Depending who you ask and maybe even depending on the time of day, opinion on Mark Fistric's growth in his first four seasons with the Dallas Stars varies.
Many a Stars fan this past season lamented the fact that Fistric often found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch under Marc Crawford's coaching when he was often thought by fans of to be a better option to take up a spot in the nightly lineup over the likes of a Jeff Woywitka. Those fans would cite his impressive and somewhat intimidating physical play as the main reason why Mark should have seen more than just 57 games with the Stars last season even though some of that missed time can be attributed to a back injury that took him out for 10 games.
But with that hard nosed physical play came a downside that Fistric's detractors would point to - and maybe Marc Crawford himself - which would be his tendency to misplay a situation in his own end and at times lose the man he was covering leading to a better chance on goal for opposing teams than what they would have had if Fistric had been a little more patient and not over anxious to eliminate someone with a tough hit.
Add to the mix a tendency to not have the best foot speed and issues covering some of the quicker forwards he would go up against on a nightly basis and you may have reasons 1a and 1b as to why Crawford felt it was better to keep the young Fistric off the ice.
If 2009-10 was a bit of a breakout season for Mark with him picking up 10 points and being a team high +27 (a stat that put him in the top 10 of all NHL players), this past season was a let down as his point total dropped by half and his -10 put him at the bottom of the team leaderboard.
Coming into the new season Fistric will be given every chance to redeem himself and show that he can be relied on to be the physical stay-at-home defenseman that Stars are hoping he will be on a regular basis. He will most likely be paired on defense with either Adam Pardy or even Sheldon Souray - two defenders known for their physical play, but also known to have shown composure and a little bit better ability than Fistric has to read and react to plays developing in their own zone.
Season number five will be a big one for Mr. Fistric. He will have a chance to prove that he can be a solid top four defenseman or risk seeing more time in the press box than he or his fans would care to have him face.