One of Krys Barch's favorite bands is Rush.
A 30-year-old kid from the Toronto area liking one of Toronto's most iconic bands _ it's not that much of a stretch, right?
But I was watching the Rush documentary ``Beyond the Lighted Stage'' the other night, and I found a real tie between Barch and Rush. I never really got Rush growing up, but some of my friends thought it was the greatest band ever. In watching the documentary on Rush, the film-makers acknowledged that many people didn't like Rush, and that the band almost didn't make it. But they talked to musicians, and the musicians all thought the band was ground-breaking. They understood the details behind the musical work, and said that as far as musicians go, the trio of Neal Pert, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee deserved an immense amount of respect.
Krys Barch is kind of that way with hockey people. The masses don't always see the work he does, but those inside really seem to like him. Barch is a fighter first and foremost, but he also can be a checking line forward, an agitator and an energy guy. And, in a limited role, the coaches trust that he can do those jobs and do them well.
That's one of the reasons Barch has become an important part of the Stars. Two seasons ago when the Stars were battling injuries, Dave Tippett used Barch in 72 games, averaging 6:27 in ice time. He finished with four goals and five assists and was plus-1. Last season under new coach Marc Crawford, Barch still found a way to be productive, playing in 63 games and averaging 7:03 in ice time. He finished with zero goals, six assists and was even. Had he not suffered a calf laceration and missed the last nine games of the season, he probably would have matched his career high for games played.
So, while he is ``just'' a role player, two separate coaches found pretty good use for him, and the Stars decided to sign him to a two-year contract extension with a significant raise. Barch made $575,000 last season and will get a boost to $825,000 this year. The Stars gave some raises to veteran role players at a time when they could have opened the door for some younger prospects, and that clearly is a decision that has the chance to be proven wrong in the future. But as it was with Rush, the insiders might see something that we don't.
Barch is reliable, he understands the system and he works well within the system. He had 120 hits last season (eighth on the team), and he was able to avoid significant mistakes when he was trying to pump up the energy. He helped defend his teammates with 20 fights (eighth in the league), and while he doesn't strike the fear that some other brawlers do, he typically stands up pretty well against other fighters.
That's not going to knock your socks off as a fan, but it is an important part of putting together a team _ and the Stars obviously feel Barch is an important part of this team. He is one of the team's leaders in the locker room and a key guy with the NHL Players Association. He also seems pretty good at knowing what he can't do. Barch has been a pretty decent scorer at lower levels (23 goals among 49 points in 56 games in one junior hockey season with London; 10 goals among 15 points with Portland in one specific 76 game stretch in AHL; and 10 goals among 14 points in 14 games in his last stint in the ECHL in 2005-06), so there is the temptation to try to do more or to even demand a bigger slice of the game from the coaches. Past enforcers have tried that with the Stars, and it has proven to be a distraction.
Barch understands his role, and he has been a good soldier for coaches, and that's one of the reasons he continues to get opportunities. Will we see him step forward even further this season and possibly score more points or gain more time on ice? We'll see. The Stars signed Adam Burish as a free agent, and there is a strong push from younger players to help out on the bottom six. In fact, there could be a decent battle for ice time among players such as Barch, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, Adam Burish, Tom Wandell, Brandon Segal and Fabian Brunnstrom. But the Stars have made a significant financial commitment to Barch, so the guess here is he will continue to be a significant part of the lineup.
He obviously has the support of the people behind the scenes.