Per Annual End-Of-Season Tradition, Let’s Give Each And Every One Of Your 2022 Dallas Stars’ On-Ice Performance A Letter Grade, Eh?
Welp, that’s a wrap.
The Dallas Stars complete their 2021-2022 campaign with a thrilling game 7 loss to the Calgary Flames in true Stars fashion. Since Ben Bishop’s arrival in 2017, Dallas’ ‘bend don’t break’ mentality has helped the team exceed expectations in the postseason while proving to be a frustrating experience for both fans and opposition alike. It’s suffocating, it’s relentless, and it gives them a chance to win/lose against anybody.
And as is tradition here at Forechecking™, we’re ending the season by grading every single Dallas Stars players’ effort on the year by using our patented, highly scientific and mathematically sound formula, which factors in player expectation, position expectation, salary, the eyeball test, statistics (with or without Corsi), highlights, lowlights and black lights. Regular season carrying the bulk of weight with some consideration for postseason performance.
Let’s get to it!
Jamie Benn (GP: 82 G: 18 A: 28 PTS: 46 +/-: -13 PIM: 88) “Chubbs'” 13th season was adequate. Yes, he is grossly overpaid and shell of the player he once was, but we aren’t going to hold that against the aging power forward, it is what it is. Jamie still fills the role of Captain well and is held in high regard among his teammates. A minor offensive threat at this point of his career, Jamie still managed 18 goals while providing much needed physicality to the forward group. One of only three other Stars to play in every game of the season, Jamie’s durability, face-off prowess, and effectiveness on the penalty kill provide value to the team, just not $9.5 million worth… Grade: C+
Radek Faksa (GP: 77 G:5 A: 14 PTS: 19 +/-: -20 PIM: 52) Since breaking his wrist in the 2020 playoffs, Radek just hasn’t been the same premiere shutdown center we’ve all come to love. For as heavily as the Stars rely on it’s suffocating checking line, Radek’s drop off is a big concern. With 3 years left at $3.25 million a season, Dallas can’t afford to have Radek’s game remain in it’s current state, and with younger and cheaper options coming through the pipeline, neither can Radek. Grade: D
Luke Glendening (GP: 82 G:9 A: 7 PTS: 16 +/-: -17 PIM: 15) The tenacious depth forward performed well this season, with only an average of 14 minutes of average ice time, Luke led all Stars forwards with 179 hits. One of the Stars better penalty killers, the 33 year old was a reliable presence in his own zone. With faster linemates, we think the versatile player could drive play more often. Grade: B+
Denis Gurianov (GP: 73 G: 11 A: 20 PTS: 31 +/-: +2 PIM: 16) Denis may be the team’s fastest skater, strongest shooter and most exciting offensive threat, but you wouldn’t know it this season. Fans were foaming at the mouth over Denis’ handful of healthy scratches this season and playoffs, but man, Denis really earned them.
Unflatteringly dubbed “Val 2.0” over the Stars inability to develop former first round pick Valerie Nichushkin, the Stars are at risk of losing another young and talented Russian winger to what looks like indifference. Is it the fault of the franchise for being too hard on Denis or not giving him the opportunity? We don’t think so, the team has handed the keys over to Robertson, Heiskanen, Oettinger and Hintz.
His defensive zone coverage is flat out awful, rarely engages in puck battles with the intent to win and largely rendered an observer who coasts above the faceoff circles. With the puck, he lacks precision and poise and is prone to unforced errors, often causing turnovers that leave his line pinned into their own zone on extended shifts. His 46 giveaways among the highest of the team’s forwards and 12 takeaways among the lowest. In his limited usage in the playoffs, we can’t think of a single shift where he outplayed or outhustled the opposition, and at this point in his career is inexcusable. The tools are there, but where is the craftsman? Grade: F
Roope Hintz (GP: 80 G:37 A: 35 PTS: 72 +/-: +15 PIM: 28) Setting career highs in nearly every statistical category, the high-flying Finn just keeps getting better and better. The Stars second round pick in 2015 was already the Stars first line center by 2020, and is quickly elevating his game to the league’s upper echelon. It may sound hyperbolic to say that the Stars would have been battling the Arizona Coyotes’ -103 goal differential for worst in the Western Conference if it weren’t for Roope’s exploits, but it’s not too far off. Simply put, Roope is by far and away the Stars best forward, his diligence on puck retrievals, neutral zone transition speed, net drive, shot accuracy, physicality and 1980’s John Hughes antagonist vibe is a treat to watch. Grade: A+
Joel Kiviranta (GP: 56 G:1 A: 6 PTS: 7 +/-: -6 PIM: 10) We were hoping that “JFK” could build upon his surprising 2020 playoff breakout performances, but here we are two underwhelming years later not overly impressed when he’s in the lineup, and not really missing his game when he’s not. Truthfully, that is to be expected, the playoffs can bring about unlikely heroes. No doubt Joel was snake bitten this year offensively, his 1.7 shooting percentage is shockingly the lowest on the team, yes, even lower than Andrej Sekera. Grade: C
Vladislav Namestnikov (With Dallas) (GP: 15 G: 3 A: 2 PTS: 5 +/-: +1 PIM: 11) What seemed like an afterthought trade deadline acquisition by Jim Nill, the 29 year old journeyman center played an important role down the stretch and into the postseason. One of the few Dallas forwards who can enter the offensive zone with puck on his stick, Namestnikov’s value to the team surpassed the fourth-round draft pick used to bring him to Dallas, and through injury and attrition, ended up centering the top line by Game 7 against the Flames. The rental enters the off-season as a UFA, and for the right price, we’d love to see him back over most of the Stars bottom six options… Grade: INC
Joe Pavelski (GP: 82 G: 27 A: 54 PTS: 81 +/-: 11 PIM: 14) Captain America appeared in every game, set a career high in points, mentored one of the NHL’s best lines, was selected to the All-Star game and earned a one-year contract extension as a 37-year-old. Wowza. Joe has been everything advertised and more since joining the Stars, vastly exceeding our expectations on what a player of his age and speed can accomplish. Let’s get this man a Stanley Cup ASAP. Grade: A
Jacob Peterson (GP: 65 G: 12 A: 5 PTS: 17 +/-: -1 PIM:12) Jim Nill’s 2017 draft brilliance managed to find several franchise players in the early rounds, and one intriguing and unexpected surprise much later. Peterson wasn’t penciled in to begin his rookie season this year, but an impressive training camp and preseason performance forced his way into the line more often than not. Jac be nimble, Jac be quick, Jac much better than a fifth-round pick. Grade: B+
Alexander Radulov (GP: 71 G: 4 A: 18 PTS: 22 +/-: -20 PIM: 30) When the Stars announced on April 14, 2021 that Ben Bishop and Radulov were to have off-season surgery and were expected back for the start of the 21-22, we didn’t know it was the end for two of the team’s most important players. While Radulov managed to suit up for 71 contests this season, he shouldn’t have. The current day #47 resembled the Stars most engaging and energetic fan favorite in facial hair only, long gone where the wild celebrations over timely goals and big plays.
Post-surgery Radulov struggled to accelerate, complete passes, or create chances on the man-advantage. It’s a shame to see a dynamic player go out like this, and maybe he can continue his career after an off-season of rest, but it won’t be in Dallas. Hell of a player who dragged his team into battle most nights, thanks for everything Rads! Grade: Participation Ribbon
Michael Raffl (GP: 76 G: 7 A: 9 PTS: 16 +/-: -19 PIM: 16) Aside from a few standout regular season games, the veteran Austrian was unremarkable and on par with his usual career output, one Matthew Tkachuk fight later, and Raffl suddenly transformed into an impactful and dangerous player in the playoffs. If Michael can carry some of that effectiveness and son of a bitch snarl into next year, he might be worth bringing back via Free Agency, but since we grade players based on the totality of the season… Grade: B-
Jason Robertson (GP: 74 G: 41 A: 38 PTS: 79 +/-: 16 PIM:22) What a breakout year for Robo! Just look at all his goals, look at em! 41 goals! The sophomore scored 17.6% of the entire team’s 233 goals on the season! That’s awesome! But also very sad!
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) May 16, 2022
With elite hockey IQ, a sneaky deceptive shot, strong defensive awareness, incredible vision, and an endearing personality, the NHL is rightly going to promote the heck out of our little (6’3”) Robo! There are still things for Jason to work on however, and we fully expect him to embrace the challenge to becoming a true superstar in this league. The Calgary series really put a spotlight on Robertson’s biggest shortcoming. His wheels. Without Hintz’s speed backing off defenders, Robertson struggled to generate much separation by himself. Maybe Roope can give his linemate the number to his skating coach? Grade: A
Tyler Seguin (GP: 81 G: 24 A: 25 PTS: 49 +/-: -21 PIM:30) After two hip surgeries we knew the Seguin of old was no more, but still excited to see what a well-rested Seguin 2.0 could bring to the team now that the burden of the top line had shifted to the Hintz trio. If you were to judge his play by his stat line, you’d likely think he had a relatively poor to average year, and you’d be wrong. Seguin was markedly worse offensively than what his 24 goals suggests, and every bit as liable defensively as his -21 and 47.5 CF% quantify. Certainly he can incrementally improve over this year, but his long term productivity trend is alarming.
Can the Stars afford Seguin’s current contribution levels through 2027 at $9.5 million per and expect to be a contender? Can they hide Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin down the lineup with their collective cap hit of 23% when Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Jake Oettinger are due for big paydays and somehow bring in additional scoring help? Would ownership be willing to do what the Minnesota Wild pulled with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (guh), buyout some of the team’s worst contracts and move on? It may sound harsh, and it’s of no reflection of Tyler’s commitment to the game, but the current situation isn’t tenable. Grade: D
Jani Hakanpaa (GP: 80 G: 4 A: 8 PTS:12 +/-: +1 PIM: 43) It’s the tale of two Jani’s. Early season Hakanpaa was, how shall we say, not good. The 6’6″ Finn looked slow and scrambly, overwhelmed with modest defensive assignments and a poor replacement for the Stars previous tower of a defender Jamie Oleksiak. Jani incrementally improved in play from liability to average until tasked to solidify the second pairing during Miro’s Mono absence. The big Finn took to the challenge and emerged as a more confident rearguard, and for our money the second-best defender in the playoffs. The team leader in hits by a country mile with 248 to Glendening’s 179, Jani was quite the physical force. For $1.5 million, he’s a steal. Grade: A-
Joel Hanley (GP: 44 G: 2 A: 4 PTS:6 +/-: -13 PIM: 4) Every team has a Joel Hanley, and Joel Hanley is the Stars’ Joel Hanley. Grade: C+
Thomas Harley (GP: 34 G: 1 A: 3 PTS: 4 +/-: -4 PIM: 6) Squint and you might have confused Harley for Hanley on the ice. Dallas has hopes the 2019 first rounder will mature into a stalwart for years to come on the backend, but it’s just too soon to judge him at the moment. At only 20, the rangy defender wasn’t tasked with much of a workload, but he did show glimpses of his above average stride and puck carrying ability. With Klingberg out of the picture, Harley has a great opportunity to be an everyday player. Grade: INC
Miro Heiskanen (GP: 70 G: 5 A: 31 PTS: 36 +/-: 4 PIM: 24) After a ‘pretty good’ season last year by Miro standards, the 22 year old looked more of what we’ve come to expect for the Norris caliber defender. He’s excellent defensively, effortless with the puck, and stride for stride the most economical and graceful skater on the ice. But for as good as Miro has been, we know there is so much more offensive upside that the team is not exploiting. Whether by instruction or instinct, and as evident in games 6 and 7 of the playoffs, when Miro decides to take over a game he finds a gear his teammates lack. Dallas is holding our boy back, put him on his strong side and have his defensive partner, whoever that is, stay the hell back and let Miro go Miro. Colorado has unlocked Cale Makar to incredible effect, now is the time to #FreeHeiskanen. Grade: A
Miro, Miro, on the ice. That goal’s looking mighty nice 🤤
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) May 14, 2022
John Klingberg (GP: 74 G: 6 A: 41 PTS: 47 +/-: -28 PIM: 34) A weird year for Klinger. His publicized contract situation was unnecessarily dramatic, public trade request a distraction, uneven and wild regular season play a detriment at times and turn as public enemy #1 in Calgary odd and head scratching. We’ve loved Klingberg since training camp back in 2014, and fans forget how dreadful the post Zubov years were before the skinny Swede quickly took over the #1 defenseman spot on the roster. There is still plenty of high caliber play left in his game, but whatever contract he’s about to get in the open market, is probably too much. Second best offensive D man in franchise history? Grade: C
Esa Lindell (GP: 76 G: 4 A: 21 PTS: 25 +/-: +4 PIM: 12) It’s hard to put a finger on why we were somewhat disappointed with Esa’s year. None of metrics are particularly out of line with his average and there weren’t any egregious moments that had us questioning his abilities. Maybe Esa just encapsulates how we feel in general about this roster’s veterans, overpaid and underwhelming. Grade: B-
Ryan Suter (GP: 82 G: 7 A: 25 PTS: 32 +/-: +1 PIM: 40) Speaking of underwhelming, Suter may be the king. No, he’s not nearly as bad as many Stars fan scream about; in fact, he’s not bad at all, it’s just that he’s not very good either. He’s painfully average. Suter is the last two decades of Minnesota Wild hockey wrapped up in a 37 year old defenseman’s body. You can’t really be mad at his play, he is positionally sound and generally responsible with the puck.
He’s also eighth in the team in scoring, yes eighth, higher than Denis Gurianov. Huh? Ultimately Suter is fine. He doesn’t play a style that ages poorly and we aren’t overly concerned with the remaining years on his contract. It’s whatever. One thing we are passionate about is unhinging Miro from this guy, Dallas is dumbing down Miro to make his D partner better. NO MORE. Grade: C+
Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, Braden Holtby: Thank you! Grade: A-
Scott Wedgewood: Stick around! Grade: A-
Jake Oettinger: LFG! Grade: A+
Y’all Otter believe it!!!!!
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) May 16, 2022
A Look Ahead:
The Stars hobble into the long summer with changes afoot. Head coach and fan favorite Rick Bowness is no longer under contract, while Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, Scott Wedgewood, Michael Raffl, Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrej Sekera and Braden Holtby are all unrestricted free agents. Don’t fret too much however, the Stars farm system is filling up with universally praised high end talent and the recent legacy of incredible goaltending will continue with the emergence of Jake Oettinger. The future looks bright for this franchise, and it may be here sooner than you realize.