When Paul Stastny was brought into the Vegas Golden Knights organization in 2018, he was expected to contribute right off the bat. In his first season, he had a shooting percentage of 12.6, 13 goals and 42 points. Stastny played 50 games in 2018-19, which should be taken into consideration. In 2019-2020, the goals and the shooting percentage are higher (14 goals and a shooting percentage of 14.4). However, his plus/minus is at minus-4 and he’s got 25 points in 2019-20.
The Vegas Golden Knights shouldn’t ask Stastny to be a world class superstar. However, his assists (11) should be higher; he is a center, after all. What will get him going? What can Pete DeBoer, the new head coach for the Golden Knights, do to get Stastny contributing to his offense?
Should Stastny’s Down Year Be Expected?
Here’s the thing about Stastny. He is 35 years old. His days of delivering 60-plus points might be long gone. In fact, the last season of 60 or more points he had in a season was in 2013-14 with the Colorado Avalanche. In that season, he had 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) with the Avalanche. But in a talented offense featuring goal scorers such as Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson, Stastny should do more.
This is especially true with teams such as the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks, breathing down the Golden Knights’ neck. Yes, there are other issues plaguing Vegas right now, which includes bad defensive play. But with a playoff spot at a premium, Vegas will need all the goal scoring they can get. This is where Stastny comes in.
What Is Wrong with Stastny?
It might be father time. Keep in mind, before the new year, Stastny had 0.37 points-per-game in 2019-20. It might be that he isn’t getting much ice time. In a lineup full of offensive talent, he had been he plays on the third line in former head coach Gerard Gallant’s system. His ice time per game is 16:46; he has never had his TOI go below 17:36 in a single season (40 or more games).
We’re probably evaluating his role a bit too much. Normally, centers, like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, are like point guards in basketball. They set up scoring opportunities for their teammates and even do some scoring of their own. However, Stastny isn’t like other centers. His job on the third line is be a defensive cog, let his wingers do the work, and groom Cody Glass in a key contributor, which he has done effectively.
In his defensive role, Stastny has generated fewer takeaways than at this point last season. Last season, he had 36 takeaways through 50 games in 2018-19 compared to 32 takeaways through 52 games in 2019-20. Considering his role on the Golden Knights, you would expect more takeaways despite not being a defenseman. Getting more takeaways can help him get more scoring opportunities and can help the Golden Knights down the road (cue Booger McFarland).
Looking at how many points he should be producing, Stastny should be scoring more as well. This is especially true given his expected goals for, 29.9, and his expected plus/minus which is 11.6. Another stat to look at is the total number of goals scored with the player on the ice (TGF). Compared to 59 TGF from 2018-19 (50 games), his TGF is at 48 through 52 games in 2019-20.
However, it could also be that Stastny saw a limited role in Gallant’s offense.
What Role Does Pete DeBoer Play?
The good news is that Vegas just hired DeBoer, who has been known to work with veterans. From his time with Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey to making Joe Thornton into a better player in San Jose, DeBoer has done a great job of getting more out of the more experienced skaters. In fact, he handled the pressure of being thrown into utter chaos just fine (from ‘Peter DeBoer, Mark Stone and a wild 48 hours in Canada’s capital,’ Las Vegas Sun, 01/16/2020). He won his first game as head coach against the Ottawa Senators, a game Stastny scored in. He could benefit from having DeBoer coach him and make him into a scoring threat once again.
The other good part is that DeBoer is giving Stastny an expanded role. His offensive zone start percentage (oZs) before the new year was a paltry 44%. His oZs is now at 52.1%. This includes 60% oZS in the game against Ottawa and 77.8% oZS against the Montreal Canadiens. This correlates with DeBoer giving him more time, especially with Stastny being a grizzled veteran.
How Will DeBoer’s Coaching Style Help?
What may also benefit Stastny is DeBoer’s coaching style. Vegas’s newest coach tends to lean on a defensive style that generates pressure. With his current role, it should be expected that DeBoer will rely on Stastny more. Gallant was an old school coach, yet he was also known to work with his players. Gallant also tends to shorten his bench late in games, making adjustments if he needs to.
In DeBoer’s offense, the Golden Knights’ newest coach is already seeing Stastny make strides. In the three games that DeBoer has coached him, he has scored a goal and an assist in two of those games.
In fact, the former Avalanche star has even shown some toughness. He took a puck to the mouth on a clearing attempt in Saturday’s shootout loss to Montreal.
Can Stastny Get Back to His Former Self With DeBoer?
It’s certainly possible. As mentioned earlier, the thing that can benefit Stastny the most is his relationship with DeBoer. After all, he is known to work with veterans, even at the behest of his younger players. However, this sort of coaching may help in this situation. The Golden Knights could use all the help they can get at the moment and having him contribute will help.
The Hockey Writers is:
1) A top-tier hockey media company delivering a top-notch, in-depth look at the NHL
2) A collective of some of the best hockey writers anywhere
3) A multimedia provider with daily podcasts and YouTube shows
4) Well-respected and widely-cited NHL prospect and draft resource