Stars Impact Player Rankings #17 - Vernon Fiddler
Vernon Fiddler has done just a little bit of everything during his time with the Dallas Stars. Penalty Kill? Sure. Power play? A little, actually. Faceoffs? We know all about his skills on the dot. There was also that one time, during one of Bettman's many lockouts, that he very nearly paced Ale
If you really want your mind blown, consider the fact that last season was Vernon Fiddler's finest offensively as a member of the Dallas Stars. The veteran center tallied 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points during the 2014-2015 campaign. Those totals represent his best ever goal-scoring season at the NHL level, and his third best in terms of overall points behind 2007-2008 (32) and 2009-2010 (30). That's a really weird thing to happen to a 35-year old center with 736 regular season NHL games on his resume.
Points are interesting, but hardly representative of the role Fiddler actually played for last year's edition of the Dallas Stars. More useful information is the fact he continued to win faceoffs (569 total or 52%), got real familiar with Dallas' goaltending situation (34.94 ZSO%), and averaged 2:07 per game on the penalty kill. To round out the basics, he threw 43 hits, absorbed 61 blocks, and took 34 PIMs over the course of the year. Unveiling my first #fancystat of the season, Fiddler's 43.6 CF% seems fair in light of his overall usage. Those are depth player numbers, which is good, because that's what Fiddler was for the Stars.
In Fiddler, the Stars have a player that seems to move freely throughout the bottom half of the lineup, plays some on the penalty kill, and exhibits odd bursts of offensive production. Furthermore, they've got that player at a reasonable $1.5 million cap hit on a deal that will expire at the end of the season. There's an awful lot to like there.
There are also fair questions to ask about exactly how effective he really was. Among forwards that played regularly on the Stars' PK, only Antoine Roussel (-8.16%) and Shawn Horcoff (-9.79%) surrendered more shorthanded scoring chances relative to their teammates than Fiddler (-2.35%). If we look at scoring chances against per 60 minutes, Fiddler tumbles behind both Horcoff and Roussel with 55.22. Limiting our scope to high danger chances, Fiddler is again tops among forwards, having surrendered 92 while on the penalty kill last season.
Then we consider the other players on the roster. Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza aren't going anywhere. If the Stars are going to succeed, it's unlikely he'll push Cody Eakin off the third line. Dallas is also a very young team, with younger players scattered throughout the lineup. Yes, veteran leadership is considered a commodity in today's NHL, but from a certain point of view, every minute Fiddler plays comes at the expense of guys like Colton Sceviour, Brett Ritchie, and Curtis McKenzie. What if Radek Faksa takes a step forward? Fiddler has been a good warrior during his Stars tenure, but youth must be served.
Ultimately, though, worries about role, ice-time, and age are just window dressing. Vernon Fiddler has been a tremendous asset to the Stars throughout his entire tenure on the team. His ridiculously team-friendly deal and versatility ensure he'll remain so next season. If he doesn't, the Stars will be able to move on without consequence. Think of him as a $20 bill found folded up in the pocket of an old pair of jeans. No, he won't buy you a new car, but he could pay for one heckuva happy hour.