The Dallas Stars often make it hard to defend their ability to develop players. The swapping of Denis Gurianov with Erik Condra appears to be another in a string of head scratching moves, but I’m not sure questioning it is fair to either player.
I genuinely believe that Gurianov should be on the NHL roster because I do believe he is one of the Stars top 12 forwards. He brings an offensive spark they’ve needed all season when he is at his best. I get sending him down temporarily if they think he isn’t consistently demonstrating that ability.
I think you can very easily make an argument that Condra is among the Stars top 12 forwards also, and that he should also be up and playing. Whether that should be in place of Gurianov or not is debatable, but over his career he has demonstrated significantly more value in terms of Goals Above Replacement than many of his Stars contemporaries.
I pulled the GAR totals from Evolving-Hockey and put them over a 60 minute pace to even out the ice time discrepancies. Val Nichushkin’s rookie season gave him enough of a head start to stay ahead of Condra on a rate basis, but many of the others can’t touch the value he has brought in his NHL career on an hourly basis.
Hell, he has almost the same cumulative GAR total as Blake Comeau in less than half of the minutes.
It’s important to point out that GAR is descriptive, not prescriptive. There is no guarantee that since Condra has put these totals on the board in the past that he can continue to do it after a couple years absence from the NHL. On the other hand, he has 34 points in 32 games for the Texas Stars this year. When you combine that with his defensive reputation it isn’t hard to see why the Trying To Win Now Stars would prefer him on the roster over Gurianov at the moment.
What are some things we know about what Condra has done in the NHL? Evolving-Hockey breaks GAR down into Even Strength, Power Play, Penalty Killing, and Penalty Differential components.
Across the board Condra either breaks even or provides above replacement level value historically. He is historically the best penalty killer of the group, and he draws as many penalties as he takes.
The problem here is that Condra is making $750,000. The rest of those guys combined are making $12,700,000 to not be discernibly better than the guy coming off the street. If you lump Pitlick in with him you have arguably two of the three best players on this list combining to make less than half of what Nichushkin, Shore, Comeau, or Janmark each make individually.
That isn’t a particularly good indicator that the front office is moving in the right direction. Roster decisions with the bottom nine forwards have been sketchy at best for several reasons. This doesn’t even touch the bag of money they handed the injury-prone Martin Hanzal. Poor talent identification on the bottom of the roster is the key reason the Stars aren’t at the top of the conference right now.
Calling up Condra appears like it could definitely help that group. Bringing Gurianov back when he rounds back into form should too. The Stars have the horses to play in the bottom six. Now they need to do a better job of identifying them to allow them to spend more appropriately to fill other holes.