It seems like every year there’s that one team we look back at and say ‘holy crap were they ever crushed by injuries.’
The defending champ of that crown is probably the Montreal Canadiens, a team that entered last season expected to make a deep playoff run, then got off to an historical start, even by standards for what is one of the most decorated franchises in sports. Well, then all-world goaltender and 2015 Hart Trophy winner Carey Price had his season derailed by injuries, as was right-winger/top-six pest Brendan Gallagher (limited to 53 games). P.K. Subban suffered a neck injury in a collision with Alexei Emelin on March 10, with the Habs trying to hang on in the playoff race. He missed the final 14 games of the season.
The preseason favorite for that non-trophy might be Dallas, who saw its Walking Wounded group expanded on Friday morning with the news of Mattias Janmark expected to be out 5-6 months after having a ‘joint issue’, a Stars GM Jim Nill put it, needing surgical reinforcement.
The Janmark news is the latest shoe to drop, as the Swedish forward is coming off a fine rookie season in which he scored 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games. He joins Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, and Tyler Seguin on the Dallas disabled list as the preseason slate rolls along.
The big name on that list, of course, is Seguin, who had a hairline fracture in his heel discovered during an MRI two weeks ago. The injury doesn’t appear serious, but a heel is not something you want to play around with. Seguin had 73 points in 72 games last season, his third in Dallas. He has 234 points in 223 games for Dallas since being sent south in the Independence Day blockbuster trade between the Stars and the Boston Bruins in 2013. He’s assisted on 57 of the 110 goals Jamie Benn has scored over the last three seasons.
The four players take 176 points off the ice, which comes after the 37 lost via the departure of defenseman Alex Goligoski, who signed with Arizona over the summer. When you factor in Seguin’s repertoire with Benn, who is second behind only Sidney Crosby with 255 points in three seasons since becoming Seguin became his centerman (his 193 points in his first four NHL seasons prior was tied for 54th), you can take a few more points off the board.
And even Benn is working his way back from an injury himself, having undergone a procedure to fix an injured core muscle in July.
Dallas’s ability to put the puck in the net, the electricity of Seguin and Benn (did we mention Valeri Nichushkin going to the KHL?), was the primary reason why the Stars had its first 50-win season since 2006 and reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The need for the team defense to improve has been heavily emphasized, and wasn’t helped with Goligoski, who led the Stars with 23:50 of ice-time per game, signing with the Coyotes. Jason Demers, who logged 2:23 of shorthanded time per game for the Stars in 2016-17, signing with Florida in the offseason.
Vernon Fiddler, who took a brunt of the defensive zone faceoffs along with Eakin, is now in New Jersey.
Luckily for the Stars, heavy lifter Johnny Oduya is back to lead the Dallas back end while John Klingberg should continue to take steps in his emergence as an elite NHL blueliner. Jason Spezza is a reliable three-zone pivot, who won 54.8 of the 981 faceoffs he took last season.
The Stars are continuing to build its defense and gain ground on its Western Conference competition that prides itself on complete 200-foot play. But the possible loss of that offensive safety net that’s existed in recent seasons could prove a rocky start for the Stars.