Chad Starling was a forgotten man around Ontario after he suffered what seemed like a fairly innocuous injury in practice in late November. Less than two months later, he went in for surgery to repair a sports hernia and an adductor muscle, and his season was over.
One of the great “what if”s of 2010-11 is what if Starling hadn’t gotten hurt. Remember that fellow shutdown defenseman Luke Beaverson also missed a month spanning December and January, and their combined absence was especially brutal. Starling’s final stat line: 14 games, no goals, 1 assist and a minus-1 rating.
He shared his thoughts on the impact of his injury, and his interesting summer plans:
How close were you to coming back?
I was very close. Playoffs were here, I’d be playing.
You don’t want to go out like this right?
No, not at all.
What’s the plan for you this summer?
Same as every summer – go home, and this is honestly the first summer in five years that I haven’t had surgery at the end of the year. I’m healthy for the summer so I can go home and start training. Last year I had my knee done. The year before that it was my thumb and elbow. The year before that it was my knees. The year before that it was my thumb, again. So I was always rehabbing half the summer. The year before I came out here I had my thumb surgery July 4, whatever it was. I was rehabbing right before I came here, so I couldn’t train right. I couldn’t go home and train. Usually at the end of the year you take a couple weeks off. Obviously I don’t need to take a couple weeks off because I’ve just been working out and skating here. I want to work for my parents and get ready for next year.
You saw how many defensemen came through here after you were injured. How tough is it for new defensemen to integrate into a system at midseason?
As a defensive defenseman, I don’t think it’s that hard, because you kind of play your game. You have your systems, but if my game’s a shut-down D-man, to kill penalties; if I have the pass it’s to hit the guy’s tape. It’s not like learning certain systems, the forecheck (like) how the forwards are, or the power play, because I’m not on the power play. It’s not hard for me to jump into different systems or different situations. For offensive guys it might be a little tougher with the different systems here. I think it all comes down to playing hockey too. If you have good hockey sense, you’re going to make the right decisions on the ice. I think that comes along with age. You can get comfortable with different ‘D’ partners – that has more to do with it than the systems, if you feel comfortable with the guy you’ve been playing with for two or three months, then you have a new guy come in you’re not on the same page. It’s not necessarily the systems, it’s playing with different players.
Given that this team has missed the playoffs two straight years, where do you see the expectations for this team next season?
The ECHL is different than other leagues because the players are changing. It’s a different team every year. It’s not like I can rebuild for next year, I can do this, do that. We maybe bring back core guys, whatever they do, and they have to bring new guys in. that’s just how this league is. You get a new team every year. It’s not like the same 12, 15 guys come back – it’s very unlikely on a team when you get eight guys back.
Will you bring the ‘stache back?
We’ll see. I grew it out last summer for a (fastpitch) tournament in Michigan. This year it’s in Iowa. We have a tournament in Green Bay, one in Fargo, one in Vancouver. We’ll travel a bit for the summer for that.
Do you do that every summer?
Last year was the first year I played – well I played in worlds probably five summers ago, then I haven’t played for a while. I played again last summer. I’m going to give ‘er a go this summer. Should be good. There’s a team from California (Bakersfield) that always plays, the California A’s. They might come up to Saskatoon and play us this summer too. It should be interesting. … It’s fun. It passes time in the summer. It’s competitive. It’s something to do.
Do you ever get a hold of any pitches?
Yeah. I get hold of the odd one. I didn’t hit too well last year at worlds. Guys are throwing 85 miles an hour from a pretty close distance. They’re top players, getting paid pretty good money. It’s pretty competitive. Last year we came in ranked ninth or 10th and finished seventh. This year we could be in the top five. … We are (the Saskatoon Diamondbacks) all from Saskatechewan. We have a guy from Newfoundland, a guy from Iowa, a guy from Calgary. Most of the guys are from Saskatchewan.