The 1980s rock group, Cinderella’s biggest hit played on the radio in 1988 and was the tune named, "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." I’m pretty sure the hair band was referring to a failed relationship, but they never met Miro Heiskanen.
The Finnish sensation went from “not playing” per Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer, to “we'll see after warm-ups,” to the best player on the ice during the Stars 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
When you watch greatness every night, taking it for granted becomes easy. Miro never seems to be working hard, but is a difference-maker for a team that needs him desperately to be their leader from the blue line. He is greatness on skates. Returning after a few games off is a reminder of what he brings that no one else in Victory Green can.
With Heiskanen out of the lineup for the last three games, the Stars managed a total of six goals. Against the Kings, they scored five.
With Heiskanen out of the lineup for the last three games, the Stars power play went 0-10. Even more disturbing was the unit’s inability to carry the puck into the offensive zone with speed and possession. Against the Kings, the power play scored a season-high three goals with Heiskanen quarterbacking all three lamplighters.
Of the Stars five goals, Heiskanen was on the ice for…wait for it…all five.
Of the two goals allowed, Heiskanen was on the ice for…none.
The 23-year-old had a time-on-ice of 19:15, which was fifth amongst the six Stars defensemen. The impact he made was second to none. There are the stats that are easily shown such as 2 assists and a plus-2 rating for the night. There are analytics such as attack zone entries which Miro dominates. Plus, there are things you can’t measure such as quality chances against that don’t happen because of a Heiskanen play in neutral ice or a well-placed stick. There is the added confidence of the entire team whenever #4 is on the ice. A rising tide lifts all boats. For the Stars, that tide is named Miro.
“We were much better than we were the other night, but his impact on the game is huge. He gets us out of our end quicker and cleaner. He makes so many plays and is one of the best in the world for a reason. When he’s out of the lineup, you’re a different team,” said Dallas Stars Head Coach Pete Deboer.
Part of the reason the Stars allowed John Klingberg to leave via free agency was the belief that Heiskanen would step up as the undisputed #1 defenseman. For all of Miro’s on-ice talents, swagger off the ice is not high on the list. Heiskanen deferred to Klingberg, who had seniority, was a team leader, and was a vital cog on the first power-play unit. This blue line now belongs to Heiskanen who runs the power play, kills penalties, and quite often is the best player on the ice regardless of position.
When Pete DeBoer took over as Head Coach, he often said, “Heiskanen is great, but there is another level he can get to.” After missing three games, the third overall pick in the 2017 draft returned and reminded everyone what dominance from a Stars defenseman looks like. Dallas knows what they have when he is gone, they just don’t want to be reminded of that too often.