Grade: D

Darryl Sydor: 28 games; 0G, 8A, 8 Pts; -5 rating. Darryl Sydor will forever be a fan favorite. Who can forget his painful crawl to the front of the net after injuring his ankle in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Since winning the Cup in 1999 with the Stars, Sydor has helped lead the Lightning and the Penguins in the playoffs, winning another Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003. This season it became painfully clear that without Sergei Zubov the Stars were in desperate need of respected leadership on the blue line, so the Stars traded for Sydor. While his skills have diminished somewhat he is still a grind-it-out, physical, hustling machine. Never will you see Sydor let up on the ice. What's more important, his presence in the locker room has seemed to have a calming effect on a team that was reeling from the loss of Brenden Morrow and the Sean Avery saga. That's more important than anything else he does on the ice. Grade: B+

Matt Niskanen: 43 games; 4G, 12A, 16 Pts; -12 rating. Matt Niskanen is perhaps one of the most frustrating players in the NHL to watch. At times it seems he knows exactly whats going to happen and heads off a play before it had time to develop; other times he's completely lost and chasing the puck. He lacks the confidence at times to step in and play the body, instead opting to take swipes at the puck as the skater speeds by. Showed promise last season but it's become apparent that he was playing over his head and was being covered up by the veterans on his team. Grade: D-

Trevor Daley: 45 games; 5G, 12A, 17 Pts; +3 rating. Daley has continued his strong play in last year's playoffs and has become a pleasant surprise for the Stars so far this season. One of the team's top defensemen, he has honed his play in the defensive zone where once he was a liability. Yet it's his speed and willingness to join the rush and put pressure on the opponent that has really set Daley apart. At times Daley looks like a fourth forward on the ice, jumping in on the forecheck and creating scoring opportunities. The fact that he has improved defensively has made his worth to this team increase significantly. His value high, Daley could be used to spice up a trade offer, although he might have grown to valuable to the Stars to give away. Grade: B+

Stephane Robidas: 42 games; 2G, 17A, 19 Pts; +10 rating. Robidas has turned into the feel good story for the Stars: after struggling to find his place on the Canadiens, Stars and Blackhawks, he came back to Dallas and has become the team's top defensemen and was selected to the 2009 NHL All Star Game. Known for his toughness and his ability to overcome seemingly severe injuries, Robidas has honed his defensive game and has become a clutch scorer off the blue line as well. After a magical post-season in 2008, Robidas has become the team's most consistent and savvy defenseman. His quiet leadership and the respect he gets from his teammates speak volumes of his character and his play on the ice has only solidified his position as one of the most loved players on the team. He is the Stars most consistent defenseman and his play will be vital to the Stars moving forward into the second half of the season. Grade: A