COMMENTARY | Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
That hasn't historically been the case in Big D, where coming into the league the Dallas Stars already had Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuck and Craig Ludwig, later to add Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov.
Those teams were focused on defense, and being a stalwart in your own end was more important than anything else.
But now the No. 1 guy is Stephane Robidas, who is no Hatcher. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Robidas fan, but he'd be more effective without the burden of being the top guy on his shoulders. Alex Goligoski was supposed to help with that, which has not happened, and Sergei Gonchar was brought in to help him attain that level, which also was a major bust.
So how do the Stars play better defense? Turn to Benn and Seguin.
As the two men showcased in Calgary, they can take over a game. Six points for Benn and five for Seguin, who had the Joe Thornton hat trick, showed how well they do offense. Not only that, but every time these two guys get near the puck, it's like the puck suctions into their sticks.
They're always in position, always fast and they almost always have the puck. And despite not playing defense, they are clearly the best defensemen on this team.
I personally believe the game against Calgary was a breakout game for these two -- they looked more comfortable with each other than they ever had and each goal was coming so effortlessly. Anyone who has watched this team until this point could tell this was a natural progression; the final step in these two becoming the linemates that Dallas executives wanted them to be.
And while the defense was good, it wasn't spectacular. Our defense right now is still composed of underachievers (Goligoski, Gonchar, Trevor Daley), overachievers (Robidas), and the youth (Brenden Dillon, Jordie Benn).
Robidas has been a workhorse for this team for years. He's been the No. 1 defenseman since Zubov left in 2009, and his contributions have been immeasurable. But he's still undersized (only Goligoski is smaller on Dallas) and lacks the shutdown ability that sets apart guys like Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith.
It's very possible that Dillon and Jordie Benn, as well as Jamie Oleksiak down in the minors, are the future shutdown guys on this defense. They could be the guys to usher back in the period of solid defensive hockey the Stars have been missing for so long.
Until that time, it's good to know you've got two of the best young forwards in the game right now in Jamie Benn and Seguin watching out for both ends of the puck. That will help the younger guys develop, knowing they have a security blanket if they need one and being able to play a little more freely.
No one is ever going to mistake these guys for Selke Trophy winners, mind you. They're not "defensive specialists" by any stretch of the imagination. It's not like we have Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron as youngsters here.
What we do have are two hard-working guys who want the puck. Not only that, but they want the puck so bad, they're willing to go get it themselves by any means necessary. And they're good at it.
We couldn't look at two-thirds of that first line without looking at the final piece in Valeri Nichuskin. While still unproven and very green, Nichushkin has shown strength on the puck, a willingness to play a team game, and major upside. He's going to be a star, and playing on this top line is only going to help him.
There's a lot of talk these days about "fancy stats" or "advanced stats." Honestly, it's difficult for me to understand because I'm not a great numbers guy. PDO, Corsi and Fenwick elude me. But I do understand the basic principle behind those stats -- the teams who take more shots and control the puck more generally end up ahead.
Same thing with the players who take more shots and have more control over the puck.
I'm still drooling over the point totals in that Calgary game and the notion that it could be like that from here on out for the Stars. That Jamie Benn and Seguin could continue scoring and scoring a lot.
But at the end of the day, if that doesn't happen every game, I still know that these guys are going to be controlling the puck whenever they're on the ice. They're going to be fighting for every inch, and that's even more important than just the goals.
While it's not ideal to be without a true No. 1 defenseman, keeping the puck on these kids' sticks will keep the defense average for now and hopefully bring in future defensemen to a favorable environment.
Jon Vanderlaan is a long-time Dallas Stars fan who works by day as a journalist at a small Texas metro newspaper. Jon also has a Twitter machine. After you comment, feel free to follow and direct further written abuse toward @vandy5610.
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