It's been a wild several weeks if you're a Dallas Stars fan.
First Antti Niemi, with his contract worth $13.5 million over the next three seasons. Then came Patrick Sharp with his $5.9 million cap hit for the next two seasons. And now Johnny Oduya with his two year deal worth $7.5 million. And a nice $2 million in cap space left to boot.
There's definitely room for skepticism. The team tried to make a big free agent splash last season, and they ended up seven points out of a playoff spot. And here they are again, looking like offseason winners hoping to avoid being in-season losers.
Most of us are in full Spooky Mulder mode, wanting to believe. If you're a skeptic, I sympathize. But Jim Nill seems to be an x-factor all his own.
Nill talking about the Stars being at the start of their 5-7 year window.— Erin (@ErinB_DBD) July 14, 2015
Nill is taking cues from General Patton who once said, "A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow."
Which makes sense. Here are some fancyless stats. On Saturday, Jamie Benn will turn 26. If the Stars make the playoffs, Tyler Seguin will be 24 by then, and John Klingberg will be 23. As you're probably already aware, these numbers are right within the wheelhouse of a player's peak performance.
Brander's team also found that forwards:
Improve more quickly than they decline and typically begin "a significant decline in their early 30s."
Perform within 90 per cent of their peak from 24 to 32 years old.
25 is their most common age, with 24-27 very similar.
Defencemen, the co-authors report:
Improve and decline more slowly than forwards and do so very symmetrically.
Perform within 90 per cent of their peak from 24 to 34 years old (two years longer than forwards).
26 is their most common age, with 25 and 27 very similar.
A veritable treasure trove of young guns awaits.
Even NHL.com is giving props to our defensive prospects like Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, and Stephen Johns who Jim Nill firmly believes in. If these players are able to crack the lineup, they'll do so just as Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg are in their primes.Nill has even gone so far as to compare Benn and Seguin to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Hyperbole? Sure. But it helps that Dallas is getting some of Kane and Toews' supporting cast.
And the blue line we have now isn't so bad. Despite their reputation, Jason Demers, Jordie Benn, John Klingberg, Alex Goligoski, and Patrik Nemeth were all positive possession players last season at 5-on-5 play. Only Nemeth was sheltered in the offensive zone (at a 58 percent rate). Everyone else with a positive rating had an Off Zone Start percentage of 49. The biggest defensive anchor, Trevor Daley, Dallas traded.
Two years ago, Dallas was a rebuilding team. But the Tyler Seguin trade drastically changed things. Benn taking it to the next level, and Klingberg breaking out means the Stars can't afford to twiddle their thumbs with the "perfect" free agent, or the "perfect" prospect. After all, finding either one of those takes time, and chance opportunities. Nill isn't the only GM looking for good players on the market.
Say you want about whether or not these were the best players available on the market, but the common thread among them is Stanley Cup experience. Because of #fancystats, "Stanley Cup experience" is a buzzword(s) that is sometimes mocked. With it, you can take it to the bank and underperform, like David Bolland. Without it, even on ice consistency can't prevent the corrosiveness from becoming a hot dog assassination, like Phil Kessel.
But somewhere in between Bolland and a Wienerschnitzel is the truth; experience can be as much a condition of on ice events as a deft wrister.
It's not like modern science disagrees with the idea that psychology begets physiology, and vice versa when it comes to athletic performance. And the Dallas Stars are finally getting the variables (like Tyler Seguin's speed) with the latent variables (like Oduya and Sharp's Stanley Cup experience). Whether that translates into dramatic success is a question mark, but at least Nill and Co. appear to be getting the formula right.