Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more games this season (and finished the season with the organization) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.
Jhonas Enroth's 13 game season with the Dallas Stars is an interesting study in small sample sizes. From the top, the diminutive Swede went 5-5 and did not draw a decision in three more cameo appearances. He produced a .906 Sv% / 2.38 GAA in his time as a Star, both of which were superior to the marks set by starter Kari Lehtonen (.903 Sv% / 2.94 GAA). Notably, Enroth rattled off four straight victories to end the season, including a shutout of the Western Conference Champion Anaheim Ducks.
As an impending free agent on a team that hasn't had an NHL-quality backup goaltender since Mike Smith left town in February of 2008, Enroth's play down the stretch demands particular scrutiny. Factor in Kari Lehtonen's season-long wobble, and it's natural to watch the battler that limited opponents to four goals on 104 shots (.961 Sv%), and wonder how he might project across an entire season. He's only 26, so there shouldn't be any performance cliffs looming. What if he could be the guy?
The problem is, Enroth isn't just a 13 game cameo. He's got a 131 game track record spread across parts of six seasons at the NHL level from which we can draw conclusions. In those games he's been fine (.909 Sv% / 2.88 GAA), but it's interesting to see his best stretches of play coincided with his most limited workloads. Enroth played 26 games in 2011-2012 and posted a .917 Sv%. He played 12 games the following year and produced a .919 Sv%. This season marks his career high of 50 games played, and also falls well short of previous career bests (.904 Sv% / 2.90 GAA).
The Department of UnFair Comparisons would also like to note that Anders Lindback played 16 games with the same sadsack Sabres team Enroth left, and managed a relatively-sparkling .924 Sv% / 2.76 GAA. Weren't the Sabres supposed to be much worse than the Stars? Wasn't Lindback supposed to be a tire-fire? Let's look at comparables. As good as Enroth's closing stretch felt, it pushed him into statistical parity with luminaries such as Darcy Kuemper, Robin Lehner, Mike Smith, and yes, that same Kari Lehtonen guy everybody is so very frustrated with these days.
The trick to evaluating Enroth’s turn in the Dallas net is context. Last year, we might have been able to look at limited action and see a guy capable of relieving Kari Lehtonen on occasion. This year? Not so much. We have to ask if Enroth’s cameo shows him a spot-starter capable of 15-20 reasonable relief appearances, or if the 26-year old might just be rounding into the sort of form to make him a legitimate hedge against further erosion in Kari’s game. He’s also a free agent, which makes a prompt assessment of his skills critical.
So is he a guy? Is he the guy? What, exactly, can any guy prove in just 13 games? You tell me.