The Dallas Stars defense corps has been thrown into a state of flux over the past two weeks. Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Connauton, and Brenden Dillon are gone. Jordie Benn has been scratched for two games. Jason Demers, Jamie Oleksiak, John Klingberg, and Jyrki Jokipakka are here for at least the time being. This causes a bit of a strategic issue for Lindy Ruff and his staff.
Prior to the trade the Stars were struggling to figure out how to use what they had as is. One issue that has plagued them this year is what to do with Trevor Daley. The Stars have relied heavily upon Daley, but it hasn't been working at all. Daley has been the Stars least successful defenseman at even strength by a wide margin. The pervasiveness of the issue is widespread. When anyone is on the ice with Daley their Corsi % drops significantly.
Numbers lifted from stats hockeyanalysis.com
The final column highlights how many percentage points each player on the Stars roster drops when they are on the ice with Daley. One possible reason that jumps out is that Daley faces the most difficult competition on a nightly basis, but, that doesn't account for much measurable difference. For whatever reason the Stars grind to a halt with Daley on the ice, and the problem needs to be solved for them to take the next step.
The answers to this problem are few and far between in the wake of the Dillon trade.
Temporarily against the Arizona Coyotes the Stars appeared to find a solution, but without Dillon it is no longer viable. The Stars used Dillon and Klingberg in their own end with Daley and Goligoski free to roam up ice. It was one of Daley's best games of the season and the duo of Dillon and Klingberg were very sturdy.
The Stars current defensive pairs don't offer much flexibility. In their first game with Demers the Stars threw Demers and Daley out there in the role that has swallowed up Daley all year. The pair got swallowed up.
Klingberg and Goligoski played together, but they aren't together because Ruff wants them playing in their own end.
The remaining pair is Oleksiak and Jokipakka. Rookie pairs always give cause for pause, but a rookie pair that includes Oleksiak is another red flag. The Stars don't ideally want to have to rely on these two, but to an extent they were forced to do so against the Kings. If you're any opposing coach and you see this pair together you're going to attack. They (and Demers/Daley) got drilled.
If you're the Stars where do you go? One option would be to reinsert Jordie Benn. He struggled significantly early in the season, but despite his struggles he was still a positive Corsi player with the worst PDO on the roster (non-Ales Hemsky division). He isn't a bad player who magically can no longer play in the league. The mistakes that have been made with him on the ice have been finding their way into the net, but there is no reason to expect this to continue at such a high rate.
Outside of the unsupported #FreeJordie movement the Stars only two options are to hope things turn around or make another roster move. It's within the realm of possibility that Demers can help bring Daley back from the darkside, but if he doesn't? Well things could get pretty ugly as the Stars continue to search for answers..