At what point do we change the Pantera goal song to this classic courtesy of John Waite?
As the season continues to progress, it has become increasingly difficult to pinpoint who the Stars are missing the most. Who are they missing? The answer to that is just about everyone, but who are they really, really missing right now?
Mattias Janmark proved to be an incredibly versatile two-way forward last season. Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky provide offense to any line they are put on. Cody Eakin gives Lindy Ruff more top-six options to play around with. Which absence are the Stars taking the hardest?
Surprisingly enough so far, the 5v5 offense has been just as worrisome as the 5v5 defense. According to Corsica.hockey, the Stars currently sit 17th in 5v5 goals against per 60 minutes of play. That isn’t terribly surprising and might actually be somewhat encouraging. What is strange is that the Stars find themselves in 20th in terms of 5v5 goals for per 60.
Is the hurting forward group an acceptable excuse? Who are the Stars missing the most? Let’s try and find out.
What a wonderful treat Janmark was last season. He scored the first goal of his career and the Stars’ season on opening night last year and began an incredibly solid first campaign. He scored some big goals in the playoffs as well and never seemed to let any of the success get to him. Seriously though, I’ve celebrated C-minus Spanish exams harder than Janmark celebrated any of his goals. He just smiles. It’s kind of awesome.
He wasn’t flashy but he consistently found ways to create scoring chances of the high-danger variety last season. Quality scoring chances aren’t coming quite as easy for Dallas as they were in the past.
Unlike a fair amount of Stars’ forwards in years past, Janmark didn’t make a habit out of sacrificing defense for offense. He was one of the better Dallas forwards at limiting shot attempts in 2015-16 while still being a top-six player in terms of creating shot attempts.
Janmark also enjoyed plenty of success with Jason Spezza last season. While the trio of Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa and Spezza have done well in their short time together, it sure would be nice to see someone with a little more of a scoring touch play alongside Spezza.
Along the same line as Janmark comes Hemsky, who for my money completely redeemed his poor first season in Dallas with a tremendous effort last year. He did almost exactly what Janmark did. He was a top-two forward in shot attempts/60 at 5v5 last year while being a top-six forward in limiting shot attempts/60.
Hemsky shined with Faksa and Roussel late in last year’s campaign and those three were up to the same shenanigans for a brief time during Hemsky’s only game this season.
While Hemsky is certainly missed, I’m not so sure he outweighs what Janmark would have brought to Dallas this season. The right side of the forward group is much deeper than the left, as after Jamie Benn there really isn’t much in ways of true scoring threats (sorry Antoine). Hemsky is a massive loss, but Janmark’s versatility is truly missed at this moment.
Sharp falls quite close to Hemsky in this race, plus the whole leadership and “rings in the room” thing he has going on. Again, a missed option on the right side of the forward group but still not as impactful as Janmark would be at this time.
It’s unclear how long Sharp will be out of the lineup as concussions are tricky to put a number on. All we can hope for is a full recovery and every Stars’ fan is certainly hoping for that.
If the original timetable is still looking good, Eakin should be back at some point this month. He’s missed as a guy who provides the Stars with outstanding center depth but how crucial is his absence right now?
The Stars’ healthy centers are currently Seguin, Spezza, Faksa and Shore. Cracknell has also been playing center on the fourth line as Spezza has shifted to the wing on the second line with Faksa.
Who does Eakin replace, especially if Spezza is slotted back into the middle of the ice? Unless Seguin moves over to the wing, Eakin doesn’t have a spot in the top-six. He also shouldn’t be replacing Faksa whether it is on the second line or the third as Faksa has done what Eakin could not, shut opponents down while still maintaining a strong presence in the offensive zone.
Shore is the only legitimate option for Eakin to step in for. Shore has been an interesting discussion to have. He passes the eye-test and has looked magical at times in the offensive zone. The problem is that he isn’t there often enough. His 5v5 Corsi-For-% is just 36.67, by far the worst on the team and second-worst in the entire NHL. Eakin hasn’t exactly been a strong player when it comes to the shot attempt differential either but he’d be a likely upgrade over Shore.
Eakin being a slight upgrade over a fourth line center isn’t a strong argument for how crucial his absence is.
And the Winner is...
Alex Goligoski! What? Is that cheating? Fine.
It’s Janmark right now and to me it isn’t particularly close. His two-way game is strong. His penalty-killing is strong. His versatility is strong. His “looking terrified at the puck” face is strong. He is a sorely missed option for Ruff and the Stars.
Unfortunately for Dallas, he won’t be back any time soon. From the looks of things, only Eakin will be entering the fray relatively quickly. Eakin will make the team deeper which, in turn, should make the Stars look somewhat better.