Toby Petersen really is a joy to be around.
He always has a smile on his face, he's extremely intelligent and plugged into sports (which stirs a lot of conversation whenever he is), and he's a hard worker who has overcome diabetes to make it in the NHL.
In short, he makes the locker room a much better place.
But at age 31 and in his third full season with the Stars, Petersen will have to continue to make the ice a better place, as well. He is coming off his best season statistically with nine goals and six assists in 78 games, but he will have to push for an even bigger bite with a team that needs scoring depth to go with its top-end talent.
Petersen was a healthy scratch four times in the first 33 games of the season but then became a lineup regular after Tom Wandell was hurt. Petersen is a versatile forward who can play all three forward positions, and he is a player who coaches trust to make the right decisions. He was plus-3 last season on a team full of minuses (tied for third on the Stars), and he was one of the rare players who was probably better on the road (5 goals, plus-4) than he was at home.
But, he still could be better. Generously listed at 5-10, 198, Petersen is a hustling player, but not necessarily a difficult player to play against. He is smart and reads the play well, but he is sort of an offensive-minded player who has made himself pretty good at defense. That allows him to play pretty well on any given line, but it also means he's not great at any one point of the game.
If the Stars are determined to get physicality on the fourth line, is Petersen the best fit? If they are going for a little more skill, how does that play on the strengths of players like Krys Barch, Brian Sutherby, Adam Burish or Brandon Segal? If Petersen is indeed the pivot on the fourth line, he needs to improve on the 44.4 percent faceoff winning percentage from last season.
Ironically, Petersen probably is best used as a checking line center who can make strong two-way players better offensively, but that role should be filled by Wandell this year on the third line. He definitely can fill in on the top lines in case of injury, but isn't that what players like Fabian Brunnstrom are here for? And if a top-line center like Brad Richards or Mike Ribeiro is hurt, doesn't that open the door for Jamie Benn to step into the center spot?
That's a long-winded way to say I'm not really sure where Petersen fits on the team this season. The good thing for him (and for the Stars) is there are a lot of answers to that question. We'll just have to wait and see what those answers are.