Jim Nill has spent two summers as the general manager of the Dallas Stars and he has made waves in each of them. His first summer, he brought in Tyler Seguin and Shawn Horcoff which completely turned this team around. His two big additions this past summer were Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Both players started relatively slow but have gotten noticeably better as the season has gone on. Now it is time to take a look at all of the additions from the offseason and grade their performance up to this point.
Jason Spezza requested a trade out of Ottawa for the final year of his contract and Dallas was able to scoop him up. He reportedly denied a move to Nashville and Stars fans could not be happier about that. Throughout his career, the offense and the power play flows through Spezza and you saw it when he came to Dallas. He has worked a lot harder on his defensive game than in years past and is helping him become a better overall player. The points are still coming, as he has put up 55 points in 72 games this season. While he likely won’t be reaching his usual point-per-game pace, he is still a catalyst on the powerplay and an excellent playmaker. Defensively he has struggled, although it has been trending upwards of late. Only two forwards have been on the ice for more goals against than Jason Spezza, and those two players play significant minutes on the penalty kill. In even strength situations, nobody has a higher offensive zone start % than Spezza, suggesting he plays a little more sheltered minutes than the rest of the team. His faceoff numbers, however, are absolutely outstanding as nobody has more faceoff wins on the Stars this year than Spezza. He has won 583 faceoffs this season and posts a 53.93 faceoff percentage.
Let’s not forget, a big part of this trade was not only his performance this season but if he would be willing to sign a contract extension in Dallas. He was, as Nill signed him to a four-year deal just over a month into the regular season. That is huge for Dallas, as they now have their top two centers locked up for at least the next four seasons.
There have really been three different Ales Hemskys making appearances in his first season as a Star. There is the flashy Ales, who dazzled Stars fans with fancy goals and clever playmaking. There has been the sloppy Ales, who gives away pucks in all three zones and gets a little “glidey” defensively. Then there has been the last Ales, who I really cannot describe because this Ales is almost invisible on the ice.
I was very excited when the Stars signed Ales Hemsky as I am a huge fan. I think this season has been a bigger adjustment for him than he thought and can at least somewhat explain the struggles he has had. Hemsky has 29 points in 66 games, not what anybody expected going into this season. He has, without a doubt, gotten significantly better as the season has progressed which is good news for the Stars. After this year, Hemsky has two years left on his deal and if he is able to continue to improve, Nill shouldn’t look at that contract with regret. He is a dynamic offensive talent and hopefully he will continue to become more comfortable in Dallas. If he can produce more goals like the one above, Stars fans will be absolutely thrilled.
Relative to the expectations, I don’t think there was a better signing in the offseason for the Stars than Patrick Eaves. He almost mirrors Rich Peverley in that you can put him just about anywhere in the lineup and he will make a good addition to that line. He grinds and has shown a consistent willingness to go to the front of the net, despite taking more friendly fire than I can ever remember a player taking. He took a shot to the ankle from Jason Demers while he was parked in front of the net that saw him miss a month and a half of games. He also took a point shot from Jordie Benn to the thigh which bounced over to Jamie Benn for an easy goal. And finally, he took a scary shot to the head from John Klingberg which saw Eaves miss significant time as well. Eaves has missed at least one game three separate times this year, twice to injury and once to a healthy scratch. He scored in his return-to-the-lineup game all three times. His points-per-60 minutes is a solid 2.21, which only trails Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza.
Patrick Eaves is player I hope Jim Nill brings back next season. He is a versatile player who plugs leaks in a lineup and has shown the ability to finish. His performance this year has earned him a new contract with the Stars and if they don’t pay him, someone else will.
Oh Anders. There really isn’t too much to say about Lindback’s short tenure in Dallas. I didn’t mind the signing then and I still don’t mind it now. The fact is, Jim Nill saw an opportunity to snag a young goalie who showed some promise early in his career and hoped he could find his game again. Other than a couple of solid relief appearances, Lindback was a disaster in Dallas. He can’t be blamed for all of his poor statistics as the defense has been spotty all season, but he also let in many goals that just shouldn’t be given up. On February 11th, Lindback was traded to Buffalo for Jhonas Enroth. He has played quite well in Buffalo and gets a chance to put a dagger in the Stars tonight.
If Jim Nill has shown anything, he has shown how willing he is to make big moves in the offseason. While I am not sure he will pull off anything like the Seguin or Spezza trade this offseason, I think he will attempt to land a top defenseman to try to stabilize the Stars. He has had a couple of low-risk, high-reward moves (Lindback, Sergei Gonchar) that haven’t quite paid off, but most of Nill’s moves can be considered a success. Like the rest of you, I am anxious to see what he does this summer.
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