The Dallas Stars and new head coach Marc Crawford opened their 2009-10 training camp at their Frisco practice facility Saturday with a full slate of meetings, fitness testing and other administrative issues, as well as an informal practice session.
Crawford, who spent a year in the broadcast booth after last coaching the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08, takes over a Stars team looking for redemption after a season filled with multiple high-profile long-term injuries ended without qualifying for the playoffs for just the third time since the franchise relocated from Minnesota in 1993.
Among the off-season changes was the hiring of new General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk, who subsequently brought Crawford aboard in June.
“I’m excited to get started,” said Crawford. “It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been in a practice. I’m probably more anxious than the players.”
With just three days to prepare before Dallas plays its first pre-season contest at home against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Crawford was ready to jump into some intense on-ice training starting Sunday.
“We’ve got a pretty tight agenda, but we really want to have a good working three days before we get ready for our first exhibition game,” Crawford said. “And I think we can accomplish a lot. We had a real good first day. The guys were terrific with all the testing and with all the protocols and we purposely just let them go out and have their skate, because we felt it was best to get any of those jitters out of the way, so we can start in earnest (Sunday).”
While Crawford’s reputation has been to favor a more wide-open offensive style than the traditionally defensive-minded Stars have used in the past, he doesn’t believe his system will require much of an adjustment.
“It’s not really new, but there will be some nuances that are new,” Crawford said. “We’re going to try and take advantage of the great qualities that the Stars have always had. They’ve always been a team that’s skated really well, especially the forward group. I think the defense skates really well here, too. Skating will be emphasized, speed will be emphasized, we want the skating to show itself in areas like the backcheck, the transition game, and we’re going to utilize our ability to skate with activating our defense maybe more than they have here in the past.
“I think the teams that do well are the teams that can play the game with pace, teams that can play the game with tempo and that really utilize speed, and I believe that’s how this club has been successful in the past and I believe that’s how we’ll be successful again.”
Just getting captain Brenden Morrow
back on the ice healthy should significantly boost the club’s fortunes.
“I think everything physically is 100 (percent),” said Morrow, who scored five goals and 15 points in 18 games last year before tearing the ACL in his right knee last November and missing the rest of the season. “It might take a little while for me mentally to believe, but I’m capable of doing anything I want to do, I just try not to think about it. The more scrimmages I’m in, the more reaction drills I’m in where I don’t think about it, the better I’ll feel.”
Morrow is confident that he will be able to return to his prior high level of play.
“I know I’m going to help our team win and that’s what my focus is,” Morrow said. “It’s not about scoring so many goals or being a top 15 (in the league) guy, it’s about helping the Dallas Stars get back to our glory days, about being a successful team that isn’t written off.”
Goaltender Marty Turco is thrilled to see his good friend healthy again and looks forward to seeing Morrow rekindle his partnership with linemate (and Stars leading scorer) Mike Ribeiro
“Those two are in their prime, they’re gifted players and athletes, they have a great chemistry,” Turco said. “Having Brenden back on the ice makes our team ten-fold better. You could just see his intensity already, in August, and now that camp’s upon us, he’s ready to rev it up. He’s our leader, because that man has it all, he plays the game of hockey the way it’s meant to be played.”
Of course, Turco’s ability to rebound from an up-and-down 2008-09 will also be critical to the Stars’ chances of returning to the post-season.
“I’m very excited to get back at it,” said Turco, who recorded career lows last season with a 2.81 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. “We all know how long it’s been since we last played a game. More importantly, we all know the changes that have been made around here. Despite last year’s shortcomings, we still feel we have a great team here, capable of a lot better than that.”
Turco is ready to get going again and his new coach was expecting a lot from him.
“I feel like I had a great summer,” Turco said. “I look forward to getting on the ice, getting the emotions revved up high and playing back on the edge. We skated for the last four or five weeks to get ready for this camp, the season, and looking forward to getting on the ice with the coaches tomorrow.”
“I just know that he’s put in a lot of work this off-season,” Crawford said of his netminder. “I think most people that know him even better than me say this is the hardest he’s worked. We’re all determined to move forward and Marty’s put a lot of work in and we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring for us this year.”