Defenseman Trevor Daley was excited back in July when he heard the news that the Dallas Stars traded for center Jason Spezza. There was excitement about what Spezza would bring to the team, and there was another reason as well.
“I had the good fortune to grow up with Jason and play against him ever since we were nine, so I’ve known him for a lot of years. For me, it was I finally get to play on the same team with him,” said Daley, who along with Spezza is from Toronto. “We grew up in the same area and played against each other from Novice until we traded for him. That was pretty cool. My first text to him was we get to finally play on the same team. …. He’s a world-class hockey player, great skill and he is going to come in and help our team a lot.”
Daley is one of several Stars players who have started holding informal skates in Frisco. He had a quiet summer hanging out with his kids and enjoying some water sports. He’s thrilled to be back after an offseason that saw Stars GM Jim Nill cut the deal for Spezza, sign forwards Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves and boost the goaltending depth with the additions of Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Daley said. “When you see guys go it’s a little disappointing, but it is part of what we do. What Jim did this offseason was helpful to our team.”
The additions of Spezza and the highly skilled Hemsky will provide a boost to the Stars’ group of top six forwards. With Spezza and Tyler Seguin centering the top two lines, opposing teams will have a tougher time trying to shut down the Dallas attack.
“It’s going to help us. We’ve got two No. 1 lines and the other team is going to have to pick which guys they want to shut down,” Daley said. “Last year, we dealt with every team putting their shutdown pair on Seguin’s line, and now they are going to have to make a decision.”
There wasn’t much of a change on defense other than the Stars buying out the final year of Aaron Rome’s contract. The defense basically will stay the same with Daley, Alex Goligoski, Jordie Benn, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Connauton and Brenden Dillon, who is a restricted free agent and still negotiating a new deal. The Stars expect one of their younger defenseman – Patrick Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka – to compete for the other roster spot.
“We thought we were pretty good, but obviously there is room for improvement,” Daley said of the defense. “Jeep (assistant coach James Patrick) does a great job with us, letting us know what is going on and how we need to get better. The way we finished last year, we take out of that we can get better. Whether they made changes or didn’t make changes, we were excited to get started.”
The play of Daley and Goligoski as the team’s top pair over the second half of the season was a key reason behind the defense’s improvement in 2013-14. Daley said it was a matter of both he and Goligoski making use of their best assets.
“For both of us, we used our assets and that’s our feet. Neither one of us is going to outmuscle someone or throw a guy around. We’ve got to skate and keep the puck on our stick,” Daley said. “The best defending Alex and I can do is when we have the puck. There is no better way to defend than having the puck on your stick. When we did get the puck we tried to hold onto it and make plays, and not give the puck back where you are in a position where you have to defend so much.”
The Stars snapped a five-year playoff drought last season but fell in six games to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Daley and his teammates felt they should have won that series, but the Stars are a young team and young teams have to learn how to win.
“I think last year’s playoffs was a huge learning experience for us, the fact that we should have won,” said Daley. “To every man in that room we look back today at some of those games and we should have won at least three of the games we lost, four of the games we lost we should have won. It’s definitely a lesson. We made mistakes that a young team would make and learning from that is going to be a process throughout the year. We are going to have to learn and build off what happened. When that time comes again we are going to have to run with it.”
With that experience to build on and the offseason moves made by Nill, Daley said there is a lot of anticipation among the players to get the season rolling.
“It’s great just seeing what Jim did this offseason,” Daley said. “The group chats we had this summer, the boys are excited. Everybody is pretty excited to get started.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.