If you didn't notice Jason Demers very much in the Dallas Stars' game against the Boston Bruins this past Tuesday, don't fret: you probably weren't the only one, as Demers was fairly invisible for most of the night.
Which is why it might surprise you to read now that he led the entire team in ice time that game, with 25:26.
To paraphrase an old hockey adage: sometimes the less you notice a defenseman, the better. That, more often than not, is the case with Demers, a player that goes about his business with quiet, yet relentlessly effective, efficiency.
Sure, sometimes Demers stands out. Like when he throws his weight around in open ice...
...or when he unleashes a pretty potent slapshot from the point...
But, for the most part, Demers, 27, is a safe, steady, reliable defender. And for a Dallas Stars team that has so often, and so tragically, lacked that kind of presence over the past few seasons, Demers' emergence on the team's blueline is nothing short of a revelation.
Tuesday night's game against Boston was the third time so far this season where Demers led the team in ice time, with the others being against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 20th (23:09) and the Vancouver Canucks on October 29th (23:41). On the season as a whole, he currently ranks third on the team in average TOI at 21:16 and second in shorthanded TOI at 2:37 per game.
It's not just shorthanded where Demers is trusted defensively by his coaching staff, either. According to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, Demers starts a higher percentage of his even strength shifts in his own zone than any other Stars defender, at 35.6%. While his possession metrics might not seem like much at first glance (51.49 CF%, -1.85 CF%Rel, according to War-On-Ice), they're actually pretty solid when you take into consideration just how heavily he is leaned on and what sort of role he's asked to play.
On the offensive side of the puck he might not dazzle like John Klingberg does, but he still finds way to chip in. His seven points in 11 games thus far are second among Stars blueliners, behind Klingberg of course, but sixth on the team overall, tied with Ales Hemsky and one ahead of Mattias Janmark and Antoine Roussel. Two of those points have come on the powerplay, where Demers is a mainstay on the second unit.
Acquired on November 21st of last season in exchange for Brenden Dillon, Demers was expected to bring a responsible two-way game, and an equally important right-handed shot, to the team. Now nearly a full calendar year later, with positive contributions in all situations and at both ends of the ice it's pretty safe to state that he has exceeded those expectations.
That he's apparently become pretty tight friends with the team's dynamic scoring duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin is icing on the cake when it comes to showing just how good of a fit Demers has become for this team.
As one of three pending unrestricted free agent defensemen at the end of this season, and possessing a reasonable current salary of $3.65 million that's likely due for a raise, Dallas will eventually have an interesting decision to make with the one that's nicknamed "Daddy." Until then, however, the Stars are going to keep their focus squarely on winning hockey games, and it's now become crystal clear that Demers is going to be a big part of that process.