If there is a lightning rod for the Stars' struggles this season, it would probably be a close race among three players: Jordie Benn, Kari Lehtonen, and Trevor Daley.
Benn, of course, has some of the best possession numbers on the team despite starting a lot of his shifts in the defensive zone. Such numbers have led to, shall we say, some vigorous dialogue among many observers about what his net contribution to this team really is when one takes into account a few of the ill-advised passes and unfortunate plays that have haunted Benn at times in his own zone.
Lehtonen needs little explanation, as this year has been the low point in his career with the Stars to date. Many people have gone so far as to put all the weight of the Stars' fading playoff prospects on the goalie's big shoulders, while others maintain that Lehtonen's (undeniable) struggles were greatly exacerbated by the Stars' questionable defense earlier in the season.
Trevor Daley? He's setting a career high with every goal that he scores. Currently, he has more tallies than Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban. That isn't the whole story, though. Far from it, as you all know by now.
Mike Heika had a great piece on Daley the other day that roughly coincided with the NHL's unveiling of its new stats page. I highly recommend you check out the whole article, but here are some of the numbers for context:
The 31-year-old defenseman has blown away his career best in goals (9) by already tallying 15 just 55 games into this season. He also has hit a new career high in points (29) with 24 games remaining. It is a breakthrough year.
But the NHL’s advanced stats pages were opened Friday, and Daley is worst on the team in negative shot differential. At even strength, opponents have taken 171 more shot attempts on the Stars goal than the Stars have taken on the opposition goal (technically 855 vs. 1,026 heading into Saturday’s game against Detroit).
Daley plays the second most minutes per game on the Stars at 23:33 and starts in the offensive zone 48 percent of the time, so he is used in a defensive role a lot. In addition, he is a minus-159 in shot attempts on goal when the Stars are ahead, and their pattern this year is they have dropped back into a shell at times to protect leads. In dropping back, they allow less risky shots from the perimeter, and so your shot differential might be worse.
It’s important to note that the Stars score on 9.1 percent of their shots when Daley is on the ice (13th out of 30 Stars players) and have a .906 save percentage when Daley is on the ice (14th out of 30 Stars players). So maybe Daley is giving up less dangerous shots and creating more dangerous shots.
Daley is an intriguing player to watch with the key stats because of his role on the Stars. For years, Daley was taught to be a defensive defenseman and penalty killer. While playing on a roster with Sergei Zubov among others, Daley was a low-risk player who supported the skilled guys. But when Lindy Ruff came to the Stars last season, he saw in Daley a great skater who needed to use that skill. Ruff asked Daley to push the pace, join the rush, and try to outnumber the other team in the offensive zone. [DMN]
There's plenty more in there from Daley and Ruff about how Daley's usage has changed from earlier in his career, and even earlier this season. It's good stuffs, y'all.
Trevor Daley's corsi/shot-attempts-against this year has become ground well-trod, and it is a pretty interesting study in how much value a player can contribute in one area to make up for a deficiency in another. If Daley scores twenty goals, does that mean the Stars can live with his poor possession numbers? What about thirty?
We know Daley has expressed his desire to retire in Dallas, but with more of the kids pushing for roster spots (and with the Stars searching high and low for a top defender outside the organization), it's hard not to think that Daley may need to find a way to shore up his play without the puck if he wants to cement his presence on the Dallas blueline for the next few years. As always, time will tell.
By the way, here is my favorite Daley moment of the season. It's one of those perfect, "Did he just do what I think he did?" type of moments that happen once or twice a year.
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Don't forget that today's game against Minnesota is on NBCSN. Someone has to have already made a bingo card containing squares with "Klingman" and "Dominic," right?
Mac Engel reports on his Big Mac Blog that Jamie Benn was playing in "significant pain for a good period of time" earlier this year. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
Seguin says that the Kulikov hit was dirty, and that he was surprised to see nothing more than a four-game suspension. [Stars]
"Yesterday, Bruins grand poobah Cam Neely told the "Felger and Mazz Show" that management certainly has looked back on the entire matter of Tyler Seguin and suggested he might have needed a bit more support and monitoring when he first arrived as an 18-year-old Canadian kid alone in the big city." I love these remarks that still try to sustain the narrative that the Bruins "had" to trade Seguin because he had gotten out of hand or something. Boston overreacted to a playoff loss (which has never happened before) and tried to justify a bad trade after the fact via character assassination. That's all there is to it. [Boston Herald]
Joe Thornton hasn't gotten too boo-boo-faced over losing the C. He's a big boy. [SportsNet]
The Islanders were down 2-1 with only a few minutes left to play in Washington, but their tying it up was an eventuality. The Caps would win in the shootout, though, which is only the second Isles SO loss this year. [NHL]
Morgan Rielly put his foot in the old talking hole the other day with a misogynist remark. No word on how teammate Phil Kessel felt, given that his sister Amanda might be better than half the Leafs' current roster. [Puck Daddy]
Malcom Subban's debut did not inspire hopes within the ranks of the Boston Bruins, who are now neck-and-neck with Florida for the final playoff spot in the East. Nice of them to add some drama to a formerly uneventful playoff picture in the easy conference. [Boston Herald]
Evander Kane says that Buffalo is heading in the right direction. Maybe it's one of those "go south long enough and you'll end up going north eventually" sort of things? [NHL]
Gary Bettman doesn't think anyone really cares about salary cap information. Gary Bettman, ladies and gentlemen. [Puck Daddy]
In the fishing sector, you could easily die at the Bassmaster Classic. [Globe and Mail]
Finally, Tyler Seguin spent Friday evening adding another layer to what is surely a veritable onion of comedic taste by now: