Alex Goligoski has been one of the most heavily criticized player on the Stars for the past few seasons. He was consistently weighed against James Neal and Matt Niskanen, who the Stars traded to Pittsburgh in return for Goligoski. Fans saw James Neal become a 40-goal scorer in Pittsburgh while Matt Niskanen rose to another level, especially last season. Goligoski was very excited to come to Dallas and become an important piece in a rebuilding team. But because the players on the other side of the trade were incredibly succesful, a lot of pressure was put on Goligoski to do the same. Despite leading the Dallas blue-line in points in his first full season, he wasn’t enough in the eyes of many Stars fans. His first few seasons leading up to this one reminded me, to an extent, of the season Jordie Benn is having. Not great, not terrible, but overwhelmingly noticeable mistakes. Many of Goligoski’s turnovers were leading straight to goals, he was getting scratched occasionally and he just didn’t seem like a confident player.
Alex Goligoski a healthy scratch tonight, Philip Larsen is in,
— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) February 6, 2013
Fast forward to the stretch run last season. Goligoski gets paired up with Trevor Daley as the Stars are pushing for the playoffs. He is moving the puck well, the team is generating scoring chances with him on the ice and he is setting up teammates for crucial goals. This is the Goligoski we saw late last season and it is the Goligoski we have seen all year-long. He is now second on the team in defensive scoring and is first in assists. Nobody on the team has more blocked shots and nobody plays more than Goligoski and he has done all of that without missing a game this season. This could very well be the best season Goligoski has had in his career.
Alex Goligoski and Where He Ranks Among the Rest
A true #1 defenseman is difficult to come by in this league. Those that have them generally don’t give them up so teams that are searching for one only have a couple of options. Trade for a player that has #1 potential or draft one. Alex Goligoski has been a #1 defenseman this season. According to War-on-ice, they have found that scoring chances are a better predictor of future performance than corsi. Among defensemen who have played at least 500 minutes this season, Goligoski ranks 10th in terms of his team’s scoring-chance-for % while he was on the ice. If you up that to defensemen who have played at least 1000 minutes, he sits 5th. Only Erik Karlsson has been on the ice for more of his team’s even strength scoring chances than Alex Goligoski. Only Anton Stralman and Mattias Ekholm have a better ratio of scoring chances for/against than Goligoski. As an excellent puck-mover, the Stars offense flows through him and John Klingberg.
Leading the Way Defensively
Goligoski was traded for because the Stars desperately need a puck-moving defenseman who provided offense. Now, as the Stars seem to have a wealth of that type of player, they need a more defensive-defenseman. Goligoski has taken on that role as well. As I mentioned above, nobody on the Stars plays more and has more blocked shots than Goligoski. That level of effort and play has Goligoski being the most-trusted defensman for head coach Lindy Ruff. No defenseman on the Stars has more defensive zone starts at even strength than Alex Goligoski. He has been Ruff’s most dependable defenseman since the middle of last season and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Goligoski’s Future With the Stars
Trade rumors involving Alex Goligoski have been floating around considering the Stars are in a mini-rebuild concerning their defensive unit. Great hockey minds like Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff have certainly seen the value of having Goligoski in Dallas. He along with Trevor Daley have been the leaders of an otherwise youthful group of defensemen. And with Trevor Daley clearly being the worst defender of the two, it is hard to imagine that the Stars would ship off Goligoski unless the return was too good to pass up. He will, however, be on the last year of his deal next season which could see Nill making a more financial decision than a hockey decision. His current contract is very affordable, especially for how good he has been the past two seasons. I’d say the likelihood of Goligoski being a Star past next season is very high, as he has performed incredibly well in a #1 role. The hope is that he won’t have to play that role in the future, which could lead to Goligoski being one of the better second-pairing defenseman out there.