NEW YORK -- Dallas Stars forward Patrick Sharp quickly befriended center Jason Spezza when he joined the team in July. Because why wouldn't he?
Sharp had just been traded to the Stars from the Chicago Blackhawks. He had spent 10 seasons in Chicago, winning the Stanley Cup three times and raising a family. He had to find someone who could relate. Spezza was about the only person who could.
One year earlier Spezza was trying to do the same thing after he got traded to the Stars from the Ottawa Senators, the only team he had known in his 11 NHL seasons.
"He was the first guy I talked to when the trade happened," Sharp said of Spezza. "He's got three girls of his own; I've got two girls. He got traded [in July]. He was in Ottawa for a long time. The scenario is the same, pretty much to a T. He helped me a lot."
Sharp, 34, and Spezza, 32 became fast friends. Sharp moved into a home in the same Dallas neighborhood as Spezza.
"We're similar in age, at a similar point in life, so we find ourselves hanging out with each other quite a bit," Spezza said. "It's not a forced relationship."
But Sharp doesn't need Spezza's help around the team nearly as much anymore.
Now that he's played 44 games with the Stars this season, Sharp said he is at ease with his new team, city and surroundings.
"I looked around the room when I first came here and I think in the last five years I probably got into it with 10 or 12 guys on this team on the ice at some different point in the season," Sharp said. "We've been able to have a laugh about some of those times now. It's an easy group to fit into. These guys have fun. You can tell they care about each other."
They definitely care about Sharp.
"The guys love him," Stars captain Jamie Benn said.
They do for more than just his production, which recently has been climbing.
Sharp has six goals and 15 points during a 12-game point streak. He has 16 goals and 37 points in 44 games, playing the majority of the time on the top line with Benn and center Tyler Seguin.
"He's been one of our best players," Spezza said.
Sharp said he never was worried about his place in the lineup or producing, especially if he was going to get some time with Benn and Seguin, two of the top five scorers in the League. What he was dealing with earlier this season was trying to fit in off the ice and make sure he was doing the right things on it.
He said he never felt out of place because his teammates wouldn't let him. But he also knew he wasn't being himself because he wasn't cracking jokes and lightening the mood in the dressing room.
Sharp is doing all of that now. He said that, more than anything, is the telltale sign he's comfortable.
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 37
SOG: 141 | +/-: 6
"We're starting to see the real [Sharp] now," Benn said. "He fits in really well with this group. He's a good leader for this team already. He's starting to show a little bit more of his personality now here around the room. The boys eat it up. He's a funny guy."
That it took Sharp some time to adjust and feel comfortable isn't a surprise. Spezza said the most difficult thing to do when you're a veteran player coming to a new organization is to figure out your place in the locker room.
When you've been a leader in one place for so long it's only natural for you to want to be that guy again. But Spezza said you find yourself resisting the temptation to say something for fear of rocking the boat or being taken the wrong way.
"You don't want to speak up. You don't want to say too much. You don't want to say too little," Spezza said. "You want to show you want to be there but you don't want to step on anybody's toes. You're just finding your way around the room."
It was even tougher for Sharp, because the aura of being a three-time Stanley Cup champion followed him into the Stars' locker room.
There was an expectation that he would bring immediate accountability to the team. Sharp laughs at that because he said all he wanted to do was fit in. Spezza said the players thought differently.
"Oh for sure, you listen to him when he speaks," Spezza said. "He's able to have good perspectives on certain situations that happen throughout a season. When you're that experienced you know there are going to be ups and downs. But when he speaks it definitely carries weight because he's been there and he's seen it."
Sharp first had to get comfortable speaking in the dressing room and being himself. It was unrealistic to expect him to be a leader from Day 1.
"It's tough to move cities, switch organizations," Sharp said. "It takes time."
Time is up. Sharp is himself. His production is part of the proof. The rest is more behind the scenes, such as preaching calm on the bench and lightening the mood in the dressing room with a timely joke.
"He's just enjoying himself more," Spezza said. "You get to know the guys that can be poked a little bit, how you can poke them. I think it's just natural. He's been here for four months or so now and it seems like he's more open. That's how I felt too. You don't want to just jump into a locker room. It takes time to figure things out. I'd say he's there. He's got it."