Brenden Dillon Hero Chart (via Own The Puck):
The Good: Brenden Dillon isn't an elite defenseman but he is a rare one; blueliners who combine the ability to skate and move the puck at an above-average level with size and physicality are few and far between in today's NHL. It was a refreshing change of pace to see the Sharks acquire someone who possesses all of those traits after years of pylons like Douglas Murray, Niclas Wallin, Colin White, Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan holding down the requisite "big and hits people" spots in the defensive lineup.
At even-strength, Dillon's reach and mobility helped him be the team's best defenseman at suppressing unblocked shot attempts and the Sharks' second best possession defenseman overall after Brent Burns. Speaking of Burns, some of the best hockey the converted forward played all season came when paired with Dillon. With those two on the ice together, the Sharks controlled nearly 55% of shot attempts although some unfortunate bounces (like this one, in Dillon's first game in teal) sunk their goal-based results. From his team-leading underlying defensive numbers to his crisp outlet passes to his willingness to drop the gloves, there was something to like about Dillon's game this season no matter what you value in a defenseman.
The Bad: Despite a lot being made of his booming point shot in the aftermath of the trade, Dillon didn't make any sort of an impact offensively with the Sharks. That's a bit of a concern considering the Sharks traded a defenseman who looks like a fairly consistent 25 to 30-point scorer going forward in Jason Demers for him. Some of that was a lack of opportunity as Dillon never saw a regular shift on San Jose's second power play unit and some of it was rotten luck as the Sharks cashed in just 6% of their shots when he was on the ice but, to a large extent, Dillon probably isn't a player the team should expect a significant offensive contribution from in the future. He can move the puck in the right direction but isn't of much use once it's in the offensive zone. That makes it all the more imperative that the Sharks re-sign Matt Irwin this summer so that Burns isn't the lone threat on the blueline.
Dillon also had his share of defensive mishaps, particularly when forced to play his off-side alongside rookie Mirco Mueller for stretches in February and March. In defense of Dillon, though, that's a tough role to be saddled with and some of his mistakes perhaps tended to be more memorable because he couldn't buy a save behind him for much of the season. When Dillon was on the ice at even-strength, Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock combined to stop just 90.8% of the shots they faced, an extremely low on-ice save percentage we can safely assume will regress towards league average (around .922, which is basically what Dillon's on-ice SV% was over his two years in Dallas) next season.
Dillon only scored twice for the Sharks this season (and technically one of those was courtesy Matt Beleskey sliding the puck into his own net) but this was a big one, breaking a 2-2 third period deadlock in Arizona with what would hold up as the game winner. The Minnesota Wild have this five-hole stinker of a goal to thank for their current spot in the Western Conference Semifinals as the goalie who allowed it was one Devan Dubnyk, traded the very next day for a third round pick.
The Future: Dillon will be a restricted free agent this summer who the Sharks will obviously look to lock up, although that might be easier said than done. Dillon's camp played hardball in negotiations with the Stars last year and the sides couldn't come to an agreement until October 2nd, part of what soured that organization on Dillon. His lack of offensive production and three remaining RFA years likely take Dillon out of the running for the kinds of mega-extensions similar defensemen in Marco Scandella and Chris Tanev received (five years for between $4 and $4.5 million annually apiece). It'll be interesting to see whether his camp pushes for another one-year, "show me" type deal banking on some favorable percentage regression next season or if the Sharks push for a longer-term deal that buys up UFA years for around $3 million a year or less.
At any rate, the 24-year-old figures to be a top-four anchor in San Jose for years to come. Assuming Burns stays on defense, Dillon would be an ideal partner for him, giving the Sharks one of the better second pairings in the league. Dillon was also effective when paired with Matt Tennyson this year, who will be with the big club barring trade given that the second year of his contract is a one-way, so that's another option for an excellent third pairing provided the Sharks find someone else, either Irwin or a free agent signing, to pair with Burns.
The Vote: Grade Dillon below on a typical grading curve from A+ to F based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season. If he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a A+; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a C+ or C; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him an F.