Earlier today, PHT’s Adam Gretz pondered the disconnect between the Dallas Stars’ solid-but-unspectacular on-ice results and their often-splashy work during off-seasons.
Sadly, there’s one thing that only the most optimistic Stars executive wouldn’t have seen coming: Martin Hanzal dealing with injuries. In this latest, sad case, Hanzal’s season is over and he’s expected to need six-to-seven months to recover from eventual back surgery.
In a perfect world where injuries are turned off like a video game, Hanzal is exactly the type of situational player that a team would want in the frequently rugged Western Conference.
He’s an enormous human at 6-foot-6, is good-to-great in faceoff circle, can chip in some offense, and aside from this season, Hanzal’s generally been a strong possession player. Getting 82 games of that player would justify a $4.75 million cap hit for the 31-year-old, even with it lasting through 2019-20.
The thing about enormous players is that such a big body can be as menacing to the player as it is to opponents. Whether it be a stylistic drawback or bad luck, simply put, you’re not getting 82 games of Martin Hanzal.
Hanzal hit the 81-game mark during one season in his NHL career: when he was 22 during the 2009-10 season with the then-Phoenix Coyotes. Last season was honestly a minor miracle for Hanzal, as he managed to play in 71 regular-season contests between his time with the Coyotes and Minnesota Wild.
Generally speaking, Hanzal’s fallen in the 60-65 games range, as he tends to suffer from maladies of various extremes.
It’s unfortunate, really, because hockey people aren’t outrageous in seeing Hanzal on a healthy night and picturing Stanley Cups. Sadly, it sure seems like Hanzal is falling into an unfortunate category of injury-plagued players, from Ales Hemsky to Marian Gaborik and probably some guys many of us outright forget about because of an even more extreme poor luck in the trainer’s room.
Is it possible that Martin Hanzal will be able to meaningfully contribute to the Stars’ cause next season, or failing that, before his current deal expires? Sure, although it would also follow the script if Hanzal sees his ups and downs.
Ultimately, it’s tough to shake the impression that Hanzal may one day retire with a lot of “What if?” questions.