Johnny Oduya came to the Stars by way of free agency last summer, and thank goodness he did. After a lackluster season that finally broke on the back of iffy goaltending and not-good-enough defense, Oduya came in off his second Stanley Cup win in three seasons like a breath of fresh Swedish air (it's better than American, or even Canadian air, I've heard).
Jim Nill wanted a steady veteran presence on the blue line, and someone to eat the minutes Trevor Daley had been taking the season before. While Oduya did not produce the points that Daley did, only 21 this year to Daley's 38 of the previous season, his leadership on the blue line certainly helped steady a young defensive core through the best start in franchise history, and through the first playoff series win of Jamie Benn's illustrious career.
Oduya apparently made his presence felt on the ice and in the locker room. In January, head coach Lindy Ruff told Sportsday Dallas "Every play means something to him. I think sometimes that may be annoying to his teammates, but every play means something to him. Every play is `play it the right way,' and I love that about him."
He added, "He's the loudest guy when it comes to critiquing plays, and I think what he has brought has been tremendous for our club."
I think I'm most intrigued by the idea that this kind of mindfulness might be "annoying" to some of his teammates. That kind of leadership is invaluable when mentoring younger players, and Dallas certainly has a lot of those, especially on the blue line.
Statistically, Oduya acquitted himself well this year. His CF% is just over 50% at 5v5 this season, and just under 50% when looking at all situations. His on ice shot differential is also positive at 5v5. He played most of the year on the second line with Jason Demers, and most of the playoffs with Stephen Johns. Oduya and Demers were a more effective pairing than Johns and Oduya, which isn't anything to worry too much about, as a) Demers is more experienced and b) Oduya was mostly paired with Johns during the playoffs.
But really, if you give Oduya an A for anything other than his arms (I mean really), it should be for his blocked shots. In the 2015-16 season, Oduya finished with 172 blocked shots. He was only 38 blocked shots behind teammate Kris Russell, and blocked shots are literally what put Russell on Nill's radar at all. (And, coincidentally, only 13 blocks above first line defenseman Alex Goligoski.)
172 is also miles above his previous high number of blocked shots. (Don't read too much into this though, as he'd previously spent four seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, and their style of play isn't quite as "fun" as ours.)
Oduya has one more season in the contract he signed last summer. He'll also be turning 35 in October, but we haven't really begun to see a decline in production. His 21 points are actually third highest in his career, and more than anything he'd done for the Blackhawks.
But what do you guys think? What grade would you give Oduya's first season with the Stars?