The 2014-15 Dallas Stars were a tough team to read. They were quite streaky at times and they were not able to put a full 60 minutes together too often. In all that, there was plenty of good to take out of their season. Jamie Benn went on a tear down the stretch and won the Art Ross Trophy while almost dragging his team into the playoffs. Tyler Seguin finished 7th in NHL scoring and likely would have won the Art Ross himself had he not be injured. Rookie sensation John Klingberg quickly earned himself a 7-year contract with dazzling plays almost nightly. The Stars also got a glimpse of their bright future, with Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie and Jyrki Jokipakka all having solid rookie seasons. But when a team doesn’t make the playoffs, there are usually at least a few players identified as needing improvements heading into the next campaign. I’ve selected three players who must get better if they plan on staying in Dallas.
Ryan Garbutt made his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars in 2011 and enjoyed a breakout season in 2013-14 when he finished third on the team in goals. This season was another story, as Garbutt found the back of the net just once after the calendar turned to 2015. He ended up with just 8 goals after scoring 17 times the previous year. Some of his production issues can be explained by looking more closely at his numbers. His usage was significantly more defensive in 2014-15, as his offensive-zone-start % was at -18.41 this past season compared to -12.68 the year before. His personal shooting % also dipped to 5.59% from 10.30%. That being said, there were certainly other factors that play into his offensive woes and why he needs to be better next season.
You can’t score from the penalty box and Ryan Garbutt was there a lot this season. The amount of penalties he took wouldn’t have been as much of a problem but for two reasons. One, they were often costly penalties that lead to opponents scoring on the powerplay. And two, many of the infractions were of the violent variety. Elbowing, kneeing and slew-footing are three of the more violent penalties and Garbutt was guilty of all of them at one point this season. These mistakes often had Garbutt in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse, which isn’t going to help in on-ice production. He was suspended twice and healthy scratched a handful of times as well. Young players like Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie are battling for a roster spot on the Dallas Stars, so Ryan Garbutt will have to be more discipline if he is going to remain on the team.
Trevor Daley set a career-high in goals, assists and points so how on earth did he end up on this list? Well, the Dallas Stars needed to keep out a few more goals this season and that falls partly under Trevor Daley’s job description. A lot of Daley’s scoring was inflated on the powerplay as he was abysmal at even-strength this season. His even-strength corsi-for-% was a team-worst 45.94 despite having more offensive zone starts than all but three of his teammates. A more telling stat is scoring-chances-for-% and it doesn’t look any better for Daley. He finished with a 47.86 SCF% along with -8.00 SCF% relative to the rest of the team. Only Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski were on the ice for more goals against than Daley, and that can be explained by those two playing significantly more minutes than Daley.
During the time Trevor Daley was out with a knee injury, the Dallas Stars were significantly better defensively. Just looking at some of the advanced statistics I mentioned above can tell you that. He has vowed to improve defensively next season and he has undergone a successful hip surgery this spring so we will have to wait and see. If Daley isn’t better in his own zone next year, he may not finish the season in Dallas.
This one should not come as a surprise to anyone. With the Dallas Stars scoring at the rate they did, all they needed was for Kari Lehtonen to post average goaltending statistics in order for them to make the playoffs. Unfortunately he was not able to do that as he posted a career-worst .903 save % and a rough 2.94 goals against average. Some of the goals that were given up left fans and coaches scratching their heads. Let’s face it, if a team gives up the third most goals in the Western Conference some of the blame has to fall on the goaltending.
Kari Lehtonen’s struggles seem to be more on the mental side of things. Hopefully an offseason and some rest can help him return to form because the Dallas Stars do not want to waste one of the best offenses in the league. If Kari Lehtonen is better next season, the Stars should be able to bounce back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix