Apparently, I also signed up to write Esa Lindell’s player grade last year, which I didn’t remember. In it, I gave a rather scathing report about his usage and urged everyone to vote poorly for him. This is perhaps why I remember last year as a very frustrating experiment with John Klingberg, his primary partner over the last two seasons.
Today I come to you, hat in hands, to eat some crow.
Now, part of Lindell’s success this season has to do with the way that Ken Hitchcock’s defense-heavy system made all of the defense better. (What it couldn’t do was kick start offense, but that’s a different story.) Even still, if you go to corsica.hockey and sort the defense pairings over 800 minutes by Corsi for percentage, Lindell and Klingberg are #6 in the entire NHL, and those kinds of numbers are nothing to sneeze at, even in a season where they missed the playoffs again. They finished the season with 54%, which is best among the only other Stars defensive pairing to make it above 200 minutes played together — Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn.
I still believe that Esa Lindell — AHL power play specialist — could use more power play time. He got second-unit minutes this year, but was mostly rotated in on a third unit. Even on this diminished power play time, he still ended up at 2.1 primary points per hour.
I will grant you that his even-strength point production doesn’t lend any credence to his improvement over last year. His point total over 80 games at 27 points is good for ninth on the roster, but is 41 points behind his primary partner. (He did spend 119 minutes with Stephen Johns.)
However, there’s also really good news, and it’s all related to that puck possession. In both shots for and goals for, the Dallas Stars performed better with Lindell on the ice. Lindell and Klingberg as a pairing were also great at keeping the opposing team out of the high-danger areas right in front of the Stars net, and I’m sure both Ben Bishop and Kari Lehtonen are grateful.
Esa Lindell is 23 years old and currently on a contract for 2.2 million, even though he’s performing on the level of players making twice that, and they’ve got him for at least one more season at that price tag. Given his growth so far, it’s looking like he and Klingberg will be the top pairing in Dallas for the foreseeable future.
Grade Esa Lindell’s 2017-2018 Season
This poll is closed
A - Fantastic, he did everything he needed to do.
B - Good, improved over last year, still room for growth.
C - Okay, would rather see someone else on the top line.
D - Not good, not sure why he’s still here.
F - Don’t choose this answer.