This week will feature a matchup that was debated a bit in the DobberHockey forums in a thread I replied to. There were some valid points made on both sides so I felt like a deeper look was warranted. So Goligoski vs. Josi it is.
First off, let’s just get this out there once more, defensemen are evil and I hate them. Their production bounces around like crazy from year to year because they score so few goals and are thus heavily reliant on their teammates to boost their point totals and unlike assist-heavy forwards they are seldom setting up tap-in goals so there is really not much they can do without good teammates. That means that minutes and situation are absolutely paramount to their production and that’s why this makes for a darn good Cage Match.
Both Goligoski and Josi play a ton of minutes for their teams. This season Goligoski skated 22:23 per game with 2:53 on the power play. It’s actually a bit disconcerting that Goligoski only skated 2:53 per game on the power play as Dallas received the fifth most power plays in the league this season. His total power play time amounted to only 48.7% of the Stars’ total power play minutes, meaning he was hardly being used as the offensive specialist we all think him to be.
This isn’t to say that Goligoski was getting the shaft. In fact, no defenseman on the Stars saw more offensive zone starts than Goligoski except Jamie Oleksiak, a 20-year-old rookie who played in just 16 games at less than 15 minutes a night. So this just shows that there’s room for either growth or concern here. Goligoski could easily see more power play time but there’s also a chance he just doesn’t deserve it and could be in for even less. The Stars did just spend the two weeks prior to the trade deadline loading up on puck moving defensemen. Either they think Goligoski needs some help or needs to get replaced. I believe that it’s the former and Dallas just wants to build from the net out but you never know. New Stars GM Jim Nill wasn’t behind those moves but you’d have to think he’s okay with having such a fine group of defensemen in the system.
Nill has yet to decide on the future of incumbent head coach Glen Gulutzan so there may be changes headed in Dallas. Gulutzan is not under contract for next season so he could be back but the team has no contractual obligations to him. A change could see a shift in the way Goligoski is deployed and the way the team plays in general.
The Stars were one of the higher scoring teams this season finishing in a tie for 11th in goals for but that stat is deceiving. They actually only scored 2.67 goals per game, which put them closer to the 27th placed Senators (2.33) than sixth placed Toronto (3.02). And considering the forward group in Dallas, especially prior to the trade deadline, that is pretty underwhelming. One hopes that change could mean improvement.
And certainly Goligoski could stand to improve, particularly with regard to his consistency but as I mentioned at the top defensemen don’t always get to control when they get points. Still, Goligoski’s start to the season was pretty mediocre. The sample size was small but when he scored just three points through his first 10 games it was a reflection of poor play rather than bad luck. He was given a healthy scratch for the 11th game of the season and followed that up with a two-assist performance once he got back into the lineup. He’d score 24 points over the next 37 games, which just further underscores what he is capable of when he’s on his game.
And let’s just hammer home the point that Goligoski has some damn fine forwards on his team right now. Even after trading away Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder the team still has a lot of talent up front with the likes of Jamie Benn, Ray Whitney, Loui Eriksson and Eric Cole. The Stars have enough talent to score more, particularly on the power play where they finished a mediocre 18th in efficiency this season at 17.0%. If they could keep garnering power play opportunities at the rate they did this season, while upping their efficiency Goligoski could score even more.
This isn’t to say that the Stars offense was terrible but rather to point out that there’s room for improvement. We still haven’t seen Benn take the leap to superstardom yet so that could certainly boost things in Dallas.
The big take away is that Dallas has talent there and that’s important because Nashville does not. Sure they’ve got Shea Weber for about a gillion dollars a year but up front, not so much. Josi does get bonus points for taking over Suter’s spot beside Weber though. Josi skated 23:32 per game this season with 2:53 coming on the power play and as FrozenPool will show us Josi pretty much lived beside Weber this season:
Playing beside Weber is good medicine for anyone’s fantasy value and certainly is for a youngster like Josi but it kind of sucks when Weber is also the team’s leading scorer, which he was for Nashville this season. This is not entirely surprising as Nashville has never had much of a forward group but at the same time Nashville’s offensive drop off this season did come as a bit of a surprise.
Last season the Predators scored at a top 10 rate (tied for eighth overall with 2.83 goals/game) combining scoring by committee with a tremendous power play (best in the league in efficiency at 21.6%). Their plummet this season to a tie for last with Florida in goal scoring at 2.27 goals/game is a bit inexplicable. They really only lost Suter this off-season but that just serves to highlight how important a defenseman can be to a team’s offense even if he’s only a decent point-producer.
Of course, there are some excuses that can be thrown around that aren’t just “Josi was no Suter”. The Predators top forward this season was Colin Wilson with 19 points in 25 games but he went down with an injury and missed the entire second half of the season. Patric Hornqvist and Paul Gaustad, while not great scorers, each only played half a season as well. The Predators also dealt their best offensive forward for the past several years at the deadline when they moved Martin Erat. Matters were compounded by the no-show performances from Sergei Kostitsyn and Craig Smith this season. The underwhelming nature of all these names should tell you all you need to know about the uphill climb Josi faces as he attempts to develop into a point producing defenseman but there is hope.
Nashville has a top four pick in this year’s draft, and will have a shot at drafting a game-changing forward like Nathan Mackinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Aleksander Barkov to name a few. The Predators haven’t drafted this high since their first ever NHL draft when they selected David Legwand second overall in 1998. Legwand is still a mainstay for the club so you can imagine they just hope to be that successful with their second ever top five pick but you have to think they’ve got dreams of something more considering their needs up front.
The Predators could also get a bit more luck in the health department this season, which could help revitalize their offensive output a bit. I’m not all that optimistic that good health will make a huge difference for Nashville’s offense. No doubt it will help. I’m just not sure how significant it will be with regard to improving Josi’s totals down the line. I also don’t think the Preds have a realistic shot at either Mackinnon or Drouin so that means Barkov and I’m no prospect expert but I’d venture a guess it will be a couple of years before he is driving a team’s offense to new heights even with the bar set so low. And really, we don’t know what Nashville is going to do with that pick. They could take a defenseman as they are often wont to do and that would help Josi very little.
There’s also the possibility that Nashville explores trading Weber. We don’t really know what the return on such a trade would be so it’s difficult to speculate if the return would help or hurt Josi but I’m going to follow the logic that if Weber is good medicine then losing Weber is bad medicine. It’s a long shot but you have to consider it.
In any case, Josi is way worse off than Goligoski from a teammate standpoint. They both eat up a ton of great offensive minutes but Goligoski is more proven with a 46-point season under his belt as well as a couple of 30-plus-pointers. And yes Goligoski is five years Josi’s senior so he damn well should be more proven, especially considering Josi has just two seasons of play for just 100 total games played under his belt but all that proves is that Josi has the mystery of the unknown on his side. Nuts to that though. I will take the bird in the hand every time.
I like Josi’s upside, it is damn intriguing but you’ve got to trust what you know and that’s that Goligoski is more than capable of getting you 40-points a season. You hope Josi gets you there but you don’t dare count on it.
Recent Cage Matches:
|Zach Bogosian vs. Erik Johnson|
|P.K. Subban vs. Kris Letang|
|Eric Staal vs. Anze Kopitar|
|Artem Anisimov vs. Shawn Matthias|
|Zach Parise vs. Alex Ovechkin|