Doctors diagnosed Stralman’s chronic lung issues in 2011. Then what happened?

Anton Stralman‘s health issues are well documented. In 2014, during the Bolts’ Cup-run year, Dan Rosen of NHL.com wrote a profile that explained Stralman’s path toward health.

Long story short, childhood asthma took a toll on Stralman’s lungs, giving him a condition called bronchiectasis, from scar tissue lodged in his airways that prevented him from getting rid of mucus. The mucus trapped bacteria and particles in his body, and for years, Stralman suffered infection after infection (and pneumonia, and other horrible things) that impacted his ability to play.

Stralman’s diagnosis came in the 2011-2012 season, four years after he began playing in the league. His treatment started in that year too. Because the issue came from scar tissue, his doctor gave him antibiotics usually given to people suffering from cystic fibrosis. Stralman told NHL.com, “Ever since I started that treatment I haven’t had any infections from germs. I can’t control viruses like the common flu, but it won’t jump into pneumonias and stuff like that.”

But how much did this steady treatment of his health impact Stralman’s play? I was curious about how the treatment might have affected Stralman’s overall time on ice, and took a look at some numbers from the start of his career to the present to see what impact the treatment might have had.

I wanted to eliminate all of the games that Stralman missed for reasons other than health, and turned to the site Man Games Lost for information. Ultimately I did not find the data provided by Man Games Lost very helpful in documenting injuries versus other kinds of reasons for missing games, like suspensions or healthy scratches, because LTIR isn’t part of their count.

TSN’s bio of Stralman is similarly vague. Could all of the missed games due to “personal reasons” have been for his lung issues, but not documented as such? It’s hard to say.

So basically, I ran into the NHL’s vague way of reporting health issues, and was unable to come to any kind of conclusion, but I’ll present the data that I gathered and let you see the general trends.

Also, Hockeyfights.com only lists one fight under Stralman’s name, one that happened in 2009-10, meaning that we can eliminate any suspensions due to fighting from his reasons to be removed from the lineup. After the 2008-09 season, Stralman made no further trips down to the AHL, so we can also eliminate this reason for missing NHL time.

And these career numbers are taken from hockey-reference.com:

Stralman’s treatment started in 2011, when he was traded to the New York Rangers and began living in New York. Before the 2011 season, Stralman’s career high for games played was his first season with Columbus, 2009-10, at 73 games played. His average time on ice that year was also more than it had been in Toronto, at 20:29. Stralman suffered health setbacks in his second year with Columbus that once again made him a target for trade, playing only 51 games and falling by 490 overall minutes in time on ice.

Was Stralman still a good player? His 2009-10 season in Columbus showed glimmers of the player he could be, setting a watermark for points at 34 that wasn’t exceeded until Tampa’s Stanley Cup run season in 2014-15, at 39.

After Stralman began treatment in New York, he did not automatically improve. His first two seasons with the Rangers saw his games played at 53 in 2011-12, and 48 in 2012-13. But finally, in 2013-14, Stralman played a nearly full season, missing only one game, and exceeded his previous high for time on ice by clocking 1571 minutes.

Why did it take two years after the start of treatment before Stralman could play 81 games in the NHL? Did the steroid treatment need two full seasons to fully kick in? Man Games Lost did not show an increase in games lost due to injury, but it also did not show whether Stralman took LTIR during those seasons to continue to treat his lungs. This is where more information would have been useful for drawing a stronger conclusion, but oh, well.

Stralman continued his outstanding play into the 2014-15 year, the year he came to Tampa Bay. He set a record for TOI at 1800, playing all 82 games for the first time in his professional career. He also scored a personal record for points at 39 (9G/30A), taking 138 shots on goal while holding down his place on Victor Hedman’s right side.

It is hard to ascribe any one thing to a change in play, but I’ll draw the tentative conclusion that with better treatment for health came more time on ice, and more time to exhibit his excellent ability to play the game that we’ve seen these past three seasons in Tampa Bay.

What does Stralman think about his improvement since his start in the league? As he said to NHL.com, “The best way to develop as a player is to get the chance, the minutes, the opportunity, feedback, everything. It hasn’t been until the last few years that I’ve been able to do that. It shows in my development as a player. There was a tremendous push.”

Now, if you all look at the sharp uptick in the number of blocks Stralman had to make last season… well, that’s a narrative for another day.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com