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Get Well Soon, Zubie

by Bob Sturm / Dallas Stars

If only the Stars were pulling the ol’ April Fools gag on us all, when the story broke that Sergei Zubov may still be broke when the playoffs arrive in one week’s time. But, alas, the injuries that took Sergei out of the All-Star game many moons ago apparently still exist, and despite our hopes that he would be back by early February, and then late February, and then early March, and then Mid-March, and then late-March, he still remains the dreaded “day-to-day.”

Bob Sturm
Ouch. It isn’t a prank. It is simply the Stars’ most vital piece perhaps, now possibly missing the start of the playoffs. He provides so much to this team. In his own end, he is a calm customer that can usually handle anything and everything that is thrown at him. On attack, he is the talisman who moves this team into great scoring spots. If there is anyone who this team needs to be on the ice as often as possible in these playoffs, it just might be #56. There is simply no way to replace what he does for this team. They need him back in the worst way…and now, we are left to wonder if that will happen in time.

I don’t mean to send anyone into a panic here, but there are some realities we are going to need to consider here pretty quickly.

1)      While we can all keep a brave face and hope, we should all assume that even if Zubov does make it back in the near future, it is becoming somewhat unreasonable to assume he will immediately be ready to be 28 minutes-a-game Sergei. I mean, please prove me wrong, Zubie, but I just want to be fair to the guy who last played on January 17th. I am confident that if he can get back, he will, but I have been wondering since the surgery happened in late February that we may not see Zubov at his normal all-star level until next fall.

2)      Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, and Niklas Grossman are going to be asked to do something that individually is rare – and collectively may have never happened; to be a rookie defenseman and face playoff hockey with your best foot forward. I have no desire to be the wet blanket on the campfire of hope, but please, if you will, list all of the great playoff runs that included three rookie defenseman playing regularly on the blue line of a NHL power. I cannot imagine most deep runs feature more than one rookie defenseman. The playoffs are a cauldron of nerves, boiling every other night with the ice cream headache that any fumble can cost your team its life. There are still some veterans on defense here, but when your fourth-most veteran is Trevor Daley, you are really young in front of Marty Turco. 

3)      And, to go ahead and state the obvious here, that will mean that Mr. Marty is going to have to be his absolute, positive best. Turco is coming off his finest playoff run of his career (yes, I realize he lost the series, but as the only goaltender to EVER have 3 shutouts in one series…and lose, will forever be cut a complete and total mulligan for Vancouver, 2007, in my book), and will need to follow that up with something even better. Expect fumbles in front of you, Marty, and then you will need to clean up the mess. Every time. Or it is golf season in short order.

Look, I am eager to get to the playoffs, and I hope this column turns out to be a massive over-reaction, but as someone who desperately wants to see the Stars advance through a round this spring (and then another and another) hearing Zubov still has a number of ailments that seem to be combining to keep him off the point for the Stars is a significant buzz-kill. 

On the other hand, this time of year, we can also assume that any and all health updates are to be taken with a grain of salt, and perhaps Zubie is playing possum, ready to help the Stars charge into next week’s second season.

The plot thickens with three more regular season games to play. It appears pretty likely the Stars will open with the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. We know all about their decorated defense corps. 

This thing will not be easy no matter what. But, having Sergei Zubov at Dave Tippett’s disposal drastically improves the chances of being on the right side of the end-of-series handshake.

Get Well Soon, Sergei.
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