Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill views defensemen the same way many baseball general managers view pitchers.
“You can never have too many defensemen,” Nill said Tuesday night while watching Dallas top Vancounver 6-3 at American Airlines Center. “That’s one spot you always want to be loaded up at. You never know when someone is going to have to step into a different role.”
It’s one thing to believe in that adage. It’s another to have the players in place to practice it.
That’s the luxury Nill sees, though, when he looks at the Texas Stars roster.
While Jyrki Jokipakka was tapped for the most recent call-up, filling in for an injured Patrik Nemeth, Nill said any of the six defensemen who played for Texas on opening night could have been NHL-ready at a moment’s notice.
“We look at the back end and we think we’ve got six or seven defensemen who can really come up at any time and play in a pinch for us,” Nill said. “We haven’t played a lot of games (in the AHL) yet, but they’ve shown that (ability).”
With Nill watching both home games at Cedar Park Center, Texas’ defenseman have backed up his claim so far this season. While it’s a small sample size of three total games, Texas leads the American Hockey League with a 1.33 goals-against average.
On Tuesday, Nill categorized players on NHL contracts like Cameron Gaunce, John Klingberg, and Julius Honka as potential call-ups in the future. He also talked about Derek Meech and Maxime Fortunus — two players on AHL-only contracts — as options whom Dallas would consider in case of an injury.
Last season, Fortunus was signed to an NHL contract midway through the season. He then recorded his first NHL assist in a 5-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in December.