We continue our series of grading each player that played a role for the Stars in the 2009-2010 season. At the end of each feature, you get to select the overall grade for each individual player. This is something we'll continue doing each season, and is a tool we can use to determine a player's progress year by year.
#23 / Center / Dallas Stars
Jan 29, 1987
Key Stat: Despite being a presence with the organization since 2008, Tom Wandell has only played in 64 career NHL games. This coming season will be his third, but the potential and ceiling for this young man remains high in our eyes.
The Good: Tom used (what he had hoped would be) his first full NHL season to great effect at times, ingratiating himself with his new head coach and earning the trust and respect of his teammates. We remarked here how well Wandell's defensive game was coming along early in the season as the young rookie was put on the ice in "end of game" situations with leads to protect.
He recorded his first goal of the season (and the teams first game winning goal of the year) at Calgary on October 9th. His first multi-point game of the year came later that month against Florida when he had two assists in a 6-5 SO loss. He was among the forward leaders in shot blocking and takeaways when he was still healthy.
Before suffering a season ending knee injury, Tom recorded points in three straight games against Detroit, Minnesota, and Vancouver. This followed a lengthy drought and signaled what we thought was a resurgence, but he went down for the year just as he was heating up.
The Bad: In the 21 games stretching from November 30th to January 14th, Mr. Wandell tallied only a single point. All the good he had done early in the season seemed to be erased (or at least forgotten) as his scoreless streak stretched on and on at a time when the team was losing ground in the standings. He was placed in a variety of situations and saw his ice time vary from 8 minutes a game all the way to 18 minutes to help with the loss of Mike Ribeiro along the way, and yet he could not produce.
As we detailed in January, Wandell was placed on a line with Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn for a time; A real opportunity to show why deserves to be part of this teams long term future. The results were alarmingly poor for three individuals the organization and fans are so high on, and when a line fails the center must shoulder a great deal of the responsibility.
Wandell also had, amongst Stars who regularly played center (Richards, Ribeiro, Modano, Petersen, Benn) the worst face-off percentage at 44%. This is something he (and the team as a whole) must find some way to improve upon if they're to return to post season play.
The Bottom Line: Any time a player tears his ACL, significant, multi-season disruption is to be expected and Tom is no different. Mike Heika says Wandell's recovery is going great and that he expects to be ready for training camp in the fall. Mike Modano's departure leaves room for Wandell to step up and claim a larger role on this team. An encouraging start by Tom would go a long way toward Jamie Benn moving back to the wing and getting top six ice time (provided no other centers are moved...you know the one I mean).
The Stars would like to see Wandells' offensive numbers improve this year, but you get the feeling that he'll be used in more of a checking line role, potentially out there against the other teams' top players. Unfortunately this means Wandell will be taking his, pardon me, putrid faceoff percentage up against stiffer competition and upping the number of faceoffs he takes exponentially with Modano gone.
We'd like to see him flash his speed a little more often. We've seen it before, but he seemingly saves it for special occasions. How high Wandell can go this year depends on him. There is ample room and opportunity this year with Modano gone. Tom must reach out and take it, or be relegated to a lesser role, possibly on the 4th line. The quesiton is: Will his knee allow him to take the big step forward we all want him to?
Alternate reading: How Modano's departure affects Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell
The Vote: Rate Wandell on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.