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Grading Curtis McKenzie: Sheltered Minutes and Facepunching Defined a Depth Role

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Curtis McKenzie had a season not unlike his previous two with Dallas.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis McKenzie’s career looks like a groundhog day of facepunching, a goal once every blue moon, and injuries.

In 2015 it was a brutal hit by Nesterov of Tampa Bay that put McKenzie out of commission. This season it was the high stick from hell that prematurely ended his season.

Needless to say, McKenzie has not had the most pleasant experiences during his NHL tenure. Granted, some of those unpleasant experiences have occurred through choice. But the most significant ones have happened by chance.

McKenzie posted modest production this season, tallying 16 points in 53 games. He was 17th on the team in shot attempt differential at even strength among 25 skaters with at least 50 minutes of ice time.

His most common linemates were Adam Cracknell and Brett Ritchie; a trio that was 6th best among line combos in possession at 54 percent Corsi For.

His production faired a little better. McKenzie was 6th on the team in points per hour, and 5th in shots per hour at even strength.

McKenzie is clearly a solid grinder, and if you’re a little more old school, a valiant defender of cheapshots.

McKenzie is in a strange hyperspace. He’s a player who’s been with the team for several seasons, and thus has experience despite his relative youth. However, Dallas is pretty set at left wing.

Jamie Benn and Antoine Roussel are relative mainstays, unless you believe Jim Nill won’t protect Roussel over Cody Eakin (for my money, Benn, Seguin, Spezza, Faksa, Ritchie, Nichushkin, and Roussel are simply more essential in their roles which is the only logic I consider useful considering an asset will be lost for nothing regardless).

Then there’s Remi Elie, Jason Dickinson, and to a lesser extent, Gemel Smith all pushing to play in Dallas next season. That’s not even counting Devin Shore, who has played up the lineup at left and right wing.

Does McKenzie have a future in this context?

It’s hard to say. Jim Nill has some obvious decisions to make. Fix the goaltending? No duh. Find a quality left handed defensemen? Check. Sign a top six forward if Hemsky and Sharp don’t return? Of course.

Doing so means players like McKenzie will either find themselves on the chopping block, or given another jersey as pieces for trade, which projects to be the best way for Dallas to get what they want given the lacking free agent class.