Patrik Geza Nemeth was taken in the 2nd round in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. And since his time in Cedar Park, and a brief stint with the Dallas Stars totaling 30 games, he's been the Swedish posterchild for how to best fix Dallas' defense.
Nemeth is a fascinating player not for who he actually is on the ice, but for the discussion he generates. To many fans in Dallas, as well as to personnel, Nemeth is the necessary element of "stay at home"; a mercurial phrase that probably eludes the understanding of even those who use it.
Yes, it broadly refers to a player who doesn't pinch, and protects his end of the ice. But the usual connotations refer to players that hit, shove, disrupt, and block whatever objects sniff the crease. The real question is whether such behavior has value in the post-clutch and grab world.
Dallas fans and observers often fell back on the claim that Dallas needed someone who could "clear the crease", and assist Kari Lehtonen's vision. Rarely was the question asked just how valuable "clearing the crease" is, and whether or not it yields tangible effects in favor of a hockey team.
If I could boil the fallacy of the defensive defenseman into one morsel, I'd just as soon paraphrase Patton; 'the object of hockey is not to die for the opponent's puck, but to make the other bastard die for yours'.
Naturally, no one is asking for John Scott, Douglas Murray, or Mark Fistric. And Nemeth displays some suitable talent, can skate reasonably well, and doesn't get in the way. But is being invisibly efficient a virtue?
As usual, we'll let #fancystats do at least some of the talking.
Again, if you're unfamiliar with McCurdy's spider charts, I'd suggest reading the primer found here. The TL;DR version is basically; low and to the right, likely to win the fight, up and to the left, just another victim of puck theft. Unfortunately, I'll be here longer than all week.
A little knowledge can be dangerous, as they say, so it's important to put everything in context. Nemeth has played 30 professional NHL games. We're looking at a small sample size using numbers that more readily measure the possession of forwards. Analyzing defenseman can be a little trickier, as their offense tends to exist through proxy; getting the puck out of the zone, passes through the neutral, et cetera.
Still, there are suspicions that align with some of the numbers. I recall John Klingberg and Nemeth, with their experience together at the World Juniors going back to 2012, looking decent together. Sure enough, both men had the infinity gauntlet strapped on when paired together. For all of 62 minutes and 39 seconds.
That's not a lot, and you'd prefer to see Nemeth display more chemistry with others. But Dallas has never worked with an ideal situation on the blueline, icing one of the most inexperienced rosters in the sport. It's important to avoid definition via archetype. Just like Julius Honka is not the redundant "offensive defenseman" he's sometimes pegged as, Nemeth isn't Mark Fistric in Swedish clothing.
But we still know so little about Nemeth. He owned a respectable 53 percent Corsi total for the 2014-2015 calender year. But he also had some very favorable zone starts with a 57.8 percent rate.
Nemeth was actually benched late in the season, so the idea that the blue line depth in Cedar Park potentially passes him by isn't exactly preposterous. A lot of fans consider Nemeth a lock on the roster, but right now Dallas has Klingberg, Goligoski, Oduya, and Demers as staples on the blueline. Meanwhile, Jordie Benn, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Jamie Oleksiak are still on the roster with either more or as much experience as Nemeth, and Jim Nill has explicitly stated his belief in Lindell and Honka as NHL locks in the future. In other words, not counting dark horse picks like Bystrom, Backman, or even Niklas Hansson, who Huw Wales was kind enough to remind us of.
Nemeth still has plenty to prove, but luckily for him youth is on his side. Nemeth didn't get much time to put a game on his back, and earn the Cowboy hat, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a very memorable moment. Still, for my money, the inadvertent puck patch is two levels below his tweet earlier this year:
Thinking about my next shift. pic.twitter.com/4lXaPo9SkH— Patrik Nemeth (@nemgren) April 12, 2015
Both of which pale in comparison to his reaction to being recalled in time for the NHL 2013-2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
This is going to be epic— Patrik Nemeth (@nemgren) April 12, 2014
It's a fantastic attitude, and one you hope allows him to fulfill the potential of being a hockey creature that is old, but not obsolete.