The club’s de facto leader on the blue line, the 34-year-old native of Sherbrooke, Quebec continues to provide excellence in just about every aspect of the game.
1. He helps generate offense from the back end, as evidenced by his 30 points, the second-highest total of his 11-year NHL career. After leading all Stars blueliners in 2009-10 with 41 points, Robidas ranked behind only newcomer Alex Goligoski
’s 46 this past year.
2. He is relied upon in all situations, anchoring the club’s top defense pairing while also taking the ice on the power play, penalty kill and in games’ final minutes, demonstrating prowess at both ends of the ice. The fact that he topped the squad in ice time for the third year in a row, averaging 24:31 per night, is further testament to his importance.
3. Despite unimposing size at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Robidas possesses a gritty side, supplying a courageous physical presence while delivering 216 hits this year. That ranked third on the club and 16th in the NHL, marking the fifth straight season he topped 195 hits and finished among the league’s top 20 hitters. Robidas also chipped in with 135 blocked shots, second-most on the Stars.
4. On top of everything else, the 11-year NHL veteran wears an A on his jersey as alternate captain and acts as one of the club’s top leaders in the dressing room.
“He’s just Mr. Consistent,” says captain Brenden Morrow
of Robidas. “He works hard every day, competes every day, the discipline he has. He’s starting to be noticed around the league and I think people are starting to realize the type of player he is, but more important than that, the leadership he has, what he does on and off the ice around here, teaching the young guys and just being a real good professional.”
It all adds up to the performance of one of the Stars’ most valuable players. Perhaps even more impressive is that despite his abrasive style and his penchant for receiving more punishment than he dishes out, Robidas managed to suit up for every game he was eligible for, skating in 81 contests. The only one he missed was due to an automatic suspension back in October for receiving two checking from behind game misconduct penalties in a 41-game span.
That means he was clearly battling through some minor injuries down the stretch, but still remained in the lineup.
“Nothing too major,” downplayed Robidas, who has remarkably surpassed 70 games played in each of the last six seasons, since joining Dallas as a free agent in Aug. 2005. “I had a hip bugging me, not the one I had last year, but the other one has been bugging me a little bit. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.”
And despite the considerable personal accomplishments he achieved, the team player in him had a difficult time looking past the fact that the squad wound up missing the playoffs again.
“Obviously, we didn’t make the playoffs now the last three years, but I think this year, being so close, it’s the toughest,” admitted Robidas, who blossomed in his last post-season appearance, amassing three goals and 11 points in 18 games when the Stars advanced to the 2008 Western Conference Finals. “We had our chances. All we needed to do was win that last game and we couldn’t do it, so it’s really frustrating for us right now.
“It’s going to be there for awhile, it’s going to be tough to swallow. We were right there in January, we were leading our division and things were going well for us and for whatever reason, we went in a slump, had a few injuries and it was tough to get out of it. We were battling, the last month we were in and out and we were right there until the end, but we just couldn’t finish the deal.”
Robidas also didn’t have an explanation for what happened in that final regular season contest, when the Stars had an opportunity to squeeze past Chicago into the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with a win, but ended up falling 5-3 to Minnesota.
“To be honest, going into the third (period), tie game, we were exactly where we wanted to be,” Robidas said of that final heart-breaking defeat. “We played really well all year in the third period, even down by a goal, I think we had one of the best records in the league. To be honest, I don’t know. It’s tough to say why this happened, but it happened, and I think we just got to learn from it.”
The absence of Robidas’ usual defense partner Nicklas Grossman for much of the stretch run certainly didn’t help the Stars’ cause, but it did allow Robidas to team up with newcomer Alex Goligoski
, who was acquired from Pittsburgh on Feb. 22. Robidas looks forward to spending an entire season alongside Goligoski in 2011-12.
“You look at the minutes that he logged every night and you look at the way he moves the puck and the way he shoots the puck, and the way he plays on the power play,” Robidas said of Goligoski, who averaged a whopping 26:04 of ice time in 23 games with Dallas, while totaling five goals and 15 points. “He brought that new dimension that we didn’t really have, so it was a really good addition for our team and it’ll be nice to have him for a full year next year.”
But with Grossman sitting out 21 of the last 26 games of the season with two separate lower body injuries, Robidas and Goligoski were counted upon even more to anchor the defense and opponents clearly keyed on them down the stretch, which may have worn down the top pairing.
Robidas logged even more ice time than usual, averaging 24:58 over the final 17 regular season contests, recording just one goal and one assist while posting a -8 plus/minus rating over that span.
“Obviously, losing Grossman really hurt because our top pair, Goligoski and Robidas, took a beating down the stretch,” Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk acknowledged. “It was no secret that some of those big Western Conference teams, that was their game plan, to pound those guys. You want to have them on the ice because they’re good players, but we really missed Grossman, his size, his power, and we need to make improvements.”
“I think we have a pretty good group with everybody healthy,” Robidas said of the defense corps. “I think we’re pretty solid and we just got to keep moving and getting better. For all of us, we have to get better as a team and that goes for us on D as well.”
The 26-year-old Grossman spoke glowingly of the man who has become his mentor the past two seasons, and the impact he’s had.
“It doesn’t matter how long he’s played or how old he is, he always goes out there and wants to get better,” Grossman said of Robidas. “He’s been great. He’s a huge part of this team and a solid piece of the D corps. He’s just a great role model for us other guys to look up to. He’s doing the right things all the time, on and off the ice and I think it’s great to have a guy like that on our team.”
For a team-first guy like Robidas, all he can do now is to get back to work and start preparing for next year, vowing to make sure the Stars don’t experience this disappointment again.
“We got to make sure we’re ready next year to have a good training camp and get off to a strong start to the season,” said Robidas, already looking ahead.