The Dallas Stars acquired Jiri Hudler in the offseason in hopes of picking up another multi-talented forward for their offense. But he has yet to live up to those expectations. Will he ever hit them?
The Dallas Stars made a decent number of changes last offseason and they seemed to have made the club disoriented. Whether it was too much at once or just simply not the right combination of moves, the Stars have undoubtedly struggled this year.
One of those acquisitions was Jiri Hudler. The 33-year-old forward has had his fair share of bad luck this season being that he only signed a one-year deal last summer. Unfortunately for him, his time in Dallas could come to an end if he does not improve his performance.
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There is no doubt that Hudler was at a disadvantage pretty much from the get-go. He succumbed to a virus after playing only four games for the Stars and did not play again until the start of December.
While his teammates were working out and playing games, Hudler was unable to train or practice which put him behind. It is already difficult enough to adjust to a new team with all new players, but trying to do that after missing a significant period of time only makes it that much more challenging.
But he returned to the line-up. He was not forced to miss the entire season and had the opportunity to really make a splash for the Stars. That, however, has yet to happen.
Hudler returned from the line-up after missing nearly a month and a half of action, so it should obviously have taken him some time to get back into the swing of things. However, here we are almost a month after his return and the forward is still sitting at one goal and three assists along with a rating of zero.
That, in the grand scheme of things, is very little production for a player with offensive skill. Even though he has been playing mainly on the fourth line and has yet to find chemistry with any other forward in particular, Hudler has to be less than impressed by his own play.
To make matters worse for the veteran, the Stars have a number of high quality young forwards in the system. Players with great potential are playing for the Texas Stars and some nights forwards who contribute more consistently find themselves in the press box.
That means the Stars do not need Hudler in the present or in the future. In the NHL, especially as a veteran, being needed by a team is important. Players that are needed are considered staples in the line-up or key pieces in blockbuster trades. Monday night’s game showed what Hudler is capable of, but whether or not he continues to produce offensively will determine his fate.
Although Hudler’s time in Dallas thus far has been underwhelming, there is no reason to believe he cannot turn it around. All it takes is the right mentality or right line combination and Hudler will be back on track.
While it may not earn him a new deal with the Stars, scoring his first goal in victory green against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday was certainly a step in the right direction. Perhaps that goal will open the floodgates for him and lead to even more offensive production in the near future.
He is not a washed up veteran and he definitely brings qualities to the table that can help the Stars. Last season he totaled 46 points (16G, 30A) for the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers, so he is certainly capable of contributing. The question is whether or not he will.
With that said the bottom line is that he is fighting for a contract renewal right now. Although there is the understanding that this season has not gone as planned for him, it seems unlikely that Dallas will be making an offer. That is unless Hudler can find a way to earn a new deal, which will become more evident in the near future.