The Stars At Night Are…Big?…and Bright?

There’s trouble deep in the heart of Texas.

This morning I woke up with a headache and still no idea what happened to the team that remembered just this Saturday how to play hockey. So I decided to dig through some numbers to figure it out.

A few disclaimers to get started with:

  • All data is 5v5, all score situations. Dallas is 21st in the league both on the PK and on the PP, but usually special teams don’t seem to be where we’re the most vulnerable.
  • The lines and defense pairings are as accurate as I can make them, however most lines from older games were pulled from Mike Heika’s morning skate notes, so take them with a grain of salt, as The Ruffle Shuffle has been in full effect this season.

I’ve done most of my analysis using Corsi Relative % as the baseline for interpretation. Corsi Relative % (Corsi Rel % or CR% commonly), compares the player’s corsi vs the team’s corsi without them, as a percent. The higher the CR% the more positive possession numbers they’re bringing to the team. Why CR% and not Corsi? Well, Corsi is a measure of a player vs the competition.

We know exactly how the Stars as a team have been doing versus their competition. Over the last 7 games they’ve posted just two victories, both at home. They’ve played top flight opponents and bottom table opponents. Hard hitting teams and fast possession teams. The Stars just aren’t playing well, regardless of the quality of competition. So, it’s time to look internally and use Corsi Rel % to ask “how are the Stars doing vs. themselves?”

Now, we know the defense has been bad (and don’t worry, I’ll get there), but any given game only has 6 defensemen, which leaves 14 other people on the ice affecting the game. To place defensive responsibility solely on the Dmen is ridiculous, especially since about half of them have been trending upwards in possession play. Also, we’re rotating in three rookie Dmen night after night: Klingberg, Jokipakka, and Oleksiak. We only have one rookie forward by comparison (McKenzie).

Primarily, the way we can look at a forward’s defensive responsibility is through possession. If they have the puck, the other team doesn’t have the puck. The other major factor is blocked shots and positioning. While there’s no numbers attached to on-ice positioning, Lindy Ruff has talked about ‘team responsibility’ when it comes to shot blocking, and at least that part seems to have sunk in – over half of all blocked shots vs Winnepeg and Montreal were blocked by forwards.

So that brings us back to good ole’ possession. I’ve looked at the most recent 7 games, as they seem to represent the best and the worst of Stars hockey, and why we’re moving in fits and starts.

Fancy Stats on a Fancy Chart

This chart is pretty simplified. The red line is Benn & Seguin’s average CR%, and the blue is all the other forwards, except for the one lucky guy on the top line. There’s a pretty clear trend of the two lines being flipped – when one is high, the other is low, and vice versa.

What this says to me is that Benn and Seguin are well deserving of their praise as night-after-night, hard battling, team driving guys. Literally no one tried harder to win against the Jets last night than these two.

And, well, that’s the problem. Other than the disastrous game against the Avalanche, Benn and Seguin have been leading the team’s possession metrics in every loss. They aren’t getting any help.

Here’s a quick snapshot of all the forwards against Detroit, ranked in Corsi (yes, the opponent measure):

Look at that professional-grade color coding

Notice anything?

That poorly drawn blue line? You guessed it – that’s where the individual corsi starts hurting the team. Did you figure out the color coding? Yep, that’s the entire third and fourth line with corsi at 35% or under.

Yes, Horcoff and Moen are mostly deployed in the defensive zone (Offensive Zone Start % of -28% and -46% respectively), but so were Sceviour, Eakin, and Spezza (-8%, -12.5%, -8%). Plus, Moen’s percentage is skewed by the fact that his ice time was limited by injury that game.

And it’s not a fluke, either.  Here’s how the lines rolled against Winnepeg last night:

And there it is again!

“But offensive zone starts!” You cry.

Sceviour, Benn, and Seguin all had OZS% of -44%.

Effectively, the Stars are rolling one line in losses. Here’s what it looks like when they win:

Wait, how am I supposed to tell what’s good without the blue line?

See the difference? Tyler Seguin had a 51% Corsi…and two goals. No one can say he didn’t play well in that game. But there’s a staggering jump for everyone else. (Oh, and the top 6 guys on that list? Average OZS % of -13%)

Which brings me to conclusion #1:

If the Stars are going to start winning games, they need to hold lines 2-4 accountable for puck possession – regardless of where they are on the ice.

What about those other 6 guys though? Yes, what about that terrible defense I mentioned earlier? Shouldn’t we just bench Jordie Benn and be done with it?


The floating dots really are supposed to be there, I promise.

No. We shouldn’t. In fact, Jordie Benn (the dark blue line) is trending better in Corsi Rel % than Goligoski (purple line). Over the last 7 games, Goligoski has only had a positive possession impact relative to everyone else on the team once, in that disheartening OT loss to the Wild.

Other than Jyrki Jokipakka (light blue line), the rookies have been all over the map. In particular, John Klingberg seems to have lost his magic touch which made him an offensive weapon in his first few games.

But, no D-man plays alone, at least not when they’re 5v5, so here’s a snap of how the pairings have done.

From Winnepeg to Detroit Pairing 1 is Goligoski-Daley, Pairing 2 is Demers-Benn, and Pairing 3 is Klingberg-Oleksiak/Jokipakka

From Toronto to Edmondton, Pairing 1 is Daley-Demers, Pairing 2 is Goligoski-Klingberg, and Pairing 3 is a mix of Benn, Oleksiak, and Jokipakka.

The first thing that jumps out here is that great big spike of Demers and Benn. I think this pairing is trending in the right direction (three games is too little data to shout ‘success!’), and I really hope that Ruff continues to play them together. Per Stats.HockeyAnalsis.Com, their Corsi when on-ice together is 56%. Their Goals/20 differential is negative, but then….it’s the Stars. Almost every D pairing is on ice for more goals against than goals for right now.

The second concern is that dark blue pairing 1 line. With Goligoski and Daley together, the most positive it gets is +0.295%. When it’s Daley-Demers, you see an uptick, but Goligoski and Klingberg are similarly disastrous (red line from Toronto onwards).

Season-wide, Daley-Goligoski have put up a 45% Corsi and a -.137 Goals/20 differential. Goligoski’s Corsi without Daley? 55%. Goligoski-Klingberg is a 53% Corsi and a +1.036 Goals/20. Again these are season stats relative to the competition, so not quite the same measure as the graph above.

The Daley-Demers pairing puts up a similarly troubling 49% Corsi, with Demers better off without Daley at 51%. In fact, Daley’s only “good” Corsi pairing thus far has been with Jamie Olesiak at 50% even, on a total of 6 minutes of ice time.

What does this tell us? Well, it means that not only are the rookies having inconsistent seasons, something not unexpected, it shows us that our veteran defense is hurting the team more than helping. If we’re looking at the short term numbers (the last seven games) it looks like Daley is trying to fight his way back from a really rough start, but that Goligoski has lost the plot. If Lindy is going to scratch a defenseman – I argue it should be Goligoski, and the lines could be run like this: Daley-Oleksiak, Demers-Benn, Klingberg-Jokipakka

Which brings me to conclusion #2:

Until Goligoski and Daley improve their 5v5 possession and start acting like the seasoned vets they are, the Stars aren’t going to be able to rely on their defense, and we’re going to see more of these horrible 5-2 losses.

So there you have it. Here’s hoping something turns around soon.



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