The Stars special teams haven't been great this year. The powerplay has been up and down. The defense has been loose for most of the year and that bleeds over into the penalty kill. We know all this, but what kind of impact does this make on a team level?
Special teams are a huge part of successful clubs. It's possible to be successful without quality special teams, but teams who have killer even strength play combined with above average goaltending. The Stars are a team who really could have benefited from solid special teams contributions throughout the year.
Sometimes it's hard to see what impact the special teams units have as a whole. To make it a bit easier to see we can put the percentages together. Every powerplay has one or two outcomes. There will either be a goal scored or there won't. A team with an efficiency rating of exactly 100 is right where you would expect teams to be. Above 100 means they are getting more from their special teams units than expected and below 100 means less.
Here are your NHL rankings as of 3/19:
Of the top ten only the Carolina Hurricanes are out of the playoffs.
The Stars aren't that below average, but they are below.If the Boat Anchor Sabres weren't weighing the group down the Stars would be a bit further from the pack, but we can't contract the Sabres (yet), so we''ll continue to act like they exist.
The point here is that the Stars aren't an elite even strength team with above average goaltending. They can't afford to have average special teams, and they certainly can't afford to have below average special teams. One of the failures of this season has been the inability to cover some of the even strength issues up with quality special teams play.
The special teams units have been improving since the arrival of John Klingberg, particularly the powerplay, but if the Stars can turn below average special teams into above average that could be the difference between sitting at home in April 2016 or going to the playoffs.