Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Dallas Stars - A Nieuw Day

Dallas Stars Prolegomena - An Exploration Of Shooting Percentage

Loui Eriksson scored on 20.2% of his shots last season, the second highest percentage in the NHL. Rookie James Neal scored on 14% of his shots. Fabian Brunnstrom scored on 21.0% of his shots, but did not qualify for the shooting % title. Is this good for a team over the long run?

The best passers should inflate a team's shooting percentage, should they not? A pass is attempted in any instance when the passer thinks the player he is passing to has a greater chance of scoring a goal (or making a play leading to a goal) than he does himself. Let's look at the best passers in the NHL, the top 10 centers in assists in the league last season, and see how his wingers tend to perform. Since it's very difficult to know who played with whom, some educated guesses will be made. Listed here are the player's wing, their shooting percentage this season, with their shooting percentage over their career in parenthesis.

Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora, 13.9% (11.7%), Ruslan Fedotenko 13.6% (13.5%)

Sidney Crosby - Miro Satan 14.2% (14.0%), Pascal Dupuis 8.3% (8.9%), Chris Kunitz 17.9% (12.0%), Bill Guerin 11.1% (11.8%)

Ryan Getzlaf - Bobby Ryan 17.8% (17.1%), Corey Perry 11.3% (11.7%)

Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Ovechkin 10.6% (12.2%), Viktor Kozlov 8.5% (8.9%)

Pavel Datsyuk - Marian Hossa 13.0% (13.0%), Tomas Holmstrom 18.7% (16.6%)

Marc Savard - Milan Lucic 17.5% (13.5%), Phil Kessel 15.5% (10.7%)

Joe Thornton - Patrick Marleau 15.1% (14.4%), Devin Setoguchi 12.6% (12.0%)

Henrik Sedin - Daniel Sedin 10.9% (11.9%), Alexandre Burrows 16.0% (11.9%)

Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson 20.2% (14.9%), Steve Ott 14.4% (9.4%)

David Krejci - Michael Ryder 14.6% (12.6%), Chuck Kobasew 16.3% (12.6%)

In all, these wingers cumulatively were +36.7 percentage points above their career shooting percentage. Now this seems really basic and almost begging the question - of course players who have a lot of assists are going to be setting up a lot of goals, and it's only natural that players are going to have better setups when they're having these guys passing them the puck. However, this revelation is important in the context of the salary cap - a player scoring more goals than he 'should' is going to be overpaid in arbitration or otherwise in relation to his talent level, and having excellent centers is a good way to get overpriced wingers. The Dallas Stars have some terrific young wingers in Loui Eriksson and James Neal, but by playing with Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro, they may force the Stars to spend less on free agents knowing these guys have to get paid. A look at their salary cap situation, Vanna:

Ha-Ha! Yes, that's right, Nelson Muntz, the Stars have a nearly 2 million dollar cap hit thanks to Sean Avery. You might even say those are sloppy seconds.

2010 Looks Brutal For the Stars: The Stars will only have 5 players actually signed in 2010, but thanks to the inflationary powers of Ribeiro and Richards, Loui Eriksson and James Neal will likely get sizable raises. The Stars will spend an estimated $31 million dollars on 10 players, leaving between 19 and 23 million for the remaining 10 to 13 players. With between 12 and 16.7 million dollars to in cap space, the Stars can certainly afford to add some players this season, but they cannot go hog-wild (also known as Sathering).

What of Jere Lehtinen and Sergei Zubov? Sergei Zubov is probably the most underrated player of this current generation and had he played in the 1980s he would've been a lock Hall of Famer. He also turns 39 in a month and has played 56 out of his team's last 164 games. If he is willing to come back for cheap, the Stars should bring him back, but he simply cannot be signed for more than $2 million - there's no guarantee he's going to be any good even if he is healthy. Same deal with Jere Lehtinen - he's going to be 36 and he's played in just over half his team's games the past two seasons. New GM Joe Nieuwendyk might have some sentimentality for his former teammates - for the Stars, it should be out with the old, in with the nucleus. They've got a solid group of players without the oldsters, and although they missed the playoffs last season, that was in part due to Marty Turco's complete breakdown at the beginning of the year.

2009-10 Projected Lines




Prospect Watch: As in, 'Watch, maybe someday we'll get some prospects.' The Stars haven't drafted higher than 25th since 1996, and they have traded their 1st round pick five times since 1996 - they tend to be one of the NHL's weakest teams in terms of young players. The Stars lacked an AHL affiliate last year, which caused them to do strange things like recalling Tom Wandell from Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League, then sending him back after four games. Forward Jamie Benn has promising stats in the WHL, but with no pro experience he's unlikely to get more than a look. Wandell and Raymond Sawada might be depth forwards, but their pro numbers are unimpressive. On the backline, defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy got a cup of coffee with the big club last season, but he's probably at least a year off. The Stars do hold the 8th overall pick in this year's draft; the player selected will immediately become their top prospect.

Free Agent Discussion

Total Money Available (Estimated): 16.7 million
Holes to Fill: 4

Major Team Problems: Both the power play and penalty kill ranked in the lower third in the NHL. The penalty kill may fix itself if Turco gets himself right, but the power play clearly needs some help - without Sergei Zubov, there's not really an adequate power play point man.

Right Wings

Marian Hossa (7/49) - It is hard to believe the Stars missed out on Hossa last off-season, but they spent their money on Brad Richards at the trade deadline, then added Sean Avery instead. Hossa makes this a Stars team to be reckoned with. He would also make things insanely difficult for the club in 2010-11 when it came to re-signing all their UFAs - they'd be committed to around 38.5 million to 11 players.
Marian Gaborik (4/24) - Gaborik's one of the best pro-rated scorers in the league when healthy, and he plays on a rotten offensive team. There's no telling what he could do on an uptempo team with a solid playmaking center and a great medical staff.
Martin Havlat (5/27.5) - Havlat is a lesser Gaborik who stays a little healthier, and he's got more playoff experience.
Alexei Kovalev (3/15) - Kovalev has more experience than any of these players, he's got a Stanley Cup ring, and he can work a power play point quite effectively. He also leads the league in Fans Throwing Their Hands Up Per 60 Minutes. Signing him means activating the dreaded 35-and-older clause, where a team takes a cap hit on a 35 or older player even if he is shipped to the minors or retires. This is a large risk to take with a player whose commitment to the game has been questioned in multiple cities.
Brian Gionta (4/15) - Shopping at the bargain aisle here - Gionta's up and down career since the lockout might turn some teams off, but he's got hands around the net, when he can manage to get himself open there.


Jay Bouwmeester (7/52) - There was speculation when Nieuwendyk was hired that Bouwmeester will be in Dallas next season - the two are former teammates. The money is not quite there for him, but Dallas may attempt to sign him anyway.
Mike Komisarek (5/25) - In the 'we have to sign someone' vein that Dallas has too-often pursued, Komisarek is a big defenseman who will punish people. He's also a big defenseman whom people will overrate - if history is any guide, Komisarek will get paid at least $4 million per season, and $5 million is certainly not outrageous.
Mattias Ohlund (4/18) - Ohlund moves the puck reasonably well and plays defense reasonably well. He's not Zubov, but the only player comparable to Zubov is Bouwmeester.
Johnny Oduya (4/16) - More of a gamble here, Oduya's clearly got skills, he's a +48 over the last two seasons, but he hasn't shown he can QB a power play.
Francois Beauchemin (4/16) - The Stars have seen lots of him over the years - maybe they like him, maybe they don't. Falling point totals and injury last season has to be a concern.

Lower-Tier Defensemen

Paul Mara
(2/5) - Mara's never going to be the puck-mover who scored 47 points for the Coyotes in 05-06, but there's remnants of that player left - he's willing to throw hits and he can QB a 2nd power play unit.
Dennis Seidenberg (2/5) - Seidenberg is more of a smooth skater finesse type, but he can also QB a power play.
Marc-Andre Bergeron (2/3.2) - Big shot might help out power play, although he's a liability at even strength.
Cory Murphy (2/2.5) - Murphy lit it up in his brief time in Tampa Bay, notching 15 points in 25 games, and while he's very similar to Andrew Hutchinson, he has more upside - he can certainly help with Dallas's ketchup problem.


The Stars need a backup, but again, this blog is not going to look at seventeen backup goalies. Their backup of last year, Tobias Stephan, was dreadful, posting a 3.70 GAA and .870 save percentage. That's simply unacceptable in the NHL - improving at backup goalie has to be a priority. An upgrade here could mean a win or two, plus more rest for Turco, who despite his poor season managed to play in 74 games.

Conclusion: The Stars have always been players in the free agent market, and with significant money coming off their cap, they can certainly go after the big names this off-season. They have enough money to possibly nab two big-time players, though that will put them in a bind next off-season. There are two basic strategies: go after a top defenseman this year when they are more plentiful, and hope to swipe a Kovalchuk or Nash next off-season. If the Stars take this tack, it likely means fighting it out with teams like St. Louis and Anaheim for a playoff berth. Alternatively, they may also try to sew up all their holes in one off-season, banking on a return to the playoffs this year. With Mike Modano's contract expiring in July of 2010, it's more likely the Stars will go for it all this year, before players like Eriksson and Neal get prohibitively expensive and before the Stars' franchise scoring leader retires or becomes obsolete. Dallas missed the playoffs last year, but they should be right in the hunt next season; in the far future, though, their lack of a farm system will doom them to oscillating between missing and making the playoffs.


  1. But, their farm system will be in place this year with the Texas Stars in their brand new facility in Cedar Park, Texas

  2. that is true, i should have noted that. definite plus for the stars in the future.

  3. what i meant by 'lack of a farm system' in the final paragraph is their insistence on trading away draft picks and inability to groom the players they do get, not the existence of an actual AHL team with a stars affiliation. their draft record is pretty spotty over the last ten years.