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Dallas Stars Pre-Season Power Play: Blech

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Extensive offseason work has yet to manifest in an improved Stars power play. Last season was brutal, and so far this preseason has been worse. With one week until the start of the regular season, it’s fair to worry.

NHL: Preseason-Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Your current co-leader in power play points, ladies and gentlemen.
Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we used a conclusive, exhaustive, analytical process to conduct a definitive evaluation of the state of the Stars’ penalty kill (aka I skimmed five games’ worth of preseason data). It was really great. A good penalty kill is something good teams have, so the fact that Dallas has made an earnest attempt to get one is kind of neat. You know what else teams need and is kind of neat? An effective power play!

Which means today’s topic should be easy. The Stars have Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, and Jason Spezza. We could run a DBD raffle for the final spot and still ice an NHL-decent power play, right? Surely GM Jim Nill and company didn’t waste any time this offseason chasing an obvious strength. Only, fun fact, despite the presence of those players, the Dallas Stars Power Play is very much an area of need.

Last season, the boys in Victory Green limped along to the tune of 17.9% with the extra man. That mark put them 20th in the NHL, just ahead of Carolina and New Jersey (notable offensive powerhouses), but wait, it gets worse. The Stars trotted out their ineffective power play 257 times, good for 7th in the league. At least they were bad a lot? Yeesh.

The point of all of this is not to relive a nasty recent past, but rather, to highlight why GM Jim would be interested in a player like Alex Radulov, why Mattias Janmark’s return from injury is so critical, and why so many fans (and hopefully coaches) are so very excited about Julius Honka. Unfortunately for fans and the team alike, the early returns have not been good.

As with yesterday’s PK analysis, it’s important to take preseason stats with a huge grain of salt. This is especially true of a power play composed heavily of veterans, who have yet to heavily feature (Seguin has played 3 games, Benn and Spezza have played 2). That said, the basic numbers are not fun.

So far in the preseason, the Dallas Stars have scored 3 PPGs (25th in the NHL) on 26 total opportunities (20th in the NHL). To save you all a little math, that’s 11.5%, and to save you a little research, the Colorado Avalanche finished last in the NHL last season with a 12.6% power play. In other words, the Dallas Stars are, so far, worse than the Colorado Avalanche at something. Fantastic.

Dan Hamhuis and Hintz Roope (1 G 1 A each) co-lead the Stars in both goal-scoring and total points. They’re joined by Julius Honka, who has assisted on 2/3rds of Dallas’ power play goals at the top of the leaderboard. Jamie Benn (1 G), Devin Shore (1 A), and Radulov (1 A) are the only other Stars to have registered a point with the extra man.

“But Wes, surely it’s because the Stars are favoring the kids, so far.” Nope. In terms of Time-on-Ice, the Stars’ non-goalie leaderboard looks like this:

Jamie Benn 5:50 PP-TOI

John Klingberg 4:47 PP-TOI

Tyler Seguin 4:56 PP-TOI

Alexander Radulov 4:55 PP-TOI

Julius Honka 4:31 PP-TOI

The best players are playing the most, and the unit is still struggling. The Stars’ top three should come as no surprise, and honestly, neither should new guy Alex Radulov clocking in 4th. In my mind the standout was Honka.

As far as the defense goes, Orange Julius is New Hotness. He’s going to fix everything and change the world. Trick is, to do this he’ll need not only to make the team, but also to play a significant role. Right now (disregarding recent indications by the coaching staff), he’s getting the opportunity, and relative to his squad mates, he’s producing.

If your glass is half full, you assume the steady Stars (Spezza, Benn, and Seguin in particular) will be where they need to be by the time the actual season starts. That means the minutes and points you’re getting from guys like Honka and Hamhuis are bonus. Couple that with two-goal preseasons from Janmark and Brett Ritchie, and maybe this team will display some of the secondary scoring last year’s version lacked.

If your glass is half empty, you’ll note last season’s coaching changes appeared to spare the power play to some extent, and that the top-six (typically the bedrock of your power play) has changed dramatically. Radulov and Martin Hanzal are new to the organization while Honka is new to the NHL-level, Patrick Sharp is gone, and Mattias Janmark missed an entire season through injury.

It’s a #hot-take, but Spezza, Seguin, and Benn will likely be fine, and it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of Dallas’ PP potency. Put differently, those three, on their own, aren’t going to jump the unit into the NHL’s elite. To improve, the Stars will need their new pieces to gel, and continued development elsewhere in the roster. A second unit, in other words. The Dallas Stars have one more pre-season game and one more week to figure things out.