Patrik Nemeth was gone for most of the season, and the Stars certainly missed him. True, his possession numbers weren't stellar, and yes, his play tailed off a bit and earned him some healthy scratches during the final few games of the year; but big bodies that know where to be are important, and Patrik Nemeth has just such a body. The Stars did well with him in the lineup, and there's little doubt that his presence will foster improvements throughout the rest of the D next year should he be there to absorb the minutes.
The Stars don't have a lot of Nemeths. Only one, technically, and the only other absurdly-named "defensive defensemen" would probably be Jo. Benn and Jokipakka if you're going off of sofanalytics (a little joke, there). Jim Nill has noticed this, and he means to address the Stars lack of what I would guess to be size and quality-decision making in the Stars' own end this very summer. Take it away, Elliotte Friedman:
Dallas GM Jim Nill is — like many teams — still hoping to nail down a strong defender who worries about his own end first. He admits that such a move is more likely in a trade than free agency, but is mindful of so much change in such a short time. "We’ve done a lot over two years," he said Saturday. "We need to let that settle in." Nill also threw cold water on the idea of a buyout for Kari Lehtonen. "You can say he’s part of the problem, but I also see him as part of the solution."
Nill invited Tyler Seguin to the World Championship even though Seguin missed the last game of the season for being late to practice the day before. It was the third such incident in Dallas, following Erik Cole and Cody Eakin. "We’ve got a pretty young group; little things start to add up," he said. "It’s about being a pro and being accountable." Any concern about Seguin? "No concern," Nill replied. "I reminded him he is living under a microscope. Rules are rules."
I included the Seguin bit there as well because, well, it's interesting, but Seguin is human, and he'll learn. I really don't think there's anything else to be said about that little event, so let's get back to the defense.
The Stars need to figure out how to prevent goals, and of all the ways to do that, adding at least one strong defenseman is the easiest first step. Kari could very easily bounce back next year, and as Mike Heika and others have said, do you really want to watch that happen with Lehtonen on another team? Goalies are wizards, more or less, except kind of like crazy wizards that don't really know how to use all their magic properly all the time. Last year, Kari was probably like an adolescent Hogwarts student, knowing what needed to be done but watching almost helplessly as things spiraled out of control along with his focus and composure. (I have a long poem that compares Kari's stick-spike after the Detroit Disaster to Harry's curse on Draco in Half-Blood Prince, but Josh keeps telling me that it isn't "hockey-related" and that "this isn't a stupid nerd chapbook.") Goalies are tough to deal with and even tougher to move without some regret, so starting with some defensive tweaking makes sense.
The big question, of course, is whom the Stars would acquire. And...oh, there goes the *TRADE SPECULATION ALARM WOOP WOOP WOOP* so, yeah, that's it for me. Evacuation mandatory and all that. But please, if you're safely evacuated already, please proceed to the Designated Speculation Zone and continue plying your trade to your heart's content.
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Also, regarding "crease-clearing": this is only necessary if your team has surrendered the puck and the other team has begun to set up in your zone. This is already a very less-than-ideal situation, so I really can't get too excited about just how vigorously someone cross checks an opposing forward in front of the goalie. How about you break up the cycle or force a dump-in instead? Crease-clearing is about 47th on my list of priorities for a defenseman. This is my opinion of course, but it's still correct.
Must-read here: Josh Bogorad has some quality prose on the season that you really shouldn't miss. I'll re-live Jamie Benn's four-point night any day of the week, thank you very much. [On the Radar]
Cody Eakin, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin will all be representing Canada at the IIHF Worlds under Jim Nill and Todd McLellan this summer. [NHL]
Andi D. of Mile High Hockey posted a great link in the comments yesterday that I wanted to bring attention to again. How much were the Stars hurt by the Central? Well, let's just say re-alignment can't come soon enou-...oh, right, we just did that. Rats. Good, thorough piece on the division here. [MHH]
Mike Heika mulled over your questions yesterday. There are some things in there that interested me. [DMN]
Robyn Regehr has retired. He also went by "Big Rig," by the way. Can someone please come up with a better nickname for Oleksiak? [NBC LA]
If you want to predict the winners during the playoffs, Score-adjusted Fenwick % is just about the best place to start. [TSN]
Finally, Ralph Strangis has a rather wonderful epilogue to this season. Watch the video below if you need some closure on this year: