We continue our look at the Stars' positions with the defensemen. BTW, click here to see the progress report on the forwards. Once again, Defending Big D and Andrew's Stars Page have chimed in with their thoughts as well.
The Stars have taken their lumps at times on defense. It’s not a high dollar unit. The Stars are paying $8.7 million for seven defensemen (when healthy). That’s last in the NHL in terms of funds allocated for defense. Much of that is because it’s young, but without a lot of experience, this unit makes mistakes. It's easy to say this group gets a down trending grade, but because they are young in spots and the team isn't spending a bunch of money, they get the average grade.
Stephane Robidas is the leader of that group. He’s been thrust into the No. 1 defenseman role and has embraced it. He’s not afraid to take on anyone, despite his 5-11, 190-pound frame. He is sixth on the team in points with 33, including 10 goals. His style seems quite suited to Crawford’s system as Robidas picks and chooses the right times to join the rush and attack the net. He’s been solid on the power play as well. Robidas’ partner, Nicklas Grossman, has performed well too. The 25-year-old uses his big frame – he’s 6-3, 214 pounds -- to make things tough on opposing lines.
Outside of that top pair, it’s been an inconsistent defensive group all season. Trevor Daley, 26, has the skating ability to succeed in Crawford’s system, but he must learn to make the right decisions and get comfortable. He’s started to do some of that in recent weeks. Karlis Skrastins has become a big shot blocker for this team, but can get exposed at times if he plays too many minutes. Matt Niskanen has struggled with his confidence all season. It seems that a bad mistake lingers and he has difficultly moving forward from it. He has the skills and at times shows potential, but just hasn’t put it all together yet.
Mark Fistric is the only defenseman with regular playing time that has plus rating. He’s plus-15 and leads the team by a bunch in that category. He’s shown improvement and an ability to make smart plays.
Defending Big D's thoughts: This was the weakness of the team headed into the season and it still is. Robidas, Grossman, and Fistric are the bright spots, but the continuing disappointment of Daley and Niskanen is troubling to watch game by game. Trend: Average
Andrew's Stars Page thoughts: It is what it is. It's a low budget group that as a group is where you should expect it to be. Stephane Robidas has been excellent and that's why he was in the mix for Canada's Olympic team. Karlis Skrastins has met expectations a solid defender. You would have expected Trevor Daley to produce more offensively, but he's played well at times. There have been ups and downs with the others, but Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric have had more ups than downs. You can't always put the defensive lapses on the two guys manning the blue line. There are three other guys in front of the goalie with responsibilities too. Trend: Average