When you think of the Dallas Stars, you immediately think of the Big Three; Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov. The Big Three is now expanding rapidly.
With the resurgence of Ben Bishop and the offseason additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, fans have more to be excited about and are forgetting about the young guns already growing into their own on the current Stars roster. Miro Heiskanen’s All-Star rookie campaign was one for the ages, John Klingberg fought through injuries to continue his stellar play, Radek Faksa came out firing, Roope Hintz came out flying, but on top of all those, was there a more impactful 2019 campaign than Esa Lindell’s?
On stats alone, it was Lindell’s best year of his young career. The twenty-five-year-old Finn’s numbers increased drastically.
Shots Blocked: 31% Up
Hits: 55% Up
Takeaways: 58% Up
*all numbers compared 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 season*
With Klingberg out injured for the majority of the regular season, the Stars needed a strong offensive defenseman’s presence to step up, and Lindell came in clutch for his team. After a well-improved 2017-2018 season, Lindell was expected to continue trending in the right direction. After a slow start out of the gate to start the year, Lindell eventually hit his stride.
2018-2019 was the highest point total of his career, and more importantly, he established himself as an enforcer on the first line. Lindell’s physical play was something that the Stars needed in close games and helped swing momentum constantly until the end of the season. His constant movement in the defensive zone and vigorous poke checking created frustration and pressed patience for opposing teams.
Lindell was able to carry over his strong play into the postseason and helped quiet the strong Nashville front of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson, helping limit that line to just two goals the entire series. Results like that don’t happen easily. In the Conference Semifinals vs the Blues, Lindell received a lot of scrutiny from the sports world after some less than impressive acting to draw penalties in Game 3 but bounced back quickly in Game 5 of the 2-2 Series with a key go-ahead goal. Some bounces go your way and others definitely don’t.
If you’re a Stars fan, you have to be thrilled with what is currently going on in the organization. Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has been under heat from fans for the past half-decade, but the pieces can be seen falling into place. The blockbusters signings will get the smoke and mirror attention but don’t forget about the pieces on the bench that have gotten the Stars to where they were at the end of last season. Unless you’re the Vegas Golden Knights, Stanley Cup contenders aren’t built overnight. It is a process not for the faint of heart, but Dallas fans are impatient and ready for more.
Players like Esa Lindell are the key to championship success. The 74th overall pick from the 2012 NHL Draft has been under the radar his entire career, but with his stellar play in 2019 and his 6-year contract extension this offseason, it might be safe to say that those times are over.
With his hockey IQ, physicality, grit, and ever-growing offensive and defensive skills, Lindell could be an NHL All-Star as soon as next season. Paired up with Miro Heiskanen, and the Stars might possibly have the NHL’s most prominent defensive duo in the years come.