The 2015-16 season couldn't have started much better for Jason Demers.
Dallas exploded out of the gate, compiling one of the best records in the NHL over the first few months of the season, and Demers was a large part of that success. One of the team's primary goals was to improve their defensive play, which had been a debilitating weakness the previous year, and called upon Demers to be a key part of that process.
As I touched on in this article back in early November, the 27 year-old Quebecer was asked to do a lot of heavy lifting for the Stars in the form frequent defensive-zone starts and plenty of time on the penalty kill. Demers delivered with impressive consistency in his role, and in turn, the team continued to keep their goals-against at a manageable level (well, at least manageable enough for an offense that was scoring well over three goals per game) while they racked up more and more points.
He certainly wasn't perfect, taking ill-advised penalties with frustrating frequency and allowing a high number of high-dancer scoring chances against, but Demers was successfully playing a very important part for Dallas
Everything was moving smoothly, until things took a dramatic turn for the worse on March 8th:
Demers, on a bad play from Montreal Canadiens forward Lucas Lessio, suffered a serious shoulder injury that forced him to miss 13 games.
He would eventually return for the Stars' final regular season game on April 9th, but was never quite the same player after his injury. Like his playoff partner Kris Russell, Demers had a decent series against the Minnesota Wild in the first round but was completely eviscerated by the St. Louis Blues in the second round. He made numerous bad decisions with the puck, was not connecting on passes to exit the zone, and had major trouble cutting off the Blues' passing and shooting lanes.
What was the cause of such a flatline in performance? Was Demers still not completely recovered from his shoulder injury? Did he, for whatever reason, not find the right chemistry with his new defensive partner in Russell? Did he succumb to the pressure of the playoffs and the imposing and physical Blues forecheck? Was it all of the above?
It's difficult to say for sure, and we may never get to know the truth as Demers is currently on the path to becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer. It doesn't seem fair to ignore all of the good that he did during the regular season (and there was a lot of it), but boy, do the playoffs still sting. Just how much emphasis will Stars general manager Jim Nill put on that playoff performance when charting his course of action for this summer?
Demers will likely be looking for a big new contract, both in terms of length and dollars, and he's certainly deserving of one. But whether the Stars, who will be tight against the cap and already have John Klingberg, Stephen Johns and probably Julius Honka penciled in for long-term spots on the right side of the team's defensive core, will be the organization to offer him that remains to be seen.
Vote now: Rate Demers on a scale of A to F (A being the best, of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.