If there is one thing that has devastated the Dallas Stars over the past two seasons, it is injuries. After their incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, the team released a massive list of injuries that occurred before or during the playoffs. While all teams battle through injuries in the postseason, this list was excessive, and likely longer than any other team in the league.
Unfortunately, their bad luck was only beginning as they headed into the 2020-21 shortened season. With only 56 games on the schedule, Dallas played the most condensed schedule in the NHL due to multiple postponements. This made injuries more common, and even more destructive, as every game felt like the playoffs. Heading into an important 2021-22 season, the top question has to be, can the Stars finally stay healthy?
2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The run to the Stanley Cup Final will forever be remembered in Dallas as one of the most exciting and surprising in Stars’ history. The team exceeded expectations, found its lost offense, and pushed through multiple top contenders to finish within two wins of the second championship in franchise history. After the Game 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the organization officially released the list of injuries that took place during the playoffs. This list contained nearly every player on the roster, and showed just how much adversity they faced.
Ben Bishop was coming off knee surgery in May and aggravated the injury during the round-robin portion. He subsequently played in only three games during the playoffs. Stephen Johns missed the entire playoffs and needed to retire in 2021 following concussion problems. Roope Hintz fractured his ankle in the Western Conference Final before he eventually injured his hip in the Stanley Cup Final, missing the last two games of the series. Tyler Seguin was dealing with a severe knee and hip injury that required offseason surgery. Other injuries included Radek Faksa (fractured wrist), John Klingberg (shoulder), Miro Heiskanen (hips), Jamie Benn (shoulder), Andrew Cogliano (undisclosed), Anton Khudobin (numbness in hand, required offseason surgery), Blake Comeau (separated shoulder), and Jason Dickinson (foot).
Many of these players played through these injuries, but some did miss time. To put it simply, you cannot win a championship on one leg, and Dallas fell two wins short as they seemingly ran out of bodies and gas in the end.
The injuries last season began before the puck dropped, as Seguin and Bishop expected to miss most of the year following offseason surgeries. Unfortunately for both players, their recoveries took longer than anticipated due to the condensed schedule and lack of practice time. Bishop did not return, while Seguin played in only three games all season. As for the other injuries, we discussed these in a recent article, so I will not go through the entire list again.
Without a doubt, this was the number one reason that Dallas missed out on the playoffs last season. They seemed to be stuck in the mud throughout the year, and made fatal mistakes or ran out of energy far too often. Playing the second half of their season on an extremely condensed schedule only made matters worse, and heightened the effect these injuries had on the roster. With all of the injuries and adversity they faced, they still only missed the playoffs by three points. Imagine what the team could have done with just a few of those names back in the lineup.
Heading Into Next Season
Heading into next season, it is vital that Dallas finds a way to stay healthy. With many big contracts ending next summer and their core players reaching the end of their prime, this season is extremely important for the franchise. Not only is it important for them to stay healthy, but they also need to start healthy. With all the adversity we spoke about above, this team is desperate for an emotional boost. That boost can come from a fully healthy lineup on opening night. Although it is a long season, if a few players need to miss the first game or two, all of the sudden it could feel like deja vu all over again.
Most of the previously mentioned players are expected to be healthy at the start of training camp and should have the full preseason to ramp up to full speed. The biggest questions will be surrounding Bishop, Seguin, Radulov, and Hintz, who all underwent major surgeries. How will these players respond to a full season? Can Bishop finally return and stay in the lineup? Will Seguin be productive? Can Hintz repeat or improve his performance from last season? Do they have enough depth to deal with some injuries along the way?
These questions will be answered throughout camp and into the regular season and will play a huge role in the success of this team. If Dallas is able to stay healthy, look for them to be among the contenders for not only the Central Division but also the Stanley Cup.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!