Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza was excited to see the acquisitions of forward Patrick Sharp, defenseman Johnny Oduya and goaltender Antti Niemi, knowing their skill and experience could help the Stars reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A year ago, the talk was that Spezza's arrival in Dallas after a trade with the Ottawa Senators was supposed to help the Stars advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Instead they missed the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Spezza said this week he hopes the players from last season learned a few things that will help them in this one.
"How hard a league it is and how you can't afford to have slow starts or long droughts," Spezza told the Stars website. "I think we got into too many stretches where we lost five or more games two or three times, and you really can't recover from those. We played good hockey in the second half of the year, but it was too little too late. You hope you learn your lessons and become a more consistent team night in and night out."
Sharp, acquired in a July trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, was part of three Stanley Cup championships with the Blackhawks. Niemi, who came over in a trade with the San Jose Sharks and then signed a three-year contract in June, was with Sharp on the 2010 Blackhawks championship team. Oduya, signed as a free agent in July, won championships with Sharp and the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015.
"You are bringing in great pedigree," Spezza said. "You are not only bringing in great players, you are bringing in great players that have won and won together. They'll have their different outlook on things, and what they found that was successful for them in Chicago they can implement things in our dressing room. We have a pretty open team to learn and get better. When you add three guys that have won, it is huge for the locker room."
Sharp also adds a goal-scorer Spezza lacked last season. Oduya adds depth and smarts on defense, and Niemi and Kari Lehtonen should be a formidable tandem in goal.
Add to that Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn, 37-goal scorer Tyler Seguin, and a healthy Valeri Nichushkin, who was limited to eight games last season by a hip injury after scoring 14 goals in 79 games as a rookie, and the Stars should be in contention for a playoff spot in the difficult Western Conference.
"It's been another positive offseason for the team," Spezza said. "It shows the continued push and continued belief that we can have a good team from [owner Tom] Gaglardi and Jim [Nill, general manager]. They are continuing to tweak things and bring in pieces to give us a better chance to have a good club."