Dallas Stars End-of-Season Grades: The Top Six
At one point a glaring weakness, the Stars’ top-six forward group finally came together by season’s end.
It’s hard to evaluate the Dallas Stars’ top six forwards for the 2018-19 season. In reality, the “top six” can be divided into three distinct groups — the top line trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov; the second line in the postseason consisting of Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, and Mats Zuccarello; and the revolving cast of characters that made up the second line throughout the regular season.
We’ll start with the constants, which is the 14-91-47 trio. Statistically, Seguin’s season was his second best in his career with 80 points, behind only 2013-14 (his first year in Dallas) when he scored 84. Radulov tied his career best set last year with 72 points, but also played in just 70 games as opposed to a full 82. When it comes to #fancystats, both players’ possession stats were more or less career-worsts, but that can be attributed to the Stars playing in a low-shot total, defensive-minded system.
The odd one out is captain Jamie Benn. As Sean Shapiro wrote about recently, the infamous comments by CEO Jim Lites were primarily directed at Benn, not Seguin, and it’s not hard to see why. Benn posted his worst point totals since his rookie season with just 53 in 78 games played. Granted, he picked up the pace towards the end of the season and was among the team’s leading scorers in the playoffs, but that’s nothing short of a disappointment for a player with a $9.5 million cap hit.
Of course, that performance pales in comparison to how the Stars’ secondary scoring did throughout the regular season. Whether it was Jason Spezza, Mattias Janmark, Valeri Nichushkin, or whoever on the second line, the Stars consistently failed to generate any offensive success outside of that top line. That’s in part why the team’s checking line got so much ice time — if you manage to do your job correctly and others don’t, you’re going to get more ice time.
Thankfully, that all changed when the Stars traded for Mats Zuccarello at the trade deadline. Of course, it looked like it was going to revert right back when Zuccarello was injured in his Stars debut, but then Roope Hintz started a breakout performance to fill the void. And when the playoffs rolled around and the Stars needed one more player to fill out the top six, Jason Dickinson stepped up to the plate.
Besides goaltender Ben Bishop walking on water throughout the postseason, the main reason the Stars were one goal away from a Conference Final appearance is due to the revamped top six. Zuccarello was tied with Seguin for most points on the team with 11 (four goals, seven assists) across 13 games. Hintz had eight points and tied Radulov for the most goals scored at five. And while Dickinson only had three goals and two assists himself, he was the sole top-six forward without power play time, instead playing regular minutes on the team’s penalty kill.
So all together, the Stars’ top six had a roller coaster of a season. Breaking down the different groups, I’d give the top line a B+, the regular-season second line a Super F, and the postseason second line an A-. I’d love to throw out that second grouping, but we are talking about the entire season here, so with that being said...
Top-Six Forwards, End-of-Season Grade: B
All numbers via Hockey-Reference.com.