To get Dallas Stars fans ready for the 2014-15 season, the Defending Big D staff will be taking an individual look at each probable player on the opening day roster in reverse order of their likely "impact" on the team's success this season. The way we chose to interpret that was this is a ranking in order of the individual's importance to the Stars this season and this season alone. Thus, players who have high potential but are not being counted on to reach it this season are further down the list. We also limited it to the players who are most likely to be on the opening night roster at this point, which means a few Texas Stars candidates won't show up.
Sometimes it seems like Trevor Daley has been around forever.
The longest tenured member of last season's and this season's roster, Daley was drafted by the Stars in the summer of 2002 and joined the team as a rookie in the 2003-04 season.
And since settling into his skin at the NHL level, which really happened in his fourth season, he's been as predictable as they come. Daley is dependable for 7-8 goals and about 25 points while playing in the majority of the team's games. Last season, at least statistically, was more of the same as he put up a career-high nine goals and 25 points.
For many that has been a point of frustration. Daley is what he is, to use a coach's favorite cliche. He's exactly what it says on the box even though watching his skating ability people always hope there will be a little bit more.
But here's the thing. There's nothing wrong with consistent. In fact, it is probably more of a blessing than a curse when that consistency is what Daley brings to the ice.
Consider, for a moment, the possession stats. Daley had the highest Corsi and third highest CorsiRel of any regular Stars defenseman last season. He drove possession forward as well, starting 49.8 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone but finishing 53.2 percent there (the highest of any of the defensemen by more than a percent).
He did all that while facing the highest quality of competition of any player, not just defenseman on the team; just a smidge ahead of Alex Goligoski, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and well ahead of fifth-place Brenden Dillon.
So how does all this mesh with the numbers Josh posted last week, which showed Daley being the least effective defenseman at bringing the puck out of the zone with possession?
A few things are possible. The first has to do with both sample size and time frame. Daley had roughly half the touches of Goligoski in the games measured, which indicates many of the games may have taken place while he was out with and recovering from a nasty looking sprained ankle.
Another is that he was by far the least likely player to turn the puck over, which may speak to the fact that he was simply not the player in any of his designated pairings who was supposed to make the zone exit pass. Particularly in the late stages of the season, when he was playing in the very successful pairing with Goligoski, it was evident the Stars were looking for Goligoski to lead most breakouts.
Which brings us to the biggest question about Daley for this season - can he (and Goligoski, who will be coming up here shortly) repeat the outstanding performance level he was at over the season's final six weeks and into the playoffs? Daley and Goligoski regularly soaked up more than 25 minutes as the Stars top pair and were not only able to play effective defense but also provide some extremely important offense as well.
The minutes they were playing makes one think such a performance would be unsustainable over an 82-game season. Only one player in the league - Ryan Suter - played minutes anything near like half a game last year, and only five averaged more than 26 minutes per game. But at a slightly scaled down level, perhaps 22-24 minutes a night, that may be what the Stars need from both Daley and Goligoski this year.
Because when you look at the makeup of the defense, not much has changed since last season. Patrik Nemeth has emerged as a legitimate option for the bottom pairing, but the top four is exactly the same. If the Stars have designs on heading back to the playoffs, even before they think about making noise there, they are going to need equal, if not better, performances from their top-end defensemen.
Which is why Daley is so high on this list. If he wants to get back there again, he's almost certainly going to have to play a large role in the Stars success.
Plus if they do get back to the playoffs, perhaps he can have a repeat of this:
Trevor Daley really, really missed the playoffs, and it showed in moments like this. He's going to have to play as large a role as anyone on the defense in getting back there this year.
Because here's the thing about consistency. Yes, it's frustrating to not see a player constantly getting better, and that can cause some to overlook exactly what it is that player brings to the table. Even without considering the cap-friendly contract, Daley was one the Stars best defensemen last season by being exactly who he's always been.
The Stars need that again this year if they want a chance at the playoffs.