While Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery was let go “due to unprofessional conduct,” he also far from had his players firing on all cylinders.
Admittedly, the Stars as a whole are in decent shape. They are currently in a playoff spot and for a time just a few weeks ago were arguably the hottest team in the NHL However, they’ve accomplished all that without their top stars performing up to par.
As cited in the Score’s latest power rankings, the Stars’ four highest-paid players (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov) have a meager 28 goals this season. They have a combined cap hit of $32.6 million, which equals 40 percent of the $81.5 million ceiling.
Credit Montgomery for finding a way, even as his tenure ends under less-than-ideal circumstances. However, the Stars are capable of so much more. Maybe successor Rick Bowness can have them reach new heights, but it all prompts the question: How have they been getting it done up to now? Thanks in large part to these guys:
5. Justin Dowling ($750,000)
There are far greater scorers on the Stars than Justin Dowling. Stories, though? Maybe not.
Rarely before have four points in 21 games been so impressive. Those points, including Dowling’s first career NHL goal as a 29-year-old, all came over a single four-game stretch, during which he centered a line comprising Seguin and Benn.
Granted, Dowling is a long shot to stay in the show. Nevertheless, he helped picked up the scoring slack, with the Stars scoring 18 goals over those aforementioned four games. Entering action Tuesday night, they have just 81 in 31 games total.
Needless to say, Dowling contributes in more ways than simply on the scoresheet and helped to get Benn and Seguin’s heads right, at least temporarily. During those aforementioned four games, they scored five and seven points respectively.
4. Radek Faksa ($2.2 million)
It isn’t that defensive-forward Radek Faksa is on a tear. Far from it. In fact, if you look at his year-over-year scoring history up to now, you’d find he’s right on target to reach his usual 30-plus points. That right there is why he should recognized, for his underrated scoring prowess, not to mention his consistency.
Truth be told, Faksa never stops working, in spite of his unfortunate “Faks Machine” nickname. Maybe it’s a nod to his playing style from a bygone era. Still, someone should probably hand him the memo on how fax machines aren’t actually retro. They’re still around. Offices simply prefer using just about anything else instead.
So, Radek “Fact Checker” Faksa instead? Anyone?
3. Taylor Fedun ($737,500)
Taylor Fedun is admittedly a depth defenseman. On top of that, he hasn’t played since Nov. 26. However, his eight points in 21 games are three off the career-high 11 he scored last season, when he first became an NHL regular with the Stars at the ripe, old age of 30.
Now a year older, Fedun isn’t as much a late-bloomer as a role player who can contribute the odd point. More importantly, he has done just that when the Stars have seemingly needed it the most, in spite of just 3:01 of ice time on the power play (total this season).
2. Miro Heiskanen ($894,166)
This admittedly may be cheating, but Calder Trophy-snub Miro Heiskanen does have a cap hit of just $894,166. He also has 21 points in 32 games, which rank second on the team behind Seguin.
Heiskanen’s also the top-scoring defenseman on the team by the widest of margins. John Klingberg, who has a cap hit of $4.25 million is the second-highest, with a relatively meager 10 points in 25 games. Granted, Klingberg has missed six games due to a lower-body injury, but all his absence has accomplished is reinforce how not only does the Stars’ defense revolve around Heiskanen, but the offense from the blue line too.
1. Roope Hintz ($811,667)
Roope Hintz is also on an entry-level deal, albeit in the last year of his. He’s still had to steal the spotlight from Heiskanen time and again. As a second-round pick taken at No. 49 (2015), Hintz tends to fly below Heiskanen (No. 3 in 2017) and under the radar altogether.
Stars fans should know better by now though. Hintz’s breakout party last playoffs may have been a surprise, when he scored eight points in 13 games, earning his way into a lasting role in the top six and as the Stars’ second-line center. His team-leading 11 goals, despite missing seven games this season to injury, shouldn’t be.
Hintz’s linemates may have since changed, with Jason Dickinson dropping down in the lineup and Mats Zuccarello gone altogether. Hintz’s prowess at putting the puck in the net has only gotten more impressive to the point that the Stars may not have worry about scoring even if the big four aren’t producing like they should. They’ll have to worry about finding cap room for a fifth starting next season instead.