New Dallas Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer has a reported history of tough relationships with goaltenders. We all remember the back-and-forth issues with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas and the late-season comments on Lehner’s injury to follow. Plus, rumors circled some underlying drama with him and Martin Jones during his tenure in San Jose.
It’s quite possible that these issues were personal or blown out of proportion by the media, but let’s just say they were legitimate for now. If DeBoer has trouble communicating with or handling his goalies, will that affect the future of Jake Oettinger? I don’t think so. Here’s why.
Oettinger recently signed a three-year contract extension, a bridge deal until he can be locked up long-term. He is the future in net for the Stars, simple as that. With DeBoer's past, it is understandable for Stars’ fans to be worried about the development of the young netminder. Luckily for Dallas, Oettinger should be the perfect guy to take on the challenge.
The 23-year-old Minnesota native is one of the hardest workers on the team. He is constantly one of the first on the ice and takes every opportunity to improve his game. Oettinger has also found a way to respond to just about every obstacle in his young career.
Make your NHL debut in the Western Conference Final deep in the Edmonton bubble? Check. Jump into the NHL far earlier than anticipated due to injuries ahead of you? Done. Outperform and steal the job from an NHL veteran who just brought your team to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago? Got that. Overcome being sent to the AHL, end the season as the obvious starter, and put on one of the best performances in NHL playoff history in seven games against the Calgary Flames? Yes, yes, and yes.
Oettinger also pushed through some tough stretches last season including being pulled twice in three starts and needing to play nearly every game for over a month due to a nagging injury to Braden Holtby. The kid not only answered the bell, but he did it with his head down and a desire to continue to get better.
In fact, following his heroic Game 7 performance in Calgary, he immediately turned his attention to the 2022-23 season and how he can get better to help his team reach the ultimate prize. He had the same response after signing his new deal and he will likely respond that way throughout his career.
Why do I say all of this? Because if DeBoer is all over him, doesn’t handle him and Scott Wedgewood/Anton Khudobin well, or whatever other drama could pop up, Jake should be able to handle it. He has proven to be as physically and mentally strong as any other player in the league and appears to rise to the occasion on a consistent basis. Heck, the youngster may even give it right back to the bench boss and the two should be able to find a way to develop a trusting and open relationship.