by April Marble
If there is one thing Stars fans like to talk about, it is the fact that forward Valeri Nichushkin has no goals this season.
In fact, Stars fans are relentless in their criticism of Nichushkin, and as the season moves along, the annoyance grows as it seems he can’t even buy a goal. To momentarily jump on his defense, he has produced seven assists this season so far which is more than nothing.
There’s also no arguing that Nichushkin can play – when he’s on, he plays hard. Those who find themselves in disagreement with that can go watch the highlights of the Stars vs. Flames game from December 2018 to get a taste of what he can do. His KHL stats and his first full season with the Stars show that he has some potential as a secondary scorer — something the Stars still don’t seem to have.
Nichushkin possesses talent, more than some other Stars’ draft flops that have occurred in the past. He can be fast, has two-way potential, and absolute filthy hands. There really is no answer as to why nothing has come out from it thus far, though it could be attributed to countless factors such as coaching, his mentality, or even the sheer pressure of having a goalless season.
Now, let’s raise the question: has anyone considered that maybe this just is not his year or perhaps his team?
Being an objective sports fan is hard because sports are deeply entwined with the spectators’ feelings, and it’s not completely unfair to expect goals out of the 24-year-old winger – especially playing on a team that likes to jump rope with the playoff picture.
Unfortunately for Nichushkin, “almosts” won’t save him in anyone’s eyes. He has to start showing results, and soon. If there was ever a time for him to be on the board, it is now; not only would goal production benefit the team, but it potentially puts him in the fans’ good graces. Sadly, athletes’ career-defining seasons are not always positive ones, and that’s what’s happening presently with Nichushkin.
Look at Patrick Stefan’s missed empty net goal in 2007. Does it matter that Stefan’s failure didn’t cost the Stars that game? No, it does not. When recalling that game, no one cares or remembers that the Stars beat the Oilers; all that mattered was Stefan’s horrendous failure, and the goal continues to haunt him. In the case of Valeri Nichushkin vs. Dallas Stars Fans, Nichushkin’s performance must turn in dramatically this season or the next to wipe his goalless season out of the memories of the Stars’ fandom.
Realistically, this won’t happen in such great strides. Typically, the advice would be to just put anyone on a line with Radek Faksa and something will happen because Faksa is a wizard who can just make things happen, but even that has proven to be ineffective in this case.
If he remains with the Dallas Stars, Nichushkin will spend the remainder of his career making up for the challenges he had this season or this will become his Patrik Stefan empty netter… and we really don’t want that to happen.
On the other hand, moving on to greener pastures could be a more optimistic outlook; a trade could provide him with a fresh start as well as a new coaching direction. Fans of whatever team he would be traded to might not be too pleased, but there is no question that working with different teams can produce different results that can be career defining.
While many are disappointed with his lackluster season, Nichushkin just needs the exact right push. If that’s with the Stars or not is uncertain, but when he plays, you can see a player who just needs a fire lit under him.
If he started producing, no Stars fan in their right mind would be ungrateful because as the season comes to a skidding stop, the team needs all the help they can get to clinch a playoff spot or simply maintain the Wild Card position.
The criticism he faces is also valid and comes from a desire to see this team succeed, and not necessarily because fans hate Nichushkin. There is a desire to see him succeed because it is beneficial to the whole team, and seeing the team win games is more important than hatred towards a player.