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Why the Dallas Stars Should Not Call Up Denis Gurianov

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Secondary Scoring Week continues here at DBD. Yesterday, my colleague Tyler suggested a promising start to the AHL season provides ample cause to call up Denis Gurianov. The problem? Tyler is wrong.

NHL: Preseason-Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Sometimes a Russian in the hand is worth two in the AHL
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, Tyler encouraged the Dallas Stars to call up their Russian right winger, Denis Gurianov. Gurianov, you see, has followed an excellent training camp with a blistering start to his AHL season. His contemporaries in Dallas, meanwhile, have struggled mightily. There’s a certain logic in it, but actually, Tyler is entirely, incredibly, irrefutably wrong. The absolute last thing the Dallas Stars need to do is recall Denis Gurianov. Now, or for the foreseeable future.

I get the temptation. Gurianov was the 12th overall pick in 2015, and at 6’3” and 201 pounds with good speed, he represents the ideal of the modern NHL winger. In terms of actual statistics, as of Thursday night, Gurianov has registered three goals and two assists through just five AHL games. More critically, his zero NHL goals puts him exactly one off the non-Alexander Radulov - Tyler Seguin - Jamie Benn pace. Things have not been pretty with the big club, why not at least try it?

For starters, five games is an awfully small sample size. Gurianov scored 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in 74 AHL games last season, and was notably scratched in the playoffs. While he reportedly came close to making this season’s roster in Dallas, he ultimately did not. As in, the players currently unable to score were deemed better fits at the NHL level by the Stars’ coaching staff. Maybe if it was six goals or 10 points the situation would be different, but the Stars have every reason to let the young winger continue to light up the AHL until his play absolutely demands promotion.

Sample size is also an issue at the NHL level. No, the Stars’ secondary options have not lit the first six games of the NHL season on fire, but then again, the team is 3-3-0. They handled the Winnipeg Jets, and stormed back against the Anaheim Ducks. Sure, the back-to-back road losses hurt, but two failures do not a lost season make. The players that actually made the NHL roster deserve some opportunity to get things back on track. After all, it’s only six games into a long season and it is still October.

Speaking of those players, are we ready to give up on Valeri Nichushkin? The other Russian is playing a touch over 11 minutes each night (11:09), and while he has only notched a single assist, he does boast some positive underlying statistics, including a 60.3% CF and 85 PDO. Eighty-five! In the words (or emojis) of the Internet meme: Clap — Regression — Clap — is — Clap — Coming — Clap. The Stars just have to give it a little time.

For the eye-test gang, there were moments of promise against both Anaheim and the Ottawa Senators. One point against the Ducks could have been several, and the assist displayed a tantalizing combination of effort, vision, and execution. Remember, Nichushkin has only been back at the NHL level for six games. He deserves an opportunity to work things out. Calling up Gurianov, at best, complicates that opportunity. At worst, the move would derail both players entirely.

Even if we concede Nichushkin is not going to improve, calling up Gurianov would indicate similar decisions about Mattias Janmark, Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson, and likely, Gemel Smith. Right now, today, are you, the Stars fans, willing to write off every single one of those pieces with just six games’ worth of data? If the answer is yes, please turn off NHL ‘19 (or at least crank the GM difficulty to Hard) and take a deep breath. Before the Stars take a shot on Gurianov, they should take similar looks at the guys they’ve already got on the roster.

That is the real point — and surprise — where Tyler and I actually agree entirely. So far this season, the Stars haven’t invested much true effort in getting a second line going. A home-heavy schedule has helped, as has the fact that their big three have started the season scorching hot. The few instances where legitimate time has been given to fueling an effective second line has produced positive pressure.

Unfortunately, like so many Stars teams of recent memory, those glances have been limited. At the first sign of trouble, it’s back to Radulov-Seguin-Benn (or Seguin-Spezza-Benn in previous years) no matter the consequence down the lineup. Talk to me about Gurianov in November, or even early December. For now, Dallas’ priority should be an honest, thorough evaluation of their current roster options. That evaluation, most critically, needs to come with significant commitments of both talent and time. If the Stars aren’t willing to do that, calling up Denis Gurianov (or anyone else for that matter) is going to be irrelevant.