The 2015 season was a defensive travesty on a number of levels. Forward groups tend to get away with being poor defensively more so than groups of defensemen presumably because defense isn't in the actual name of what they're supposed to do.
But, despite this, there are some expectations that they will play defense. Oftentimes it doesn't work out so well though. Last year in particular was rough to watch at times with forwards out of position, making outlet passes more challenging for their defensive brethren, or whatever other defensive malady you can name. Things went poorly.
What I've done is pulled a bunch of easily accessible information from War-On-Ice to compare the Dallas Stars forwards with each other. It's important to note that this isn't going to allow us to compare forwards on the Stars with the rest of the league. This exercise will however help identify problem spots in the lineup and hopefully a bright area or two.
The stats pictured below are Scoring Chances, Corsi, Fenwick, Shots, and Goals against. All of these are rate statistics per 60 minutes and any player who played in less than ten games was removed in the interest of fairness. If you would like to access the table to download it and play with it you're more than welcome to view it here.
* Brett Ritchie was kind of awesome. He ranked 1st, 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 2nd from left to right in the stats. He got some sweetheart minutes, and the offense wasn't really what you wanted to see overall. But defensively he more than held his own. Whether he has trouble offensively next year or not it might be worth considering him for an expanded role because of his defensive ability alone.
* The Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, and Ryan Garbutt line was less than ideal when it came to shot prevention. They had the top three highest Corsi Against rates on the team. They had the 4th, 6th, and 7th highest Fenwick Against rates which suggests that they did do a good job of blocking shots given all the shots allowed.
What is interesting to note is that despite all of the Corsi attempts against they didn't turn into an extraordinarily high amount of scoring chances. About 45 percent of all Corsi attempts with this unit on the ice turned into scoring chances compared to 50 percent for the top line. This suggests that they were able to do a good job of forcing shots from the outside and limiting scoring chances relative to how many shot attempts they gave up.
The problem here is a bit obvious. They allowed too many shot attempts regardless of how well they were able to limit them to the outside of the rink. They didn't have the puck enough which likely led to way too much zone time against which can easily tire players out and eventually lead to more prime scoring chances. The rate of scoring chances they allowed wasn't high, but they weren't the Stars most effective defensive players because of how many shot attempts they allowed.
Eakin wasn't much more effective defensively than Jason Spezza. This isn't to say he isn't better defensively - he clearly is. But the heavy shot load allowed when that line was on the ice made the defensive superiority of Eakin a moot point. They simply can't be playing defense as much next year as they did this past year.
How they make that happen is anyone's guess. They could do more to stop up offensive rushes at their own blueline, force teams to dump more, or change how they play coverage in their own end. We've had many discussions in this forum about the lack of utility involved in going into a defensive shell. The shell seems to be a big culprit here. Stop it, please.
* Curtis McKenzie was arguably the Stars worst defensive forward in 2015, and that simply can't happen if he is going to have an NHL career. He was essentially the anti-Ritchie. Where Ritchie led the Stars in most categories, McKenzie put up the worst rankings. The main difference here being goals against, but the chances of the goals against totals staying that low in the future given how many shots were allowed with him on the ice are slim. He is going to have to make his way in this world as a bottom line forward unless he can break out offensively in a huge way. Playing defense like this isn't going to help his cause when coupled with his advanced age for a prospect.
The glaring weaknesses are apparent. The Stars would do well to pay some attention to the defensive abilities of the forward group in the coming offseason.
Do you see anything else interesting?