The NHL is no longer a place for Summer breaks and time off to recuperate by shooting 18 holes of golf twice a week. Players are spending the offseason maintaining their peak condition, health, and honing their craft more so than at any other time in the game’s history. Further, teams are rounding into form earlier in the season and the pressure to stack points starts on day 1.
This pressure to perform for all 82 games puts stress on the year-round shape of these players and eventually impacts team performance when they cannot maintain that shape. The merciless landscape of the NHL regular season benefits the teams that can stay most healthy and as the Stars look around at the other teams at the top, they see a common trend.
The Stars are looking to take their Central Division lead coast-to-coast while weathering small storms cells of injuries to their top players. The short absences of Jake Oettinger and Miro Heiskanen early in the season revealed how integral their health is to the team’s success, just in case top-of-the-league play at their positions wasn’t enough.
Even now, the team is looking to get Roope Hintz healthy and playing while adding him back to a team that remains at the top of the division. While the best ability is availability, the team has not had to endure a catastrophic loss to one of their top producers for an extended time and their point total shows just that. One of the Stars’ more recent opponents can show the adverse effects of this concept and how they’re losing their hold on the top spot of their own division.
The Knights out in Vegas stood as the gold standard for the Pacific until a recent surge by the Seattle Kraken. One expansion team was deposed by the other after Vegas hit a lull and Seattle has conversely found its stride.
One could argue that Seattle’s strength is their evenly distributed scoring, making it hard to pinpoint a key contributor that would dissolve their success if they were to be lost to injury. However, Vegas’ case shows that Mark Stone and Shea Theodore’s roles cannot be replicated by any sort of substitution or schematics. Without their world-class players, Vegas’ 9 game win streak to get the season started feels like a fever dream.
Missing star power is challenging for a team to overcome and it is exacerbated when the entire team isn’t finding consistent ice time together. In Vegas’ case, only 5 of their players have played in every contest the team has held this season. For reference, surging Seattle has 10 skaters that have played all 45 and your Dallas Stars have had 13 lineup fixtures that have skated for all 47.
The consistency that the Stars have found is not a mystery, their formula is to have a deep, talented roster that plays well together and evenly. It makes you wonder, along with seeing how last year went if Vegas should’ve fired their conditioning staff instead of their head coach.
I’m happy with the decision that Vegas made because of the playing style and situation that their victim has cultivated here in Dallas. Seguin slotting in at 1C to cover for Roope shows the malleability that comes with a proper attack plan, not to downplay how talented Seguin is. In the past 6 games, he’s registered 8 points, with his finest performance coming in LA last week (2G, 1A).
The midseason Seguinlightenment is an enjoyable follow-up to the early Bennaissance era we saw manifesting in 2022. Outside of the ability to make lineup maneuvers like the Seguin one, ideally the evenly distributed minutes across the team point to a solid level of health maintenance to supplement the upcoming all-star break.
The depth and talent of the team can help mitigate certain health risks, but the playing style will ideally keep the team even-keeled in all the aspects necessary for a championship campaign. Health and energy have been vital to the cause thus far and will be key in maintaining the course through the post-break stretch.
Staving off an equally healthy (currently) Winnipeg lineup may come down to these factors and it may play an equally large part in the team not sweating Colorado prior to the postseason. The more we can see our favorite players on the ice, the better off we’ll all be.