2014-15 Dallas Stars Season Grades: Cody Eakin
Fewer Stars players produce a more diverse range of opinions than Cody Eakin. That he contributes is clear, what he contributes, and how valuable that contribution is, remains more of a mystery. Love him or hate him, it's time to grade the Ginger Ninja.
This season, I got the distinct impression Cody Eakin grew into one of those guys Stars fans either love or hate, with zero room in-between. That the youngster bounced around the lineup is indisputable, but opinions vary as to whether that bounce was a product of versality or awkward fit. Depending on whom you ask, Eakin seems either a part of the core group destined for a brighter future, or the first name on the block (okay, maybe the third after Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt) whenever trade speculation pops up.
It's a matter of which story you want to tell. I could say that Eakin set career highs in goals (19), assists (21), and points (40). I could also tell you he won more faceoffs than ever (656), and combined a mostly defensive workload (44.6 ZSO%) with respectable possession numbers (48.8 CF% / 49 FF%). When the Stars needed someone to fill in on the top line, he was there, when everyone got healthy, he slid back down to the third line without suffering any noticeable performance drops. That's good, right?
Then again, Eakin spent time on the first line and powerplay, but managed only a five point increase versus his previous season's totals. Those possession numbers are also still relatively modest, and it took a frantic end-of-season dash to surpass even on the dot (Eakin finished 50.8%). Patrice Bergeron he ain't. It's also hard for Eakin to sidestep at least some blame for the general disappointment of Dallas' should-have-been-vaunted checking line.
He's a complex guy, and it's reflected in his play. This past season Cody Eakin gave the Dallas Stars 17:18 of frenetic backchecking, aggressive pursuit, and respectable scoring. That same blistering style also pulled him out of position on occasion, and did not allow him to lift any of his linemates consistently. He made the other team worse, sure, but to what degree did he make his own team better?
Two pieces working in Eakin's favor are age and contract. Despite playing 237 NHL games, Eakin is still just 23 years old. Financially, he carries a $1.9M cap hit through the end of next season. This means there's still a very real expectation he'll continue to improve, but if he doesn't, the Stars have every opportunity to ease away. They aren't stuck, nor are they facing any serious consequences of keeping Cody Eakin on the roster. If nothing else, Eakin will remain an asset of some kind for the Dallas Stars moving forward.
But what kind? Is he burgeoning or busted? Is he a talented grinder, or a late-ish bloomer bound to improve as his role on the team solidifies? Does it even matter for a Stars squad that could, frankly, use either?
Grading Eakin's 2014/2015 season is a dance between individual performance, met expectations, and overall team need. It's also, to borrow a cliché, the study of a jack-of-all-trades / master-of-none player. What's the value in a guy that does just a little bit of everything?
How would you grade Cody Eakin's season?