On Wednesday afternoon, Dallas Stars’ general manager Jim Nill announced that Alexander Radulov and Ben Bishop would miss the remainder of the season. The announcement just adds to the many setbacks this Stars team has faced this season. So what does this mean for the team going forward?
Offensive Depth Taking a Hit Without Radulov
The 34-year-old forward will have to get surgery to repair a core muscle injury. Radulov, who is a key player for the Stars’ offense, has played in just 11 games this season (the last being on March 18 against the Detroit Red Wings). This season with Radulov in the lineup, Dallas has a record of 6-3-2 and 9-11-10 without him. It’s clear to see that he’s had a major impact on the team. He’s crucial to the talented core of players the Stars have, and Dallas is a better team with him in the lineup.
He is a threat offensively, whether it’s at five-on-five, special teams play, or during overtime and the shootout. In the 11 games he appeared in, he totaled five goals (one being a game-winner in a shootout against the Colombus Blue Jackets) and eight assists for 12 points. The winger is also consistently one of the team’s top offensive players. Last season, he ranked fourth in points amongst the Stars roster. The year prior, he ranked second.
Offensive production isn’t the only thing that Radulov brings to the team. His presence in the team’s morale is also one of his notable strengths. Head coach Rick Bowness discussed how the team has been missing the energy Radulov brings to the team.
“When he’s not in the lineup, we really miss him. He’s a tremendous competitor, so he gives energy to the bench, gives energy to our offensive game because you give him the puck in the offensive zone and good luck trying to get it off of him. We miss him. It’s disappointing.”NHL.com
The Stars Will Have to Continue Relying on Others for Goaltending
Ben Bishop, who hasn’t played a single game, was also ruled out for the remainder of the season. He will continue to rehab from surgery he got in October to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. The original plan was that he’d be ready for the beginning of the season, but it was then said that his recovery time would be extended to late March.
Sadly, his recovery timeline is again pushed back. In his absence, Anton Khudobin has assumed and held the starter role with rookie Jake Oettinger as his backup. While the two goalies have really embodied the Stars’ ‘Next Man Up’ mentality, having Bishop back would relieve a lot of the pressure the two goalies are carrying.
Last postseason we saw how Khudobin was able to lead the team to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final when Bishop was unable to. Much of that same gritty play that Khudobin displayed has carried over into the 2020-21 regular season. He continues to come up clutch for the Stars whenever they need a big save, and gives the team everything he’s got when he’s between the pipes.
Khudobin also has support from the 22-year-old rookie Oettinger. Before this season, Oettinger hadn’t appeared in a regular-season NHL game. Nevertheless, he’s impressed everyone with his ability to adapt to NHL play so quickly and successfully. Although the two goalies have been successful without Bishop, it wouldn’t hurt to have him back. Khudobin would be able to assume his role as backup, and Oettinger would go play with the Stars’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
This would relieve a lot of the pressure that’s been put on Khudobin and Oettinger, who have supported the team in roles that they aren’t used to being in.
While it is positive to see that the Stars can rely on Khudobin and Oettinger this season, Bishop is still the Stars’ main goalie, and the hope is that he’ll be able to return to play next season.
Both Radulov and Bishop are expected to be ready for the 2021-22 season. Until then, the Stars will have to continue to persevere in the pursuit of a playoff spot without two of their core players.