Last year, it was Brett Ritchie. After a summer of optimism surrounding the big young right winger, fans were a bit blindsided by the announcement of a wrist surgery that would keep Ritchie out for a goodly chunk of games. Ritchie never quite ended up making a big impact on the Stars' lineup even after his return, ending up with only 10 games played by the time golfing season arrived.
Way back in 2014-15, the Stars ended up starting the season without Sergei Gonchar or, of course, Rich Peverley. Neither would end up factoring into a disappointing season, unless you count the resultant trade for Travis Moen as one of consequence. (As I most certainly do, since it cleared a spot for John Klingberg, but let's stay focused.)
This year, the rash of injuries has been tougher to stomach, true enough. The Patrik Nemeth and Valeri Nichushkinlost seasons in years gone by weren't nothing, but this offseason has felt even more brutal. Still, if you had told me two years ago that Jason Spezza would be the only fully healthy Dallas Center come October 1, 2016, I would have been terrified for this season. Also, I would have been thrilled, because let's not forget the supposed back issues that everyone's favorite 1C-as-2C was rumored to be fighting, and hey, he wasn't getting any younger, right? Jason Spezza scored 33 goals last year.
So, what's the situation? This is the situation:
-Cody Eakin is out until November with a banged-up knee.
-Mattias Janmark's season looks unlikely to happen, and his career (it hurts me to even write that) is going to be under a cloud of concern for the next three months, at least.
-Tyler Seguin (fractured heel bone) is supposed to start skating this week, but I can't help but be a bit skeptical that he'll be ready for opening night. Nonetheless, that is the Stars' stated target at this time.
-Jamie Benn has yet to see game action, but that is supposed to happen this week as well. I am not worried aboutJamie Benn's core muscles, because we all know Jamie Benn's core is made of a bionic alloy of heart, flesh and cold titanium.
-Radek Faksa has returned to game action after his concussion, which is a positive thing in spite of the brain trauma inherent in the word "concussion." Rub some dirt on it and take off that danged helmet, as the Ducks' new old coach might say. (Note: I will be mentioning that the Ducks actually really re-hired Randy Carlyle in every single thing I write this year. Carpe diem.)
-Jason Dickinson redeemed his Free Hip Surgery coupon (given to all Stars players upon their arrival in DFW) and is out until at least November. I would not expect him to be 100% for a little while after that, at least.
-Devin Shore's ankle is allowing him to skate again. His recovery is near-term but still in-progress.
-Ales Hemsky's strained groin muscle is slated to be functional come opening night, October 13th.
Phew. That's a big infirmary round we just made (and that's not counting the "Nuke's hurt feelings" joke sitting there for the taking), but the picture is worth painting one more time: Dallas has been through it in the injury department lately.
The notable thing here though--and please don't construe this as an out-and-out positive even though I guess I sort of am construing it as a not-negative--is that all of these injuries are to the Stars' deepest area: the forwards corps. Or, I guess, what used to be the Stars' deepest area, now. Really thoguh: for all the talk about the glut of young defensemen in Dallas, top-six forward is the one area where Dallas can at least acquit themselves well with an on-the-fly retooling as they've been forced to do. After all, how many teams could suffer an injury to or loss of nine forwards (seven if you don't count Dickinson or Shore) and still be ready to ice what still looks to be a top-five attacking group? I mean, look at the top-nine Dallas has despite unexpectedly losing 93(!) points' worth of production in Janmark, Eakin and Nichushkin:
*Currently recovering from injury
That's depth, that is. Yes, those asterisks are meaningful, but the only one that really gives me pause at this point is Seguin, and that's at least a big ol' straightforward hunk of bone instead of something muscular or vascular. The Stars also have Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie and Adam "Where-oh-where-will-he-fit-we-said-in-July" Cracknell along with (hopefully) Devin Shore, and that's assuming Dallas doesn't deign to go shopping in the discount sectionto bridge the gap, which they easily could do. When it comes to filling out the fourth line and other sundry roles, there are always options.
And speaking of options, the Stars also have desirable assets to spare should they need to make a middling trade or something. Barring a straight-up swap, $4.5 million in cap space is a nice thing in times like these, too, should another team have a too-expensive veteran they'd be happy to unload. This will not be the team we hoped for, but this also won't be the team Dallas's opponents might have hoped for, either. These Stars will score goals.
I'm not trying to paint in pastels here. Things could be better. The Dallas Stars might not have the best goaltending situation in the NHL. The defense is a mixed bag, but John Klingberg is most certainly anything but, and early reports about his work with Dan Hamhuis are good. Beyond that, look at it this way: if you were asked to compile a bottom-four defense with the likes of Stephen Johns, Johnny Oduya, Esa Lindell, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn, I think you could find it in your heart to make it work quite well, thank you very much.
Opening night approaches, and for all the time Jim Nill has to spend updating us on injuries, I find myself not too terribly worried about how Game 1 and beyond will go. I am excited for hockey to start, and the Stars have, once again, the makings of a good-to-very-good hockey team. Weaknesses will be addressed, players will heal, and new obstacles will arise in their own time. But when the puck drops next week, there will be, I think, far more reasons to be thrilled than to be worried*.
*Unless you're Ryan Getzlaf.