Ben Lovejoy is officially hanging up his skates. The veteran defenseman announced his retirement from the NHL after 11 seasons on August 28th. While Lovejoy didn’t contribute heavily to the Stars last season on the stat sheet, only tallying 2 points with a minus 2 rating, his veteran presence will have a lasting impact on the team. Lovejoy was a sturdy and durable defenseman in his short stint with the Stars. While it was a short stint, he will be remembered by the Dallas fans, especially due to the way he announced his retirement via twitter. While it is sad to see a player decide to retire, it can open the door for other players. Additionally. it appears Lovejoy has found a home on NHL Network where he recently praised young Miro.
Perfect Timing for Stars
It is likely the Stars never had Lovejoy in their plans for this season, based on the re-signing of Roman Polak and Taylor Fedun. Still, the announcement coming a few weeks before training camp begins helps open the door for some of the younger defensemen. Dillon Heatherington, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, and Benjamin Gleason are just some of the names looking to make the team this season. While Fedun and Polak have been re-signed, the team is not handcuffed by their contracts. If any of these young players can show they can play, it is possible Fedun or Polak could see a reduced role this season.
The cloud hanging over the team also has to do with Stephen Johns. The team has not provided any updates on his status, but the skating earlier in the summer has to be a positive sign for fans. If he is absent for the beginning part of the season, this will also provide an opportunity for one of the young Stars. The door is open for someone to bust down and walk through, now someone just needs to do it.
Last season the success of the Stars occurred due to the struggles they suffered through early in the season. The constant line juggling by Montgomery was a source of contention with fans as it seemed the lines were different game to game. It caused the team to look out of sync and the chemistry was not there. Dallas faced adversity with these struggles but the chemistry eventually developed and it helped the team beat the Nashville Predators in the first round. Changing the lines allowed the Stars to dictate to their opponent instead of being dictated to, meaning Dallas was in charge of the game.
Those line experiments from last season may continue into this season, except more on the blue line. Monty was not scared to use some of the AHL defensemen during the playoffs, with Gleason and Hanley getting significant playing time in the second round. Given he knows they are battle tested now, he may want to see what they can do in the regular season and provide them the opportunity. Miro, Klingberg, and Lindell will make up the combination of the first defensive pair. It is the second and third pairings where questions can come into play. It is the big question mark for the Stars entering the season.
While Stars fans have seen Ben Lovejoy hang his skates up, they will now see a young player get his career started. The door is open for someone to prove they have earned a spot in training camp and the preseason. Defense was a strength for Dallas last season and that is likely to continue into this year. How the team organizes their defensive pairs though is an important issue for fans to watch as the season approaches. While it will be fun to see Stars hockey return, it will be sad to not get to see Ben Lovejoy take the ice again. Enjoy your retirement and hope to see you on our television sets Mr. Lovejoy.
Featured Image: .Stephen Hawkins, AP Sports Writer. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez