Dallas Stars: Brad Richards

Richard Bachman, Trevor Daley fuel Stars victory

December, 13, 2011

Richard Bachman has an opportunity to run with the Dallas Stars goaltending job while Kari Lehtonen is out with a groin injury, and he is in a full sprint right now. Bachman stopped 34 shots for his first NHL shutout as the Dallas Stars defeated the New York Rangers 1-0 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

“It’s just a win. It’s the hockey game I’ve grown up playing. It’s a lot of a fun,” said Bachman. “It’s fun being up here with these guys and trying to take it all in. I am taking it one day at a time and see what happens from here.”

That’s two wins in two NHL starts for Bachman, who has a 0.43 goals against average and .986 save percentage (71 saves on 72 shots) in three appearances for the Stars this season.

“We’re really not that surprised,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, who scored the game’s only goal. “He’s shown that every time he’s been up the last couple years and in exhibition. He’s living up to it.”

Bachman won against one of the top teams in the league in one of the league’s most storied buildings.

“Very impressive,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s his strength. He doesn’t get too rattled. I’ve never seen the little guy get rattled. He’s got a calm demeanor. He’s a very intelligent goalie. He doesn’t panic or get rattled easily. That’s a good quality for a goaltender.

Bachman needed at least one goal on this night and he got it with 4:59 remaining in the game. After Rangers defenseman Jeff Woywitka turned over the puck, Stars captain Brenden Morrow carried the puck into the New York zone and Trevor Daley finished off a give-and-go with Mike Ribeiro.

“We stuck with it, got a break and buried it,” said Daley. “You are not going to score too many goals on that goalie. It was a hard battle and we stuck with it and came out on top.”

Up until that point it was a goaltending duel between Bachman and New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 27 of 28 shots.

Bachman made eight saves in the first period and was involved in a first period with Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, who was penalized for charging.

Bachman had a big stop in the second period on Brad Richards with the Rangers on the power play and then denied a two-on-one shorthanded chance by Ryan McDonagh.

Lundqvist was stunned by a hard shot Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray in the second period, stayed in the game and made great stops in the third period on Eric Nystrom shorthanded and then denied a point blank chance by Ribeiro.

Bachman made saves on Ryan Callahan, Steve Eminger and Artem Anisimov in the third to keep the Rangers off the board.

“It’s his demeanor to be a calm guy and he’s very tidy around his net,” said Gulutzan. “Tonight, maybe, there were a few more things laying around him than usual, but he made some huge saves on a two-on-one and on a slap shot at the end that he saw at the last minute. When you get saves like that in somebody else’s building, it lends itself to getting a few points.”

The Dallas penalty kill came up big as well, killing off four New York power plays, including two in the third period.

“The PK is huge and we did a really good job. That’s just hard work and paying the price,” said Stars forward Eric Nystrom. “Tonight we killed off some timely power plays for them and that’s a big key to winning.”

The win was the second straight on the road for the Stars and their fourth in the last six games (4-2-0) overall.


*Bachman’s shutout was the first by a Stars goaltender this season.

*The Stars are 29-31 (93.5%) on the penalty kill over the last ten games.

*The Stars improved to 8-7-0 on the road this season.

*The Stars are 8-3-1 when tied after two periods.

*Toby Petersen and Adam Pardy were healthy scratches for Dallas.

*Defenseman Mark Fistric served the final game of his three-game suspension Tuesday. He is eligible to return for Thursday’s game against the New York Islanders.

Postgame quotes

December, 13, 2011
Here are some postgame quotes following the Dallas Stars’ 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers Tuesday night.

Stars goaltender Richard Bachman

“It’s just a win. It’s the hockey game I’ve grown up playing. It’s a lot of a fun. It’s fun being up here with these guys and trying to take it all in. I am taking it one day at a time and see what happens from here. … It’s amazing, it’s fun and I am glad I finally got to see Madison Square Garden. It was the first I time. I thought that was cool, too.”

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on Bachman

“It’s his demeanor to be a calm guy and he’s very tidy around his net. Tonight, maybe, there were a few more things laying around him than usual, but he made some huge saves on a two-on-one and on a slap shot at the end that he saw at the last minute. When you get saves like that in somebody else’s building, it lends itself to getting a few points.”

Stars defenseman Trevor Daley on the win

“They’re all huge. You go to last year we were one point out. Every point matters. … We stuck with it, got a break and buried it. You are not going to score too many goals on that goalie. It was a hard battle and we stuck with it and came out on top.”

Stars forward Eric Nystrom on the penalty kill, which was 4-4

“The PK is huge and we did a really good job. That’s just hard work and paying the price. Tonight we killed off some timely power plays for them and that’s a big key to winning.”

Rangers coach John Tortorella

“We played hard. I thought as far as the zone time we spent quite a bit of time in their zone. But I still don’t think we generated enough offense. We had some really good chances, three or four of them, but certainly not enough sustained.”

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan

“I think they sat back pretty well. Their defense was sitting back and they kept moving the puck backwards, and drawing us in and then attacking us. It was a bit back and forth that way, but at the same time I don’t think we got enough pucks in deep, worked them that well. When we started to do that, we had pressure, we had chances.”

Rangers center Brad Richards on the power play, which was 0-4

“We had a couple of good looks, where lately those pucks have been going in. It’s just not enough -we didn’t do enough to get that goal to get ahead.”

Bachman, Stars shut out Rangers, 1-0

December, 13, 2011

Richard Bachman stopped 34 shots for his first NHL shutout and Trevor Daley scored with 4:59 left in the third period as the Dallas Stars defeated the New York Rangers 1-0 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. Bachman is 2-0-0 with a 0.43 goals against average and .986 save percentage (71 saves on 72 shots) in three appearances for the Stars this season. The Stars have won two straight on the road and four of six overall (4-2-0).

First period

The Stars and Rangers were scoreless in a fast paced first period. Both teams had eight shots on goal and both teams were 0-1 on the power play.

Second period

The Rangers outshot the Stars 13-12 in the second period. Both teams had one power play in the period, and Stars goalie Richard Bachman had big saves on each team’s power play.

He stopped Brad Richards with the Rangers on the power play, and then with the Stars on the power play late in the period he made a great glove stop on Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers on a two-on-one shorthanded break.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was shaken up when he was hit with a blast off the stick of Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray, but he continued to play.

Stars forward Jake Dowell and Rangers forward Brandon Prust picked up fighting majors in the period.

Third period

Both goaltenders traded big saves in the third period. Bachman made a nifty save on a Ryan Callahan deflection, a shot by Steve Eminger and a shot from the left circle by Artem Anisimov. Lundqvist stopped Eric Nystrom shorthanded and then made a great stop on a point blank chance by Mike Ribeiro.

The Stars finally broke through with 4:59 remaining. After Rangers defenseman Jeff Woywitka turned over the puck, Trevor Daley finished off a give-and-go with Ribeiro, beating Lundqvist with a shot from close range to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

The Rangers had a power play, their fourth of the game, with 4:42 remaining but couldn’t take advantage. New York pulled Lundqvist with just over a minute remaining for the extra attacker, but they couldn’t crack Bachman and the Stars. Final score: Dallas 1, New York Rangers 0.

Stars lineup



Bachman (starter)

Injured: Burish (broken hand), Lehtonen (groin)
Suspended: Fistric
Scratched: Petersen, Pardy

Tuesday pregame notes

December, 13, 2011

The Dallas Stars won't see Sean Avery when they take on the New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden. Avery will be a healthy scratch. The Stars will see former teammate Brad Richards, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent in July.

“For me it’s not as much, but certainly for the guys in that locker room it is," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of the matchup with Richards. "You hope – and it usually does take place – that your players rise a little bit to a level. That’s what we are hoping for tonight. We’ll see what matchups they want tonight, if any, and we’ll go from there. We know he’s out there, we know he is a great player. Just hope our battle and compete level are higher because of that fact.”

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the Rangers. He's 3-2-0 with a 2.18 goals against average and .925 save percentage in five career starts against the Stars.

Richard Bachman gets his second NHL start for the Stars.

This will be the third and final game of Mark Fistric's three-game suspension. He'll be eligible to return when the Stars play at the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Stars set to face ex-teammate Brad Richards

December, 13, 2011
The Dallas Stars will not only be facing the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, they’ll also be squaring off with former teammate Brad Richards, who signed with the Rangers as a free agency over the summer.

“It’s just like seeing Marty (Turco) in Chicago, Hully (Brett Hull) in Detroit or Mo (Mike Modano) in Detroit. It’s strange to see those guys on other teams, but you get used to it,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “For the first shift it might be strange seeing him in a Rangers uniform, but after that it’s just another game.”

Richards, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay in 2008, played a little more than three seasons for the Stars, but with the Stars ownership situation still unresolved as free agency approached in the summer, Richards felt it was time to take his talents to the free agent market. He signed a nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers.

"When you're not in the playoffs for three straight years and you're not spending the money that six, seven, eight other teams are in the Western Conference, [I'm] not saying you can't do it, but I wanted that stability," Richards told ESPNNewYork.com. "It's no one's fault. It's my decision and I'll take full accountability for that decision."

When Richards moved on, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk used the money he didn’t spend on re-signing Richards and signed several players on July 1 to make the Stars a deeper team. Players like Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak, Sheldon Souray and Michael Ryder have paid big dividends.

“We’ve adjusted well to it and they’ve all really done a good job,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “Richie is a special player. It would be nice to have him and what we’ve got, but we feel we’ve got a good team. Joe’s done a great job in getting the pieces he felt we needed. It’s been working out.”

Things have worked out well for Richards and the Rangers, who are 17-6-4 and own the second best points percentage in the NHL (.702). Richards is tied for the team lead in points (25), leads the team in assists (14) and is second in goals (11).

And the Stars have adjusted well to life after Richards. They are 16-11-1 and right in the middle of things in a tight Western Conference. They head into Tuesday’s game sitting atop the Pacific Division.

“I’m happy with the way the team’s playing,” said Morrow. “He’s happy in this city, too.”

Bachman to get second straight start

Richard Bachman will get his second straight start when the Stars take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.

“It's an opportunity for him to showcase himself with us. It's an opportunity to solidify him in our plans and what we're doing,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We have to evaluate him, just like we are Lars (Philip Larsen), Vinny (Tomas Vincour) and all these guys that are coming up. We want to see where they stand. It's a good opportunity for him to showcase himself.”

Bachman, in his first NHL start on Saturday, stopped 26 of 27 shots in a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles at Staples Center.


“We have to get better each game. You can see in the standings it is getting tighter and tighter, things are even squishing from the bottom and pushing into the top. So the only way you have a chance to stay in the thick of things is to try to get better each day, and the teams that do that, I think, are the teams that will be standing in the end. We have to be one of those teams.”

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan

Brad Richards not Star-struck over reunion

December, 12, 2011
Katie Strang of ESPNNewYork.com has a story on New York Rangers center Brad Richards as he prepares to face his former Dallas Stars teammates Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. The story begins:
Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow will be among the cadre of close friends and former teammates Brad Richards faces for the first time with the New York Rangers in Tuesday's match against the Dallas Stars.

But despite the bonds forged in Richards' three-plus seasons with the Stars, there will be no fraternizing on the ice.

"It's tough. It's tough to leave when you create those friendships with your teammates," Richards said. "[But] they're coming in and I want to beat 'em."

The rest of the story is here.

Loui Eriksson quietly produces for Stars

November, 7, 2011
There’s nothing really flashy about Loui Eriksson’s game, but he does have a knack for producing goals and points. The Stars forward has been on a roll lately and his six points over the last two games earned him the NHL’s Second Star of the Week.

“He’s one of those guys who when I watch video, he doesn’t jump off the screen,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “But you keep watching games and you see the subtleties in his game, and his brain.”

You can look at the score sheet and see his production. He has 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) over the last four games and now has 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 13 games this season. He currently is tied for seventh in goal scoring in the NHL and is tied for ninth in points.

“He goes to the hard areas to score his goals. He’s not a perimeter guy,” said Gulutzan. “Every time you see Loui score, he’s got his helmet twisted on the wrong way, or he’s fixing something because he’s picking himself up off the ice. He goes to the hard areas, he’s elusive, and he’s got a good hockey mind. He’s a real good player.”

While Gulutzan uses the word elusive to describe Eriksson, teammate Steve Ott throws out a couple of other terms to describe Eriksson’s ability to get to those key areas of the ice.

“You can call him slimy or slippery or whatever you want, but he is always in the right position,” said Ott. “He’s always doing the right play and that’s why he is so valuable out there.”

Over the past three seasons Eriksson has scored 92 goals and chipped in 115 assists for the Stars. The 26-year-old Swede said his formula for goal scoring success is pretty straightforward.

“I am just trying to stay in front of the net all the time and find some open areas,” Eriksson said. “The puck seems to come to me and it’s nice to have that feeling that puck will come to me.”

The last three seasons, the guy getting the puck to Eriksson a lot of the time was Brad Richards. But when Richards signed with the New York Rangers in free agency this past summer, some people wondered if Eriksson would continue to produce at the same rate or if he might take a step back.

“How good was Brad Richards with Loui Eriksson? There’s a big difference if you put it all together,” said Ott. “I truly believe that he made Richie that much better than Richie made Loui that much better because of how much talent Loui has defensively, offensively. He knows to find the great areas around the ice and competes to get to those areas.”

With Richards, a big points producer, moving along the Stars were expecting a lot of players to help fill the void offensively and Eriksson was one of the players they expected to take another step forward in his career.

“You always want to get better. We’ve got off to a pretty good start here, the whole team and our line is getting good, too,” said Eriksson. “We are getting a great amount of chances out there. It’s always good to have that feeling, we’re scoring goals. That’s something I’ve been good at the last couple years, so I want to keep going.”

Eriksson has been playing with center Jamie Benn this season and the two have clicked. Benn also has 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) and is tied for ninth in the league in points.

“He’s a great player,” said Eriksson. “He can do so much out there; he’s a good player with the puck and has such a good shot. It’s always good to play with a player like that.”

Benn and Richards are different types of centers, but Eriksson said he still does what he always does and that is get to the front of the net.

“Brad likes to pass the puck a little bit more and Benner is the shooting type of center. He has a good shot and he has to use that and I have to be ready for the rebounds,” said Eriksson.

But there’s more to Eriksson’s game than just the goals and points. He’s a complete player and excellent defensive player as well.

“I was lucky enough to play with a Jere Lehtinen when he was scoring 30 goals and winning a Selke Trophy and Loui has that making,” said Ott. “He’s that strong defensively. He’s got Selke written all over him.”

Eriksson, despite being a key player for Sweden’s Olympic team and an NHL All-Star, has flown under the radar a bit during his career, but his ability hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers. Last year, in a poll of NHL players, he was voted the most underrated player in the league. Maybe that’s because there’s nothing flashy about what he does. He just quietly goes about his business and gets the job done.

"He doesn’t Ovechkin you or Crosby you. He’s got a little Jere Lehtinen in him, he’s got scoring touch in him,” said Gulutzan. “He’s a hockey player. He’s not an offensive talent or a defensive specialist, he’s a hockey player.”

Q&A with Toby Petersen

September, 5, 2011
Forward Toby Petersen has been among the Dallas Stars players skating on their own in Frisco recently. Last week Petersen answered a few questions about the team’s offseason moves and the upcoming season.

On the off season player additions and the team’s depth

“There’s a lot of depth throughout the lineup and I think that can mean nothing but good things for our team. You keep hearing about the rigors of the 82-game schedule and trying to keep everyone fresh, that is spot on. With the added depth I think that will be an important factor for us as we head into January, February and March and we can peak at the end of the season and finish strong.”

On the goal of rolling four lines and spreading out ice time a little more evenly

“Going back to that depth, you’re going to have some new guys in the lineup. You can never predict injuries, but assuming everyone is fresh you’re going to have some changeover or rollover in the lineup from night to night and those guys are going to be fresh. You factor in that they are going to roll lines a little more steadily and that means the top end guys are going to be more fresh as well. I think we are going to be able to play with a lot of pace this year. We’ve been playing with that the past couple years, but I think that will be very true this year with the depth and rolling the lines with the style of play I’ve seen [ head coach Glen Gulutzan] play. I don’t know a lot about that yet and we’ll learn more about it, but I think we’ll be able to play with a lot of pace.”

On the loss of Brad Richards and the impact on the team’s ability to generate offense

“You can’t take anything away from Brad. He’s a special player and it’s hard to replace a lot of the stuff he did. With the moves we made we’ve made a lot of positive steps in doing that. As we talked about, rolling four lines a little bit more. Some of the guys we added for more specific things Brad was able to do. Adding (Sheldon) Souray on the blue line will help us generate offense.

“I went down to Austin two years ago to watch the [Texas Stars] play in the Calder Cup series against Chicago, and you look at their lineup and there weren’t a whole lot of names that popped out at you. But they kept winning and scoring goals and they did it through a defense first. You take care of your own end and you make smart plays in your own end, you are going to create offense. I think that is something he prides himself on and it’s a formula that has worked for him in the past. “

On the impact of the Stars adding some size and toughness during the offseason

“You always talk about the new NHL and every year it is changing depending on who has success in the playoffs. Clearly Boston had a lot of toughness but they had a lot of size as well. You look at teams in the past that have had success, like Pittsburgh, they could play any style. If it’s a defensive struggle they can play in that kind of game, trap it up, and if it’s a track meet like a lot times when they play Washington, they can play that way. You look at Boston, they could adapt to the game. We did a good job adding size and we have guys that can skate out there and create offense, so I think we have a good mix of abilities in our locker room.”

Q&A with Mike Ribeiro

August, 29, 2011
Dallas Stars center Mike Ribeiro is among the players who have been skating in Frisco recently in preparation for training camp. Ribeiro talked to the media after one of the skates and here’s a transcript of what he had to say.

On his taking a bigger role offensively with Brad Richards moving on via free agency

“That’s what you want. It’s a little bit harder. I think last year I adjusted pretty good and didn’t care about first or second, and it will be the same this year. We’ve got Benny (Jamie Benn), who is ready to take a big step and we’ll see how we go. It’s a team. Some nights Benny’s line will be the top line and other nights it will be me. I am ready to be the first one and play against those top D’s and those checking lines. But I won’t mind if it’s Benny’s line or Tommy Wandell’s line. We just have to stay focused on what we have to do as a team and win some games.”

On new head coach Glen Gulutzan

“We talked a few times during the summer and I am sure we are going to talk even more coming up to the season. We still have (associate coach) Willie Desjardins. We’ll keep the basics, but I am sure Gully is going to want his input and show us some new stuff. I’ve learned from every coach I’ve had and hopefully I’ll learn again this year. New coaches now have different approaches and different stuff you can learn. It will be nice to see what we can do with that.”

On the addition of right wing Michael Ryder, a teammate in Montreal

“He can shoot the puck. Most the seasons he has played he has scored 20, 25, 30 goals. He’s going to take that 25 goals that James Neal used to bring us, but he’s a right hand shot and a little bit different. He’s pretty fast too. He’s an awkward skater, but once he gets going he is pretty fast. He’s a skilled guy and he’s been coached by some really good coaches, so he knows how to play the game and that’s important, too.

“It’s going to be good for us. We played on the same line in Montreal for a few years, so we know each other. We’ll see if we work together this year.

“We had a good year there just before the lockout. He just won a Cup. Hopefully he comes here in good shape and ready to go. We have a good group to welcome people in, so I am sure he’ll be comfortable here knowing a few guys. “

On the addition of defenseman Sheldon Souray, also a teammate in Montreal

“Since we lost [Sergei Zubov] and [Philippe Boucher] – we have [Alex] Goligoski who can shoot it from there – but snipers from the blue line, you don’t have a lot of those. He’s a guy that can shoot from the blue line and score. Not just his shot, but size too will help. He’s a guy that can play physical and dirty. But his shot can help us, especially on the power play. He’s a guy that can score and we’ve needed that from the blue line.

“It will be interesting on the power play. Then you have a guy like Ryder, who is a right shot. The last few years we really didn’t have a guy who could shoot right handed and could score. It will be nice to see the mix we can have, what lines we’ll have. I am just anxious to see. I am anxious for training camp.”
The Dallas Stars have had their ups and downs over the past couple years and a lot of those downs have come over the second half of the season and down the stretch. And it’s cost them a shot at the postseason. It’s something that’s caught the attention of Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, and it’s something he wants to address.

“In our division and our conference, especially the division, with the time zones we have to cross, it’s a grind,” said Nieuwendyk. ” That’s the one thing I’ve seen for two years now with our hockey club is that we wear out. It’s hard not to with the schedule.”

The Stars’ record the last two seasons offers some proof of the toll that grind has taken. Whether you want to break it down by first half vs. second half or pre-Olympic/All-Star break vs. post-break, the Stars have faded in the second part of the season. The numbers are in the table below.

Sure, there were times injuries were a factor. Still, Nieuwendyk wants to make being prepared for the long grind of an 82-game season a focus in 2011-12.

“I think one of the messages is that every day counts and everybody matters within our team,” Nieuwendyk said.

That much talked about depth the Stars focused on adding during free agency is one important factor in helping the Stars deal with the rigors of the long season.

“We have some more depth,” said head coach Glen Gulutzan. “Vernon Fiddler, (Radek) Dvorak and (Jake) Dowell have been added up front. (Michael) Ryder. We have to use that.”

The Stars want to be a team that uses four lines, helping spread out the ice time more evenly among the forwards. The model for depth last season was Stanley Cup champion Boston. Of the 17 forwards the Bruins used over the course of the regular season none averaged more than 19 minutes per game and not one averaged less than 10 minutes.

For the Stars it was a much different story. Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson were over 20 minutes per game and Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro averaged more than 19 minutes. And 10 of the 20 forwards the Stars used averaged less than ten minutes. Gulutzan said he'd like to see the minutes for this season's high-end players a little lower this season.

“When I look at it, those guys’ minutes won’t come down significantly but they may come down a minute a game. When you have more depth those other guys need time,” Gulutzan said. “The players I have talked to are all excited about the depth of the team. What everyone realizes is that when you have more depth you have to spread things around a little bit more. So maybe some of our high end guys won’t get as many defending minutes, but they are certainly going to get all of their offensive minutes that they are accustomed too.”

The addition of players like Fiddler and Dvorak can help in that both are expert penalty killers. Fiddler ranked 11th overall among NHL forwards last season with an average of 2:53 of shorthanded ice time per game, and Dvorak ranked 48th with 2:13 per game.

“You’ve added two PK specialists to your group so that has to take away minutes from somebody. That’s just the way it has to be. It’s reality,” said Gulutzan. “And I think the players are ready for that, to embrace that. Some of the players felt that – and I didn’t hear from every guy – but certainly the consensus was we faded, tired or were overused. Whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know. When you have the horses that are specialized in areas like that you have to use them.”

The Stars also would like to make the best use of their two goaltenders. It wasn’t so much that Kari Lehtonen played 69 games last season, but that he started the final 23 games in 2010-11 and was probably running low on fuel late in the season.

“I thought we wore him out,” said Nieuwendyk.

Nieuwendyk added the Stars will do more than just try to use all their players as they combat the grind of the long season.

“We’re going to do some things different this year by trying to keep our guys at the top of their game. We built a weight room downtown at the American Airlines Center. That’s in the process right now,” Nieuwendyk said. “We’re going to dedicate days to where we are just maintaining our fitness and our strength, so that we are better prepared to handle the rigors of a full season.

“And that’s why we have to use all our people. We have to use four lines. We have to use two goalies.”

And the Stars hope all that will help them weather the grind of a long 82-game season.
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.”

Quotable: Glen Gulutzan

August, 17, 2011
Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan was on NHL Home Ice this week to help preview the team's upcoming season.

Here are a couple of quotes from his interview, which you can listen to in its entirety here. It’s about 19:30 into the segment.

On making up for the loss of Brad Richards to free agency and if the Stars will now be a score by committee team

“That was the thing we were going to key on going into free agency when we knew we weren’t going to get Brad. There was no player in free agency that was going to replace him. If there was everybody would be going after him. Joe [Nieuwendyk] did a real good job of trying to make us deeper and that score by committee mentality, and that’s what we are going to have to bring in. When I’ve talked to the players they all feel Brad was a big loss and hard to replace, but they also feel there is a different way you can win games. And that’s the general feeling that these guys have. In the organization, at least I feel, we have enough talent to have two real good power plays and now if we get some depth in our third and fourth lines we can become a little tougher to play against. That’s what we are looking at this season.”

On the style, system the team will play

“If you looked at we talked about previously with having to play a better solid team game, we’re going to have to play an in-your-face forecheck style. If you look at the teams that don’t have a ton of talent on their roster - Nashville would be one team that jumps to mind quite quickly – they play an in-your-face, pacey game. They use four lines and they come at you. Obviously, they are anchored by a great goalie and two good defensemen, but we feel we have those same attributes in our locker room now. That’s the way I coached when I was in the ECHL and the way I coached the Austin team in the AHL and it’s going to be the same way I coach this team here. We’re going to play both ends of the ice. We’re not going to get pigeonholed into an offensive or defensive club. We’re just going to play hard and make sure everyone has a role and makes a difference.”

Hockey News picks Stars 13th in West

August, 17, 2011
The Hockey News is counting down its predicted order of finish for the Western and Eastern conferences on its web site over the next few weeks. Today it hit the 13th spot and in the West THN says it will be the Dallas Stars. You can see THN’s countdown and its take on the Stars here.

The countdown is a preview of the predictions in The Hockey News 2011-12 Yearbook, which is already out in digital form.

In the yearbook, THN offers this to go with its prediction of the Stars finishing 13th in the West:

“Ownership issues have affected the Stars’ ability to retain and attract talent. They just don’t have the horses to run in the West.”

THN offered this on the Stars in its Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide:

“Life after Brad Richards will be pretty painful, as a large chunk of the Stars offense has left town. Center Mike Ribeiro, winger Loui Eriksson, defenseman Alex Goligoski and the versatile Jamie Benn will be responsible for picking up the slack. With less offense, there will be more pressure on Kari Lehtonen to repeat last year’s success. Most of the Stars’ best prospects are not NHL-ready, so expect a few lean years.”

THN puts the Stars’ odds to win the Stanley Cup at 70-1.

It’s that time of the year when the NHL preview magazines start coming out with predictions for the upcoming season and one of the first ones to hit the market is The Sports Forecaster 2011-12 NHL Preview, a Canadian publication and one I look forward to reading every year.

First off, I don’t read too much into these preseason predictions. Don’t get too worked up over them either. They don’t really mean much. And making picks about how things will play out over the course of a long season is tough. A lot can change over that time.

But I do like to read the various national opinions about the Stars and the rest of the NHL teams. It gives you a sense of how teams are perceived after all the summer moves.

When it comes to perceptions about the Stars, the loss of Brad Richards is going to play a big part with most prognosticators. He’s a talented offensive player and was the most coveted free agent on the market this summer. Lose a guy like that and a lot of people are going to think a team has taken a step back, especially when there is no big name replacement. Not saying I agree with it, but that’s the way some people will see it every time.

That was evident in The Sports Forecaster’s prediction about the Stars, which has them finishing 5th in the Pacific Division and dead last (15th) in the Western Conference.

After discussing the loss of Richards, how Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn will have to pick up the slack at center, the chance the Stars are taking on Sheldon Souray and GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s acquisitions of Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak, Adam Pardy, Vernon Fiddler and Jake Dowell, TSF offered this bottom line on the Stars:
“Rookie coach Glen Gulutzan will probably preach a defensive style to help offset the loss of Richards. In [Kari] Lehtonen the Stars have a strong backbone. The blueline is decent, if not spectacular, and there is plenty of grit and toughness on the roster. The key will be scoring enough goals to compete for a playoff berth. Too much of the burden will likely fall on too few options, so the 2011-12 campaign could be a rough one.”

Here is the publication’s predicted order of finish in the Western Conference.

The prediction for Eastern Conference playoff teams: Washington; Boston; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; NY Rangers; Montreal; Buffalo; Tampa Bay.

The Sports Forecaster 2011-12 NHL Preview is going with the Chicago Blackhawks as Stanley Cup Champions this season.

Tuesday morning tidbits

August, 9, 2011
A couple of notes for your Tuesday morning.

*NHL.com is breaking down all 30 NHL teams over a 30 day span. Today the focus in on the Dallas Stars and how they make up for the loss of Brad Richards. An excerpt:
Despite the loss of Richards, the Stars are still a team to look out for in the West. Nieuwendyk did a good job of addressing the team's needs in free agency by taking Richards' expected salary, and divvying it out to a handful of role players that make Dallas deeper on all fronts.

You can read NHL.com's take on the 2011-12 Stars here.

*USA Hockey has trimmed 15 players from the roster at its National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. Among the 29 players remaining are Stars prospect Jack Campbell, which is no shocker. Also still on the roster are Plano natives Stefan Noesen, a first round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2011, and Seth Jones, who at 16 is the youngest player at the camp. The players remaining will take part in the remaining international games against Sweden and Finland at the camp. The USA Hockey release is here.