Dallas Stars Season Grades: Jason Spezza

It was a challenging year for the Stars, and few players expressed that as much as the veteran Spezza

Nobody likes to lose at the things that they love the most. That, in and of itself, is a no-brainer.

But few Dallas Stars players showcase this notion, and wear their hearts on their sleeves, as much as center Jason Spezza does.

When things are going well for the Stars it’s the 33 year-old Spezza, the one that many call “Giggles,” that feels like the emotional center of the team, compelling fans with his ear-to-ear smile and infectious enthusiasm, age be damned.

If you ever want to judge just how bad things are going for the Stars, however, the veteran leader Spezza is an effective barometer. Few players on the roster hate to lose quite as passionately as he does. And his visible, jagged frustration throughout much of this season, both during games and in post-game interviews, perfectly encapsulates how far Dallas, for a variety of reasons, fell short of their goals.

By and large, Spezza delivered what his team asked of him. Despite fighting through a few injuries over the course of the year, he nevertheless put up 50 points in the 68 games that he played, good for 3rd on the Stars behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. His 35 assists were actually an improvement upon his 2015-16 totals, when he logged 30 helpers in 75 games. Providing immediate support to the team’s two aforementioned superstar forwards, especially on the powerplay, Spezza was once again an integral part of the Dallas operation.

And yet, as so much of the roster took a step backwards in comparison to the team’s impressive 109-point campaign the season prior, so too did Spezza. His final total of 50 points were lower than the 63 that he compiled in 2015-16, and additionally, his 15 goals were a significant drop off compared to the 33 that he tallied the year before.

Perhaps most telling were his possession stats, as Spezza fell from a 54.7% Corsi For player down to a 50.1% player. Among Dallas forwards that played in the majority of their 82 games, he furthermore dropped from 2nd on the team down to 7th. The Stars, as a collective group, spent much more time this season chasing the play instead of dictating it, and Spezza was one of the biggest victims.

On the bright side, a combination of bad luck and head-scratching coaching decisions likely played a large part in that. Spezza’s top two linemates from 2015-16, Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin, were not on the Stars at all this season (the former recovering from a knee ailment, the latter signing a contract in Russia), while Ales Hemsky and Patrick Sharp fought through injuries of their own. As a result, Spezza’s linemates were changed around with more frequency, which also included Spezza himself being moved from his natural position of center over to the right wing for large stretches. With better luck on the health front and possibly some more consistency from the brand new coaching staff, Spezza could very realistically bounce back next season.

The Stars will certainly need it, as Spezza still remains a core piece of this team, someone that Dallas will need significant contributions from if they hope to make another strong push into the playoffs.

Grade Jason Spezza’s 2016-17 Season