There was a time not too long ago when a major trade between the Sharks and Dallas Stars would have been as unthinkable as a major trade between the Sharks and Kings would seem today. But with realignment separating the two prior rivals into different divisions, the embargo has broken down and, with it, the respective fanbases' intimate knowledge of the opposing team's roster. To help us figure out exactly who Brenden Dillon is, we talked to Brandon Worley of the SB Nation Stars site Defending Big D.
Fear The Fin: What were your initial thoughts on the trade?
Defending Big D: Absolute shock.
Brenden Dillon is a big fan favorite in Dallas, and one of the more genuine and humble professional hockey players you'll ever meet. You just want guys like that on your team, in your locker room and it makes it really easy to want for him to succeed -- even in San Jose.
You also knew the Stars were going to be trying for something like this after Gonchar was traded, however I never would have thought it would have been Dillon that would be that key piece traded away.
FTF: It seemed like Dillon's sophomore season was a bit less impressive than his rookie campaign. Is that a fair assessment and, if so, how much of a factor was losing his regular partner Stephane Robidas to injury?
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Wilson: 'We were looking for a big left-shot dman'
Handedness clearly played a significant role in this deal for both teams as the Stars coveted a right-handed shot while the Sharks wanted a lefty to pair with Brent Burns.
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DBD: It seemed to be a combination of a couple of factors, starting with the loss of Robidas as his defensive partner. Dillon, when he had that veteran next to him, was a freewheeling, physical defenseman who was aggressive up and down the ice. In the corners he was the most physcial defenseman on the the team, and had a burst when carrying the puck you'd never expect from someone his size. Without Robidas, however, he struggled with added responsibility and was asked to play on his off side from time to time.
The new coaching staff also had Dillon dial back on his physical aggressiveness to try and get his positioning squared away. If there's one area where Dillon struggles, it's with making the right read and maintaining the right positioning in his own zone. The foot/ankle injury at the end of last season really seemed to set him back, and the offseason surgery plus contract holdout to start this season really set him up to struggle to start this year.
The good news is that it seems Dillon was getting back on track the past few weeks.
FTF: With 26 points in 149 career games, Dillon hasn't exactly been an offensive powerhouse thus far in his career. He was fairly productive in junior so do you think there's untapped offensive potential there?
DBD: There could be some untapped potential there. He has good vision with the puck when moving up the ice, but he also isn't the most accurate shot from the point. His lack of production has a lot to do with how he was used and who with -- for most of the past few years he's been almost completely used as a "defensive defenseman" against tough competition, and not always with the best teammates. I think there's potential there, but not much more than what he's shown. He'll surprise you with his offensive skill, though.
FTF: Brent Burns has been something of a wild card on defense for the Sharks since returning to the position at the start of this season. Is Dillon an ideal partner for that type of defenseman? How did he perform alongside similar blueliners like Trevor Daley or Alex Goligoski in Dallas?
It's interesting, because Dillon seemed to show he was at his best when he wasn't being relied upon to be the more defensively responsible of the two on his pairing. With Daley or Goligoski those combinations never really seemed to work well, and Dillon was at his best with someone like Robidas, or even John Klingberg these past few games. A defenseman who is solid in his own zone and won't put all the pressure on Dillon defensively will work best.
That being said, most Stars fans believe he's going to go to San Jose and play with Brent Burns and absolutely tear it up for the Sharks with that pairing.
FTF: Dillon's sporting a gnarly 975 PDO right now. Usually that indicates a player isn't getting the bounces but has his defensive play concerned you so far this season?
So, here is where the statistics and the eye test differ a bit. Josh Lile made a good point, and I want to quantify this with what he said, that it's the overall body of work that matters most and not the individual mistakes. But Dillon seemed to be significantly fighting the puck this season and wasn't nearly as aggressive along the boards as he's been in the past. He wasn't nearly as successful moving the puck up the ice and generating shots as he's been in the past...but this could be the same issue that Demers has faced as well, because overall it seems Dillon's numbers have been most affected by those he's played with.
Bottom line, I don't think there's anything overly concerning about Dillon's game long-term. Just know that it's been quite a while since he looked like the Brenden Dillon of two years ago.
Thanks to Brandon for his time and make sure to check out Defending Big D for the Stars perspective on today's trade.