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Dallas Stars Impact Player #6: Alex Goligoski – A Study in Steady, Sustained Quality Over Time

Alternate Universe David Poile went to a Fourth of July BBQ. Carrie Underwood was there, I imagine a stirring rendition of “Before He Cheats,” delicious pork ribs, and most importantly, adult beverages. Many, many adult beverages. At the height of the evening’s libations, as a goof, Mr. Poile called his good friend Jim Nill and offered Shea Weber for Alex Goligoski and a first rounder. The hardest part about saying “yes” is the laughter. All of this, I think, perfectly illustrates the world in which Alex Goligoski lives.

He’s not Shea Weber, nor is he Ryan Suter. If that’s the standard I’m forced to use, if that’s the bar, then this is going to be an awfully short article. Alex Goligoski is not P.K. Subban. Alex Goligoski is not Duncan Keith. Clearly, then, he sucks. He’s a waste of a roster spot, a drain on our glorious Stars. In the immortal words of Dr. John Zoidberg, he is bad and should feel bad.

I’m being intentionally reductive, and that’s the point. Twenty other teams, maybe twenty five, would kill to have a player like Goose in the lineup. Take a minute, count savy, puck-moving defensemen. Remind yourself how many times Joe Corvo has been signed, or watch highlights of Lubomir Vishnovsky charging forward, most likely with his eyes closed. Sandis Ozolinsh played in Sochi last year. Soak in the blistering pace of an NHL game. Once you’re finished, look at the rest of the Stars’ defensive lineup and try to figure out how the system works without Goligoski’s poise, skill, and offensive instinct. Better yet, pick ten defensemen you legitimately think offer the Stars more than Goose. There are some, sure, but they’re the guys nobody trades. Ever.

He’s a damn good player, an undeniable asset, and one the boys in Victory Green (Victor E. Green?) are lucky to have. Did you know, for instance, that Goligoski finished third on the Stars in total offense last season, with 6 goals and 36 assists? That sort of production wasn’t an outlier. We have to go back as far as 2010-2011 to find a season in which Goose was not in the Stars’ top 10, and that’s only because his Pittsburgh numbers wouldn’t count. Factor those in and Alex has never finished worse than sixth. League-wide the story is the same. Goligoski finished 14th in defensive scoring in 2010-2011, 16th in 2012-2013, and 21st last season. He’s also durable. In Alex’s three full seasons in Dallas, he’s played 71 games, 47 games (of 48) and 81 games. This is a very good player we’re talking about

There are warts, however. Imagine how good Alex might be if he could dodge the long slump + benching combination that seems to kick every season into gear, or if he avoided just a few of the Hollywood passes that sometimes get him into trouble. It would be similarly lovely to have a bigger body in the lineup to help absorb some of the heavy defensive minutes, and obliterate the forecheck in a way that doesn’t always require Goose to make a play.

I find it significant that Alex’s worst seasons in Dallas corresponded with the Marc Crawford and Glen Gulutzan eras, and that he trended up quickly once Lindy took the reins. Maybe it was happenstance; a product of increased maturity, or maybe it was the product of a steady, experienced hand crafting a system built to suit its many pieces. Nowhere was this comfort more evident than in Dallas’ drive to the playoffs, and especially in his quick chemistry with the equally underappreciated Trevor Daley.

The only problem I can find with Alex Goligoski is that there are a handful of better players out there. It’s an accurate critique, but also one that is desperately unfair. Unfair to a player somehow expected to do absolutely everything, and unfair to us as fans, who focus on what he isn’t at the expense of appreciating a history of mostly excellent play. Derian Hatcher never had a 40-point season. He worked out okay.

Next season, Alex Goligoski will be a slick, puck-moving driver of positive possession from the Stars’ backend. He’ll be durable, he’ll match up well against high quality competition, and he’ll contribute offensively at a top-20 level. Simultaneously, he’ll be counted upon to introduce the next generation of Stars defenders to life in the NHL, and support another run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s a lot, it’s certainly enough, and the sooner we appreciate that, the sooner we can begin to appreciate how great it is having a guy like Goose to kick around.