Faceoffs: Checking in on the Stars' possession battle

Stars vs. Red Wings

Credit: Getty Images

Michael Ryder #of the Dallas Stars battles for the puck with Kent Huskins of the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Joe Louis Arena on January 22, 2013. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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by JOSH LILE

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 4:17 PM

Faceoffs have settled into a delicate niche within hockey. Each individual faceoff isn’t all that valuable, but collectively the sum total of faceoff wins is important for a team. The name of the game is possession. Winning a faceoff afford a team the opportunity to gain possession. So, logically, it’s a good idea to win as many as possible.
 
Unfortunately for the Stars they weren’t very good at that last year. As a group the Stars' top four designated faceoff players won only 49% of the draws they attempted. From last season’s roster the Stars moved both their top face off taker (Steve Ott), and their worst (Mike Ribeiro). The 2nd worst, Jamie Benn, has yet to play a game.
 
The Stars' faceoff percentage is actually down from last year’s 49%. Through three games the team's top 5 faceoff takers have combined to win only 47%. Vernon Fiddler is riding high at 61%. Derek Roy has won 59% of his draws, and has taken twice as many faceoffs as anyone else on the roster. The Stars' problems on the dot so far this season have come from Cody Eakin, Tom Wandell, and Ray Whitney.
 
That trio has combined to win only 25% of the 63 faceoffs they’ve taken. Whitney is a winger, so his 2/13 contribution shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The only real surprise is that through three games he has inexplicably taken 13 faceoffs. Wandell isn’t known for his faceoff prowess either. The most troubling aspect early on is Eakin.
 
Eakin has done a lot of good through three games. His game is an excellent fit for what the Stars want to be about going forward. But he can’t continue to win one out of every four faceoffs. 
 
It's early, however - and you can expect his winning percentage to climb. He may end up a solid faceoff man, but the early results are a little discouraging. With Jamie Benn being below average on the draw the Stars will need some young players to eventually show that they can help out. Eakin will continue to get his shot this year. The Stars really need him to keep improving.
 
Follow Josh Lile on Twitter at @JoshL1220.

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