Alright, since anyone reading this article already knows that it’s about Alex Goligoski judging from the title, let’s get a couple things out of the way first, shall we?
Yes, Alex Goligoski was traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Dallas Stars in exchange for James Neal and Matt Niskanen early in 2011. This is worth noting because it seems like whenever Goligoski’s name is mentioned, this trade, which is widely seen as a “steal” by the Penguins, gets brought up immediately.
Yes, James Neal is a budding power forward, and has mostly looked great since he first suited up for Pittsburgh.
And, yes, Goligoski hasn’t looked nearly as good in comparison for the majority of his time as a Star.
Of course, this isn’t taking into account how, at the time of the trade, the Stars were in desperate need of a young defenceman – any young defenceman – that was capable of moving the puck quickly up the ice as well as quarterbacking the powerplay, despite those always being a rare commodity on the trade market. Or, how playing alongside reigning-MVP Evgen Malkin could probably make Colton Orr look like Cam Neely, so there needs to be a mental asterisk in place when considering Neal’s point totals.
But I digress…none of those things should matter to Stars fans right now, because after taking some time to acclimate to his new team and buck the unrelenting pressure of the aforementioned trade, Goligoski is playing his best hockey in years, and deserves his fair share of credit for Dallas’ recent surge that has seen them go 6-3-1 in their last 10 as they claw their way back into playoff contention.
Over those last 10 games Goligoski has 7 points and a +6 rating, while averaging over 24 minutes of ice time per-game in that span. Going back even further, in his last 17 games he has an impressive 13 points and +8 rating.
His strong play as of late has bumped him high in several statistical categories with the Stars, leading Dallas in assists with 23, plus/minus with a +6, and tying him for the team lead in powerplay points with 10. His 26 points in 44 games are fourth on the current roster and, also worth mentioning, tie him for 9th in the league in points by a defencemen, tied with players like Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Mark Streit.
But most importantly, and going beyond individual numbers, the man they call “Goose” is finally showing confidence and looking comfortable playing the style of game that he prefers, which is benefiting his team in a huge way.
Goligoski’s mobility, smart decision-making with the puck and strong outlet pass have become key assets in Dallas’ new, post-deadline “north-south” style of hockey that has them finding success by barreling through the neutral zone and forechecking hard against pressured defenders. Goal-scoring has been much improved for the Stars in recent weeks, thanks in large part to a newly-confident Goligoski activating more in the offensive zone and helping his forwards keep opposing blueliners on their toes.
This aggressive goal, early in the third period of Dallas’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings, helped Dallas gather a crucial point in a time of the season where none can be spared.
When the Stars traded Neal for Goligoski, many Stars fans hoped he would fill the void of number-one defenceman that was left vacant by Sergei Zubov.
While Goligoski still hasn’t reached the same upper-echelon level that Zubov reached, and he may never will, he is currently playing to the best of his ability and filling very specific roles that teams need to have filled in order to be successful, and that’s something that is always deserving of praise.
But with only three games remaining in the regular season, and the Stars currently three points out of a playoff spot, Dallas will need Goligoski to continue his recent strong play now more than ever.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL