Dallas Stars: Lindell, Heiskanen have stepped up big for the Stars

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 24: Miro Heiskanen #4 of the Dallas Stars advances the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on November 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 24: Miro Heiskanen #4 of the Dallas Stars advances the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on November 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

With the Dallas Stars’ blue line suffering several injuries to start the season, young defensemen Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, and others have picked up the slack in recent weeks.

Before the 2018-19 NHL season began, I penned an article for SportsDFW predicting five things that the Dallas Stars would need to do in order to have a successful year.

Among the five things I had listed, the first, most important one was clear; the Stars’ blueline needs to stay healthy and stay strong game in and game out.

Whelp, it seems that said strategy has gone by the wayside—but, fortunately for Stars fans, the defense is (somewhat) consistent and helping the team win games, despite being confronted by so many roadblocks.

Fans, and the team itself, suffered a crushing blow when news surfaced that John Klingberg injured his hand in a game and would require surgery.

To add insult to injury, Montgomery said to Stars SportsDay reporter Matthew DeFranks.:

"“[if Klingberg were to be out for] six weeks, I’d take the deal right now,”"

Though Klingberg’s injury is the most damaging to the Stars defense, he isn’t the only player out with an injury.

Defenseman Marc Methot has been out since the beginning of November with a lower-body injury. Methot, who is 33-years-old, last played a game on Nov. 1 in Dallas’ 2-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He registered four hits in the game.

Lumped in with the bevy of injured players is Connor Carrick, who was placed on the injured reserve (IR) on Nov. 2 due to a foot injury.  Carrick’s last game was on Oct. 28, where Dallas lost to the Detroit Red Wings 2-4. Prior to his injury, Carrick registered four points (1 G, 3 A) in nine games. The Illinois native was acquired by the Stars on the first day of October for a conditional draft pick in the 2019 NHL draft. There is only one year remaining on his contract.

The fourth and final defenseman to suffer a long-term injury in a Dallas Stars uniform is Stephen Johns. Johns has yet to play a game this season due to post-traumatic headaches and has worn earplugs in practice to help block out loud noises.

It’s still unclear as to when Johns will be available to return to the lineup.

But, in the midst of so many injuries, young defensemen have stepped up for the Stars, namely Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, Gavin Beyreuther, and others.

Since Klingberg’s departure from the lineup, Lindell has assumed the majority of the workload as Dallas’ No. 1 defensemen. He leads all defensemen in average ice time in minutes per game. He is also 5th on the team in shots on goal (Heiskanen is the only other defenseman in front of him. Miro ranks at 3rd behind forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, respectively).

Lindell is also second on the team in blocks, as only Roman Polak surpasses him to lead the team. Finally, Lindell is 5th in hits on the team; and second when compared to defensemen. Polak has the most among defensemen and is second on the team behind Blake Comeau.

Heiskanen, the 3rd overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, is playing exceptionally well in his first season in the league. He, along with Lindell, has played every game this season (knock on wood) and is seventh on the team in points with 12 (4 G, 8 A).

That is second among defensemen, as Klingberg still surpasses him with 13 (5 G, 8 A). Klingberg, however, has not played a game since Dallas’ 3-4 win at home against San Jose on Nov. 8.

Heiskanen is also second among defensemen (behind aforementioned teammate Esa Lindell) in average ice time per game, and he’s also recorded 26 blocks and 17 hits so far this season.

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Lindell and Heiskanen’s young leadership has also helped players like rookie Gavin Beyreuther, Joel Hanley, and Ben Gleason in keeping the blue line strong.

Beyreuther, for example, has already recorded four points (2 G, 2 A) in just eight games, and is third in average ice time per game among defensemen.

It is surprising to see Julius Honka’s play time not increased with all of the injuries in the roster. He is ranked 7th among defensemen in ice time, surpassing only Taylor Fedun and Dillon Heatherington. It is worth noting, though, that neither Fedun or Heatherington have played in more than six games this season.

Who knows if Honka’s decrease in playing time is due to a lack of confidence on behalf of the coaching staff or any other reason. But, it is a little interesting to see that he is not playing more than people would think, especially with all of the injuries on the Stars’ defense.

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Regardless of that, it’s undoubtedly true that Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, Gavin Beyreuther, and other young blueliners have picked up a large portion of the slack left behind by Klingberg, Methot, and other injured defensemen.

  • Published on 12/02/2018 at 13:00 PM
  • Last updated at 12/02/2018 at 11:10 AM