The one thing the Dallas Stars couldn’t have planned for this season was the sheer number of man games they’d lose to start the season.
As of Monday, Cody Eakin, Patrick Sharp and Mattias Janmark were all on injured reserve. The summer and early season has also seen Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Eaves, Jiri Hudler and Jamie Oleksiak out of action. None of that is to include the departure of once-promising prospect Valeri Nichushkin, who up and left the NHL for the KHL as an unsigned restricted free agent, or the fact that the Stars have now also lost Ales Hemsky for what could be the entire regular season.
The Stars announced that Hemsky, 33, has been placed on the IR and will be out five to six months with a labral tear in his hip. The injury, the Stars said, was suffered at the World Cup of Hockey, where Hemsky represented the Czech Republic.
Losing Hemsky may not be on par with losing Seguin or Benn for five to six months, but at this juncture of the campaign — and with the way the Stars have played thus far — being without any effective offensive player is a significant blow. Hemsky has 15-goal, 40-point potential, and at a time when the Stars’ offense is struggling, having a creative playmaker in the lineup could make a big difference.
Through eight games this season, Dallas sits second-last in the Central Division with a 3-4-1 record, but it’s not the results that have been necessarily concerning for the Stars. An early season record below .500 can be the result of a few bad bounces here and there. What is worrisome, though, is the lack of offensive production.
Over Lindy Ruff’s first three seasons as Stars coach, the team hasn’t won by staunch defense and a trap-style game. Rather, it’s been run-and-gun, fast-paced and high-scoring hockey that has put Dallas into a position to compete under Ruff. From 2013-14 to 2015-16, the Stars were the highest scoring team in hockey by a mile, and their 753 goals for over that span were 38 more than the next-highest scoring teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Through eight games in 2016-17, however, the Stars aren’t quite as dangerous.
As it stands, Dallas is tied for 26th and scoring 2.25 goals for per game. Their highest scorer is Seguin, who has four goals and seven points, and the only other player with more than four points is Devin Shore.
The Stars are even struggling the possession game early. During Ruff’s first three seasons, the team boasted a Corsi For percentage of 51.8 percent at 5-on-5, but their Corsi For is a meager 49.6 percent through eight games this season, according to Corsica. It’s not even like puck luck has been that against the Stars, either, as they boast a 99.1 PDO — combined shooting and save percentage — through October.
It’s still early, to be sure, but the Stars need to find a way to fight through the injuries and produce more offense, because for a team built to win by overpowering and outscoring opponents, the current rate of production simply won’t be enough.
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