A year after riding the league’s most prolific offense to a Central Division title, the Dallas Stars have been beset by injuries and currently sit on the outside looking in at a postseason berth. Obviously the absences of key players like Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, Mattias Janmark and Cody Eakin for parts – or in the case of Janmark, all – of the season has played a role. However, Mike Heika addressed another possible factor for the team’s on-ice struggles in a recent mailbag feature.
When asked what trade he would make if he were the GM to improve the Stars, Heika suggested making a relatively minor deal sending blue liner Patrik Nemeth to Detroit for a goalie prospect. While on the surface it’s difficult to envision a trade of this nature having much of an impact on the ice for either team, Heika reasons that moving one of the eight defensemen on the roster would “alleviate the pressure of eight defensemen for the players and the coaching staff and that could immediately make a player such as Jamie Oleksiak better.”
Ordinarily having quality depth is considered a good thing but perhaps not when it comes to the Stars blue line. As Heika suggests, carrying seven blue liners may allow head coach Lindy Ruff to more easily identify consistent defense pairings.
While this does not qualify as an actual trade rumor, Heika’s hypothetical deal does provide a look at what the Stars brass may actually consider at some point. The team does have solid depth on the back end and with neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen performing well between the pipes for Dallas, the Stars could certainly find themselves in the market for a young goaltender-of-the-future.
- Highly-regarded rookie Kevin Labanc isn’t exactly lighting up the league with just three goals and five points in the first 14 games of his NHL career. But after going scoreless in his first four, the 20-year-old winger – 21 on December 12th – has been more productive of late with all of his points coming in the last 10 contests. As Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes, the mini outburst from Labanc has already helped the youngster leapfrog veteran forwards Joonas Donskoi, Joe Thornton and Mikkel Boedker in the goal-scoring department. As Kurz notes, Labanc’s contributions have likely earned him a regular role on the Sharks for the balance of 2016-17.
- Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune provides an update on the status of Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook. Toews has missed the past eight contests with a back problem while Seabrook missed his first game of the season with an upper-body-injury. Hawks bench boss Joel Quennville has already said that before returning to the lineup, both players will need to skate with the team. To this point, neither player has been able to do so, though Seabrook’s injury is a recent development. The injury to Toews has to be of great concern to the Blackhawks. There is no timetable for a return and back injuries can be problematic, leading to the possibility Chicago’s top pivot could be odd for a while yet.