DBD: Let's start simple...what were your initial thoughts on the trade?
Fear: On a personal level I was disappointed to see Demers go as he was one of the Sharks' more entertaining and likable players off the ice and, when used in the right situation, a solid top-four defenseman on the ice. At the same time, Brenden Dillon has been a personal favorite of mine since he entered the league and I often regretted that the Sharks hadn't taken a chance on him as an undrafted free agent.
They've desperately needed a left-side defenseman dating back to last season, a fact that was thoroughly exposed in the playoffs once Marc-Edouard Vlasic went down, and Dillon seems like a perfect fit in that regard particularly if he's paired with Brent Burns. He's younger, cheaper and, in most respects, better so I was certainly pleased with the trade overall.
DBD: It's interesting, because the Sharks need for a LH defenseman perfectly matched the Stars need for a right-handed defenseman. The Stars lack of balance on defense has been significant this season, and it's clear the hope is that Demers can come in and help provide better balance.
In a pure top-four role, and Demers will almost certainly now be glued into the second pairing, the question all Stars fans now have is -- what are we getting in Jason Demers, and in this particular role?
Fear: Demers caught a lot of flak for his defensive deficiencies in San Jose and to some extent that was fair. He tends to give up a sizable gap defending against the rush and cedes the blueline too easily as a result. He can also be prone to positional errors in the defensive zone at times.
But the criticism of his play with the puck was probably unfair; he's made egregious turnovers in the past but every defenseman who handles the puck as often as Demers did has those gaffes. More importantly he's a fluid skater and an excellent puck-mover who can make up for a lot of what he gives up defensively by limiting defensive zone time and pushing the play north. He probably does need a defensively responsible partner who can skate in order to succeed in a top-four role. Vlasic was his babysitter in San Jose and it was a pairing that worked really well over parts of several seasons.
I'm not sure Dallas has anyone of that caliber right now but perhaps a guy like Jamie Oleksiak can develop into that player. For all his defensive flaws at even-strength, Demers is a sneaky good penalty killer who the Sharks probably underused in that role and he can quarterback the second unit power play as well. He can legitimately play in all situations.
DBD: Ironically, it sounds like the player that would have been the perfect fit for Demers in Dallas is...Brenden Dillon.
Fear: I was seriously just thinking that
DBD: Also, and just tell me if I'm crazy here, but this also sounds like the Stars may be getting back the right-handed version of Alex Goligoski.
Fear: I think that's definitely fair. I'm not sure Demers is quite as good offensively as Goligoski or brings quite as dynamic a skillset in transition but they're pretty comparable players for sure.
DBD: Demers is 2nd on the Sharks in hits this season -- is that an anomaly or is that a little-known part of his game?
Fear: Demers isn't the type of defenseman who chases hits by any means but he's more than capable of catching an opponent unaware and completely flattening them with a textbook check. You can probably ask Stars forward Erik Cole about the hit Demers dealt him in the neutral zone back when he was with the Habs during the 2011-12 season.
Demers also set the tone in Game 1 of the Sharks' series against the Kings last spring with a huge hit on Anze Kopitar. Unfortunately the increase in his hit rate this season probably has more to do with the fact that he's spending much more time in his own zone than he has in the past.
DBD: So, that leads to my final question: Demers has been a very good defenseman possession-wise over his career, with the exception of this year.
What happened this season?
Fear: To a large extent, Demers' possession woes can be explained by the significant drop in the quality of his partners. His two most common partners by ice time this season have been Scott Hannan, who frankly should have retired two or three years ago, and Matt Irwin, who's a good power play weapon and decent 6th or 7th defenseman but a bit of a liability at even-strength. That's a far cry from last season when his most frequent partner by far was Marc-Edouard Vlasic, whom he excelled alongside.
That said, Demers was able to have more success alongside Hannan last season than he has so far this year. Some of that can be chalked up to Demers' struggles on the breakout, where he hasn't been quite as effective as in years past.
There also seems to be more visible panic in his game in the defensive end. But a lot of it really comes down to Hannan falling ever farther off the cliff. At the end of the day, there just aren't many defensemen in the league who can look all that good playing with the 2014 version of Hannan.
Big thanks to FtF for taking the time to chat with us about this big trade. We also took time to answer some of their questions about Brenden Dillon; you can find that post here.