Depth depth depth. These players are are often the grinders, sometimes the youngsters, and likely less skilled than top line talent. Sometimes, they are leaders by action. Eric Nystrom, Guy Carbonneau, Grant Marshall, Steve Ott, and more recently, Antoine Roussel (just to name a few).
The days of having space for a pure enforcer are quickly fading away (this is a topic for another day). With players constantly getting faster and stronger, your liability while on the ice MUST be limited. You also need to give your top guys a break. It's awesome if your depth players don't get scored on (often depth lines can be defense-centric) but it's even more important that they can pull their weight on offense.
The Stars have the right guys to make this happen. Antoine Roussel, despite popular belief, is NOT a fourth line fighter who should play 5-10 minutes a game. He's fast, he's gritty, and he has better hands than you think. While I believe he can be effective somewhere in the middle 6, Lindy Ruff has given him a chance to shine by giving him good ice time (rolling four lines).
Along with Roussel, Vern Fiddler and Ryan Garbutt are two fine complements to Roussel's play. Garbutt has tons of speed, he has also racked up many prime scoring chances lately. Fiddler is a defensive mogul and hard working center-man. Anyone who knows the game and has watched this team sees his value. I know depth is not limited to these three guys but they are my focus today, because we saw the results of their production versus Anaheim two nights ago.
Roussel had two goals, Garbs had a goal and two assists and Vern racked up two assists. These are Benn-Seguin numbers, right? Well Benn-Seguin can't do that every night; hockey doesn't work that way. My point is everyone needs to contribute. If you're firing from all directions, every matchup, you not only wear down the opposing players but you also send opposing coaches into disarray with matchups. It's a long term thing. It's a mental thing. It's a physical thing.
Bottom line is: look at every contender for the past several years. Take the 2013 cup winning Blackhawks: Brian Bickell, Michael Frolik, Andrew Shaw, just to name a few. Johnathan Toews wasn't terrible, but he was not producing to his potential; depth scoring (and of course, Patrick Kane) stepped up and filled in the holes. These guys were almost the centerpiece of their playoff push in not only effort, but also production, numbers, and clutch scoring.
You might be more familiar with the 1999 cup winning Dallas Stars; remember Mike Keane? Brian Skrudland? Guy Carbonneau? Looking back, behind Joe Niewendyk and Ed Belfour, these players felt like the life-blood of that team.
Not only will depth production carry this team to the playoffs but it will get them deep in the post season with injuries, slumps, and fatigue taking their toll. The Stars need them to play well in their own zone and they need to see production from time to time. This is a constant we all need to watch going forward as this team only gets better; the consistency is all that is missing.
For your viewing pleasure, I have included highlights from Tuesday's glorious depth-induced win. Enjoy.