A Dallas Stars training camp story to rally around

(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Training camp is in full swing for the Dallas Stars. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to act like I watch every single preseason game. Fact is, I don’t. I usually don’t watch preseason games in any sport (even football). I don’t get hyped up with what happens in the preseason.

Most of the times your starters aren’t playing. Or, if they are playing, they’re in limited minutes and under different circumstances. The preseason is for one thing: coaches to evaluate players. That’s it. Its not for me. Its for them. There is one thing, though, that has me excited for this preseason.

What’s got me excited about Dallas Stars training camp?

The story surrounding Anton Khudobin is fascinating to me. Take what he did in the 2020 bubble. Khudobin played lights out for the Dallas Stars after Ben Bishop went out with an injury. He took the Stars through the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights in route to the Stanley Cup Final.

The preseason is for one thing: coaches to evaluate players.

Every Dallas Stars fan knew the name Dobby. The motto for that season, “We’re not going home” came from Khudobin after series win. Fans fell in love with the goaltender. The next season, they were happy to see him compete for the starting job. Even though they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Final that year, Khudobin stole the heart of Dallas Stars fans.

The following season (2020-2021), Dobby started in 32 games and finished with a 12-11-7 record. His save percentage was .905 and his goals against average was 2.54. That offseason, the Dallas Stars brought in Braden Holtby and fans were confused.

The Dallas Stars now had four goalies on their roster (Holtby, Bishop, Khudobin and Jake Oettinger). Soon we found out that Bishop would have to retire and Oettinger would start the season in the minors.

That didn’t last long, though. Khudobin seemed to be fighting injuries and struggled to stay on the ice. The 35 year old goalie only started seven games last season and a 3.63 goals against average. In March the Stars announced that Khudobin would have hip surgery to have the labrum repaired.

Most fans, myself included, figured that would be the end of Khudobin’s career. They had just watched Bishop have to retire due to a knee surgery that he couldn’t recover from. The Dallas Stars signed Scott Wedgewood to a two-year deal this past summer. Pairing him with Jake Oettinger seems to be the right thing to do.

That brings us to training camp this year, though. Dallas Stars head coach has not been reluctant at all to give Khudobin playing time during training camp and in preseason games. Dobby played half the team’s scrimmage last week. He also played the first period of Monday’s preseason opener and he played the entire game on Thursday night.

Stats don’t always tell the story when it comes to goaltending. There are plenty of other factors involved. How was the defense in front? Where the players out of position? Did they give up a turnover in the zone that created an easy scoring chance? Simple numbers don’t always tell the story. So I won’t elaborate much on that. What I will say, though, is this. I’m super happy and excited for Khudobin.

I don’t know if his future is with the Stars. I don’t know if they’ll cut him or try to trade him. Perhaps they’ll keep him. I don’t know and I don’t pretend to know. What I do know is this. Here is a player that many thought would have to retire due to hip surgery in the spring. Against the odds and the critics (again, myself included), Khudobin got back on the ice and played an entire 60 minute game. That’s exciting news. That’s something we can all rally around.

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I hope he plays in the NHL this season. If its with the Stars, I’ll cheer him on. If he’s playing for a different team and wearing their sweater, I’ll still cheer for him. Well, unless he’s playing Dallas. Then I want him to lose.