- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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FRISCO -- Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s signing of Sheldon Souray was seen as a gamble by some, but a couple weeks into the season the move is paying some nice dividends.
Souray’s numbers offer evidence. Through the first six games he’s tied for the team lead in points with five (one goal, four assists) and leads the team with a plus-six rating while playing 20:23 of ice time.
“My feeling is everyone feels like they are coming in with a fresh start. Me for obvious reasons,” said Souray, who spent last season in the American Hockey League. “It seems everyone has come in with a renewed sense of optimism and that’s just made it easier for myself and the other guys to blend in.”
Souray has done more than just blend in with the Stars team first concept. He’s stood out in many ways. His shot, one of the hardest in the game, has made an impact, producing some offense for the Stars. But Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said there’s been more to Souray’s game than just the offensive side of things.
“I can’t say enough about Hammer. He’s been real good here. Offensive production we obviously don’t want to stop now, but if it did we’re fine because his defensive play has been very sound,” said Gulutzan. “He’s given us some bite back there. He’s a very hard to play against guy. He’s given us a good voice in the locker room. There’s no offensive pressure on him. What he gives us is great, but we like the way he defends and plays D and the presence he brings us.”
Souray’s shot always gets a lot of attention, but his size (6-4, 237 pounds) and that he plays with an edge also were reasons the Stars signed him to a one-year, $1.65 million contract in July. He’s a been a force in front of the Stars net and in the defensive zone this season.
“He’s mean. He’s mean. He’s a great guy off the ice, but he has an edge when he plays,” said Gulutzan. “Those are the kind of defensemen no one wants to play against, but everyone wants to have. He has an edge. We love that and our guys like it.”
“That’s just one of his assets,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas, a former teammate in Montreal and Souray’s current defensive partner. “He uses his body very well. He’s very strong. He’s strong in the corners, he’s strong in front of the net. You add that to his offensive ability because of his shot.”
Souray, 35, is coming off two rough seasons. He was slowed by injuries in Edmonton in 2009-10 and when his relationship with the Oilers soured he was shipped off to the AHL, where there were more injuries woes last season. The Oilers bought out his contract in June, opening the door for the Stars to sign him.
“I knew he was going to be good and he’s proving he’s one of the elite players in the league,” said Robidas. “He’s been really good for us. Just his presence back there has been a big thing, his shot, his physicality. Everything he brings to the table is something we didn’t have back there. He just adds to our team.”
While Souray has been a good fit for the Stars, the veteran defenseman said the Stars have been a good fit for him as well.
“There’s no pressure on me,” said Souray. “They haven’t asked anything of me other than to come in, have fun and play my game. The expectations have been kind of low for me. I am not here to save the world, but just help out anyway I can.”
And right now he is doing just that.
22dFrom the NHLPA