Up until the end of November, the Dallas Stars were the team with the fewest man games lost to injuries in the league.
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Of course we knew that the luck in which the Stars had avoided practically any major/long term injuries would end at some point. However, the swiftness in which it all turned around was staggering. With Robidas going out for 4-6 months with a broken leg on November 29th versus the Chicago Blackhawks and Daley following suit on an eerily similar play on December 5th, things couldn't have gone worse.
Needless to say these two players mean a lot to the team. Daley is a top 4 defenseman for the Stars and was turning an awkward start around when a Toronto Maple Leaf fell on his ankle. Robidas was shutting down the oppositions top players on the top pairing with sophmore phenom Brenden Dillon when he fell awkwardly into the boards. Veteran defensemen are extremely important to any team, but with the Stars already playing Dillon (76 games played) and Jordie Benn (56 games played), the rift in experience left by the absence of these players could effect the Stars more than most.
This of course leaves Goligoski and Gonchar to pick the slack as the two spots on the roster are now filled with rookies Kevin Connauton (4GP) and Jamie "Big Rig" Oleksiak (19GP).
Naturally the hockey pundits are going to assume that a move is going to be made to fill these holes. While many closer to the Stars are saying they want to run with the rookies. Connauton in particular had been up with the team since training camp as a back-up defenseman. He was waiting for his chance as a healthy scratch up until the injuries hit. He had a strong camp and made it hard to send him down, even though the Stars d-corp was all but solidified with Jordie Benn signing an extension and Dillon becoming the Stars' best defenseman in his rookie season.
Oleksiak is likely the Stars' best defensive prospect and had a strong season in his first AHL campaign last year. However, in the 16 games played with the big club last year he looked uneasy and out of place at times. He clearly lacked the seasoned confidence that is required to preform at the NHL level. It has been clear to most that his confidence is now firmly in place currently. Despite a few defensive misqueues he has played with the all-important poise.
So if GM Jim Nill bases the decision on how the rookies have performed in this admittedly small sample size, then you have to assume he is leaving it the way it is.
Of course there is the chance that Nill considers where the Stars are in the standings currently and how well they have performed as of late and decide that the team is going to need a piece to make the push into the playoffs. Currently the Stars sit in 10th place in the Western Conference (5th in the Central division) with games in hand on every team in the league except for the St. Louis Blues.
Will Jim Nill err on the side of development and patience or will he make a move to help the Stars get over the hump and make the playoffs for the first time in half a decade?
It is certainly a tough decision, as both Connauton and Oleksiak could both benefit from some time in the NHL. Meanwhile the Stars team is playing some really fast and successful hockey despite a rocky start. Adding another proven top 4 defenseman could be just the piece the team needs to be successful enough in the next 3/4ths of the season.
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