Stars' defense driving improvement

Stars' defense driving improvement

Credit: Getty Images

Jamie Benn's return to the ice has played a major factor, but the Stars are being propelled by improved blueline play. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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by JOSH LILE

WFAA sports blogger

Posted on February 12, 2013 at 6:48 PM

The Stars' recent return to the win column is no fluke. The play of Jamie Benn is receiving a large amount of the attention, but make no mistake about it: the improved defensive zone play of the blue line is spearheading the effort.

 
The weakest link of the current top six defenders is rookie Jamie Oleksiak, a giant (6'7, 242) 20-year old still growing into his body. And, not surprisingly, the only weak aspect so far has been his contribution offensively. The only defenseman thus far who has demonstrated a superior  ability to suppress shots has been Aaron Rome. 
 
The offense is a concern though. The Stars are going to need Oleksiak to develop more offensively, and the ideal place to do that is in the AHL. Currently, only eight defensemen in the entire league are on the ice for fewer shot attempts per 60 minutes. Interestingly enough, among those eight are Shea Weber, Andy Greene, Ryan Ellis, and Adam Larsson. 
 
Another name on that list is Hal Gill, who was one of the comparables used to project Oleksiak’s future on draft night. It wasn’t a kind comparison.
 
On the other side of the ledger, the Stars' top offensive defenseman has been Aaron Rome. Rome, who has only been in five games so far, has easily been the Stars top defender in those games. He isn’t going to get the notoriety of a Trevor Daley or Alex Goligoski, but he makes the simple play to get the puck up the ice. The Stars generate 26.8 shots per 60 minutes with Rome on the ice, 26 with Daley, and 25.5 with Goligoski. 
 
Unfortunately, none of those three have been near elite offensive levels. They’re better, but given the amount of shots allowed so far with Goligoski and Stephane Robidas on the ice the Stars are going to need more coming from this group to make a legitimate claim on a playoff spot.
 
With all that being said, it's at least nice to watch a competent group take the ice for a change. This definitely isn’t the Stars' blue line of the past few seasons. 
 
Follow Josh lile on Twitter at @JoshL1220

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