Dallas Stars Season Grades: Alex Goligoski

Few Stars produce a wider range of opinion than Alex Goligoski, and none seem to carry his emotional baggage. Despite that, the defender has been a workhorse for the Stars since his arrival. That he was an integral part of the defense this season is not in question, how valuable that contribution wa

One of the trickier evaluations on this year's roster is defenseman Alex Goligoski. In part because of the overall issues with Dallas' defense, and in part because of the baggage evaluations of his play invariably brings. Yes, he was once traded for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. I feel like mentioning that trade is almost a requirement when covering the Stars. He has also battled questions of role throughout his tenure with the team. It feels like there's Alex Goligoski, and then Alex Goligoski.

The thing is, Actual Goose was actually pretty good last season. The now-veteran Stars defender flirted with a career high in points (4 G / 32 A / 36 Pts), led the blueline in average time on ice (23:48), and accrued 24 penalty minutes. That's total, by the way, and a frankly stunning total at that. We've seen other Stars (coughrousselcoughgarbuttcough) do as much damage inside a single period. To round out the counting stats, Goligoski also led the Stars in blocked shots (157), was second in takeaways (32), and along with John Klingberg, was one of only two defenders to draw more penalties than he committed.

Goligoski accomplished all of that despite starting 55% of his shifts in the defensive zone (a team-leading figure, by the way). He was roughly 11% worse off than his teammates when it came to zone usage (-10.77% ZSO% relative), but still managed to be a positive possession player (50.63 CF%). Two regular starters - Klingberg and Jason Demers - can claim better percentages at 57.95 CF% and 54.44 CF% respectively, but neither come close to matching Goligoski's total games played (81), nor did either bear the same defensive burden.

Away from the numbers, Goligoski was given the responsibility of easing Klingberg into life as an NHL defender, and relied upon to provide steady play while the cast around him shuffled through pieces at an alarming pace. Twelve separate defenders saw time on the Dallas backline this season, including four rookies. Three players were traded, a fourth waived, and the ones that did stick around suffered through various injuries and bouts of inconsistency. Throw in the open secret he played through physical troubles of his own for much of the season, and it's hard not to be impressed.

Hard, but not impossible.

If there is a cold-water moment for Alex Goligoski, it's that he was the steady hand on one of the league's poorer defensive units. Only Arizona, Buffalo and Edmonton surrendered more goals on a per-game basis than the Stars, and it was impossible to ignore how the Stars seemed to get pushed around in their own zone by larger, more physical squads. Some of that is goaltending, yes (and let's not bang that drum again!), but the reality is Goligoski heads into this offseason hearing the same cries for a True #1 as he did last season, and the season before. Goose has also never managed to hit double digits in goals, which is odd given Dallas' overall offensive tendencies.

If we credit Goligoski for being one of the defensive leaders on the Dallas Stars, do we not also have to apply the overall (lack of) success of that unit to our opinion of his play? Do we watch his sometimes partner (Trevor Daley) struggle and gain an appreciation for Goose's steady contributions, or do we marvel as the similarly undersized Klingberg drives the offense like a high performance vehicle? The trick is finding the line between the player Goligoski is, and the player we would all like for him to be.

How would you grade Alex Goligoski's season?