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'Every night, our team played hard': Stars GM Jim Nill recaps the season

Nill credits his players, coaches, and medical and training staff for banding together during an unprecedented year

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars were injury-riddled in 2020-21, logging the fourth most games lost to injury at 317 and the most "points lost" in the standings at 18.0, according to the website Man-Games Lost NHL.

But one of the good things out of Stars general manager Jim Nill's end-of-season press conference Friday was that all of the players should be healthy when training camp starts in September.

Tyler Seguin had offseason surgery on both his hip and knee and returned to play three games. He should be able to work on his conditioning all summer. Ben Bishop had offseason knee surgery and practiced at times. He didn't play, but he should also have the summer to train. Alexander Radulov had core muscle surgery in April and was shut down at the time. He will rehab and have plenty of time to condition during the summer.

Video: 'We had numerous injuries'

Roope Hintz played through "an avulsion injury of the left adductor tendon," Nill said. More specifically, a small chunk of bone attached to the adductor pulled away where the adductor tendon attaches to the pelvis area.

He will have surgery to repair the injury in New York on Wednesday in which the tendon will be attached to the original area. Nill said the team doctors expect a healing period of three to four months, saying Hintz should be fully recovered for training camp.

Hintz tallied 43 points in 41 games while playing through the injury and received the team's nomination for the Masterton Trophy, given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the characteristics of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

"In a normal season, he probably wouldn't be playing," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "We would've been able to get it fixed but we haven't because of the shortened season. It shows you his commitment to the team that he's playing through it. It's what the Dallas Stars are all about. We play hard, we play for each other, we play for the team. We're a family here. We're all trying to help each other out. That shows his commitment to the family."

The fact that Hintz was able to produce that scoring "on one leg," as Bowness said, indicates he could be even better next season.

The same goes for Radek Faksa, who was fighting through a wrist injury suffered in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nill said the 27-year-old center won't have surgery and will just allow the injury to heal naturally, but added that it showed just how much Faksa battled.

"It was a burden for him all year," Nill said. "Really, it's just time. It needs more time to heal. It bothered him all season, it was hard to lean on his stick, hard to take shots, but he fought through it. This extra time now will allow him to have a full recovery."

Nill said defenseman Joel Hanley also needs some time to recover from a core injury. He likely won't need surgery, but they need to see how he responds in the next few weeks.

Nill said the entire team simply needs rest after playing 44 games in 78 days to end the season.

"We had numerous injuries just due to the schedule," he said. "I've never seen so many groin pulls and hamstring pulls you usually don't see during the season, and a lot of that was because of the condensed schedule and the workload. I give our players [credit] for fighting through it."

Defenseman Stephen Johns, who has missed large parts of the past three seasons with concussion issues, continues to see his own doctors, Nill said. "He is dealing with his medical people. That's where it kind of continues."

Johns will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but Nill said the Stars will continue to be there for him. "If he needs help with anything, he knows that we're here for him," Nill said. "Our people have kept in touch with him and we're just going through that process."

Video: How important was your medical staff this season?

Nill also said Friday the coaching staff will return. Head coach Rick Bowness has one more year left on his two-year deal, and assistants John Stevens, Derek Laxdal and Todd Nelson are expected to be back, as well.

That same group led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final last season after Bowness was named interim head coach. This year, they missed the playoffs but dealt with several key injuries and a compressed schedule caused by COVID and a winter storm in North Texas.

"I thought they did an unbelievable job under the circumstance that they dealt with," Nill said. "Every night, our team played hard. Yes, we're disappointed we didn't make the playoffs, but the team was prepared every night, and I think they did a great job this season."

Nill said the staff could be changed if any of the assistants become candidates for coaching vacancies with other NHL teams.

"We have a very good coaching staff, and I believe some of our assistants will be getting opportunities to talk to other teams, which I thoroughly endorse," Nill said. "I think that's great, that means that you have the right people in place, and they have a value to us and to other teams."

Stevens has been a head coach with the LA Kings and Philadelphia Flyers. Nelson was head coach of the Edmonton Oilers and head coach of several minor league teams. Laxdal was head coach of several minor-league teams, including the Texas Stars.

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