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In March The Dallas Stars "Best Players" Were Not Their Best Players

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When you look at why the Dallas Stars are fading and why the Anaheim Ducks have surged so magnificently in the last month, something pretty obvious jumps out at you. Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry (NHL player of the month) are tearing up the league right now and scoring clutch goals. They're getting what they need from their best players. What are the Stars getting from theirs?

One of the things [bloggers] often try to do is quantify what the old "eye ball" test is telling us as we watch the games and then compare the results and see if the information matches up. Comments made in the last several weeks have largely centered around the fact that Brad Richards doesn't look right yet. Loui Eriksson doesn't look right. Brenden Morrow is not himself. Do the numbers support those sentiments?

I'm not about to hit you over the head with CORSI numbers and QUALCOMP and all of that or anything (though if I could get them for just March versus the rest of the season, I might...) but let's just look at the more simplistic measurement of how these top forwards were scoring before the all important month of March compared to what they have done in those last 14 games.

GP March Goals Primary Assists Sec Assists Points P/G March P/G Rest of Season
Ott 14 1 5 1 7 0.5 0.37
Benn 14 9 4 3 16 1.14 0.69
Eriksson 12 3 4 0 7 0.58 0.95
Morrow 14 3 1 2 6 0.43 0.69
Ribeiro 14 4 6 5 15 1.07 0.82
Richards 10 1 2 3 6 0.6 1.125

(Considering the horrible February swoon that is built into the "Rest of Season" number, these guys were actually scoring at a higher rate for much of the season)

How much did we take Brad Richards for granted before? Probably a lot. 1.125 points per game is pretty ridiculous and yet this was the expectation for him after a brief grace period after his return from a concussion. Unfair? Yes.

Continued after the jump...

Clearly, Jamie Benn is a beast. We knew that, and given his meteoric rise to the top of the Stars scoring charts you'd think that would be mitigating a lot of the damage caused by the drop offs from other guys. On the first Pacific Division road swing it did, as he almost single handedly dragged them through that stretch and brought home seven of eight points. The consistency of his dominance has wavered a little lately, but that was to be expected. No one could keep that up forever.

Steve Ott has had an excellent March by his standards and had nearly as many primary assists as Mike Ribeiro did. A half point per game pace is something that Otter would probably be happy with full time, though he's taken nine minor penalties this month while only drawing five.

Mike Ribeiro is another one having a good month. A great month, really. 1.07 points per game and he's been their best player on the ice in several games recently including the Nashville game where he looked determined to make things happen out there. We can get into the faceoff issue another time.

Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson were part of a line we called one of the best in hockey back in October...

The three have a combined 20 points in 4 games and a +/- rating that also comes out to +20

That continued well past the four games. These days Eriksson and Richards are both recovering from concussions and both are sometimes hard to find on the ice. They've seen significant reductions in their scoring rate that doesn't tell the whole tale the eye ball test does. Add to it that Brad Richards is having a brutal time of it in the faceoff circle right now (33% last night again San Jose, 22% in Phoenix, etc) and he was the Stars best guy on the dot last year.

Brenden Morrow is almost 40% off his pace for the year before March and he is frustrated. He is working hard out there. As everyone was saying on Twitter last night, there is a lot of "want to" but not much in the way of execution, and that goes for the team in general.

A lot of this has to do with the power play which is clicking at only 15% over the last ten games. (5 of 33). Before San Jose last night they had scored a PP goal in three straight games just to get that number up that high. Another part of the problem is that they're not earning as many PP's per game as they had been.

Prior to March they were earning 3.8 PP opportunities per game, down to 3.3 since the home stand began. That's not a lot, but wouldn't it be nice to have an extra power play here or there down the stretch?

Jamie Langenbrunner (quietly) and Alex Goligoski have contributed eight points each in March, outscoring Eriksson and Richards. If there is a snow ball's chance in hell that Dallas is not out of this thing yet, they need their best players to be their best players. All of them.