It was a long offseason for Dallas Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. It always is when your team misses the playoffs. And Robidas and the Stars have missed the playoffs three straight years. But the veteran defenseman and some of his teammates are back in town and the anticipation level is high after an offseason of changes that included the signing of several free agents and the hiring of Glen Gulutzan as head coach.
“I’m very excited. Marc Crawford has been very good for me and the team, but I think everybody is excited. We haven’t made the playoffs for three years now. We want to get off to a fresh start,” Robidas said after a recent skate in Frisco. “[The coaching staff] has new ideas and a new philosophy. Not that the other ones weren’t good enough, but it’s a fresh start for everybody.”
While the Stars added seven new players via free agency, which is almost one-third of the roster, Robidas pointed out that many key players from last season remain.
“If you look at the core players, most of the core is still here. That’s a good thing,” said Robidas. “You’ve got a guy like Jamie Benn who has another year under his belt and you’ve got a couple of young defensemen who got another year last year. Everybody is growing as a team. Personally, I am very excited with the changes and I can’t wait to start the season.”
One of those changes comes on defense with the addition of Sheldon Souray, a guy Robidas knows pretty well from his days with the Montreal Canadiens. The two were paired together in Montreal and were a defensive pairing in the 2009 NHL-Star Game in Montreal as well. Robidas said he expects Souray, who spent last season in the AHL, to be highly motivated this season.
“I think it’s a great addition. He’s a good player and he’s a really good guy. He brings a lot to the table,” said Robidas. “Last year was a tough year for him. He wants to prove himself. I’ve talked to him and he’s really excited to come back, having another chance. I think he’ll be a great addition to our team.
“Great shot. He brings some toughness. He’s a big guy, size-wise. He brings something we really didn’t have last year. That’s always a plus when you can add something that’s missing. When you build a puzzle you don’t want all the same piece, you need different pieces and I think he’s another piece of the puzzle.”
The veteran Stars defenseman believes the team added a lot of other pieces during the offseason. Besides Souray the Stars signed forwards Michael Ryder, Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak, Jake Dowell and Eric Godard and defenseman Adam Pardy. While the Stars lost a top end player in Brad Richards, Robidas said the offseason moves helped make the Stars a deeper, more balanced team.
“If you look at our identity, we want to be a team that is hard to play against. If you look at all the signings we had this summer they all fit the role,” said Robidas. “I think we have a lot more depth. It’s established players in the NHL. They know their role; they’ve been doing it for years.”
Robidas said if you want to see an example of the importance of depth just look at last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Boston Bruins.
“They beat Vancouver, who was supposed to be the best team. But I think [the Bruins] won with their depth,” Robidas said. “Obviously their goalie made a big difference, but if you look down the line they had four lines going. They had really good players, but they didn’t have that superstar. [Zdeno] Chara is a big, strong guy but there is no Sedins or stuff like that. They all played the right way, they played the system. That’s their identity. I think that’s the identity we want to have.
”I don’t want to live in the past, but we want to get back to that whole mentality. I’m not saying that we are going to play defense and sit back. We are going to be aggressive and upbeat. We’re not going to get pushed around. We are going to be able to match up well with the bigger teams. That’s a big plus if you look at our division, especially. You play Anaheim, San Jose, L.A. and Phoenix. They are all big teams. We added some size and some grit. Like I said, I am very excited with the new acquisitions.”