Over the past few seasons, an obvious weakness in the Leafs’ lineup has been the lack of a truly defensive blue-liner. Not to be confused with a lumbering stay-at-home guy who can push people around, we’re talking about a mobile defenceman who can be responsible positionally and make smart plays to turn the puck in the right direction. Stephane Robidas seems to fit that description, so his name has been bounced around as a potential Leafs trade target more than once in recent years.
Robidas was eventually brought into the fold when he joined the Leafs this summer on a three year deal. The signing was met with a somewhat mixed reaction, as his health and age were concerns, but overall the general sense has been that he should help the lineup more than hurt it, surely.
Robidas has been a workhorse for the Stars for a number of years, originally joining them in 2002 after beginning his career in Montreal. The Stars moved on from him this past spring, sending him to the Ducks as a playoff rental as his contract was expiring.
It’s no secret that last season was a difficult one for Robidas – not because of his performance, but due to a serious injury he suffered, breaking his right leg twice in six months. It’s easier to look back over the last few seasons if we want to get a good look at what he can bring to the Leafs.
Aside from the shortened season where Souray was in the mix, recently it seems the Stars have primarily run a top four of Dillon with Robidas (when healthy), and Goligoski with Daley. Since 2011, Robidas has played the most of his even-strength minutes with Dillon and Souray. Let’s see how he did with those players from a possession standpoint (TOI together in parentheses).
(numbers from HockeyAnalysis)
It appears Robidas can hold his own possession-wise, but note that Brenden Dillon, who he’s played the most with at 5-on-5, is certainly no anchor. Robidas had much more of an effect on Souray’s game. In either case, he was pulling his weight.
(numbers from war-on-ice)
Robidas presents as a top-four option at even-strength, but his powerplay numbers took a dive this past season. Prior to 2013-14, he had logged regular minutes for the Stars with the man-advantage, over 2 minutes per game, but those minutes were cut drastically to only 0:44 per game when Gonchar entered the mix last summer. Robidas remained a go-to option on the penalty kill though.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Leafs use him on the powerplay, especially if Franson is out for any amount of time.
If we’re to go by the way the lineup is shaping up heading toward the end of preseason, it looks like Robidas will partner up with Phaneuf on the Leafs’ top pairing. For Phaneuf, who’s been at the center of a lot of discussion over whether he has the ability to drive play in heavy minutes, Robidas should either help him get those numbers up, or at least help provide us with a clearer picture of what’s actually going on back there on the blue line.
By all accounts, Robidas has been a solid player during his career. He doesn’t rack up big point totals, but has shown himself to be a reliable player who can handle all situations and avoid getting swamped in his own zone. The big question now, of course, is whether he can continue to do it as a 37-year-old with a right leg that’s been through a hellish year.
There’s no doubt Robidas will see his play decline as his three-year contract with the Leafs moves along, but to what extent remains the worry. If there’s a significant drop-off immediately, due to injury or otherwise, the team has a major problem. But if right now he can bring that well-rounded game he’s shown with the Stars, and then we see his play slowly trail off with his contract, his signing will likely be looked upon as a smart one.
There isn’t much value in drafting Robidas in your fantasy league. He’ll play his share of minutes, but over his career he hasn’t shown much offence aside from a 41-point season in 2009-10. Career-wise, Robidas is a 0.28 point-per-game player, which translates to 23 points in a full season.
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