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Daley contributing at both ends of the ice

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

While he’s quietly enjoyed another solid season in the defensive zone, Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley had been relatively quiet at the other end of the ice - until recently.

The sixth-year blueliner has certainly ratcheted up the level of his play with the puck lately, and his beautiful game-winning goal in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Ottawa demonstrated just the kind of offensive impact that Daley has always seemed on the verge of providing.

His fifth goal of the season was a prime example of his bountiful skill. Following an Ottawa turnover at center ice, Daley collected the puck and started the rush back the other way. Weaving his way through several Senators, Daley fired a scorching wrist shot from the right circle that painted the far upper corner.

“He’s such a good skater that when you jump up into the play and get involved in the attack, it does so much,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “He’s got a good shot, he showed it (Saturday) and that was a huge goal for us.”

“He was good right from the start of the game,” added assistant coach Charlie Huddy, who works primarily with the defensemen. “I thought he skated real well and when he’s got his legs and he’s skating, he can make plays like that, and it was nice to see him get rewarded, because I think he’s played great the last little while for us. He’s skated and been doing a lot of good things for us offensively and for him to score that, it was a great shot, and it gives everybody a lift on the bench and gives him a shot of confidence, too.”

The 26-year-old native of Toronto now has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last eight games after recording just one assist in the previous nine contests. Overall on the season, he has 18 points.

Despite the hot streak, Daley doesn’t feel like he’s been doing anything differently.

“I think the payout’s come a little bit more,” he stated. “I think I’ve always been a guy that got up in the play and tried to create some offense. Sometimes you don’t get the payout on the scoresheet, but when you jump up and get somebody out of position, that’s the payout for me. It just looks good when it’s on the scoresheet.”

“I think that’s probably always been in his game,” said Huddy, who served as an assistant coach on Edmonton’s staff for the previous nine seasons before joining the Stars last summer. “I know from the past, watching from the other side, that he’s always had that ability and sometimes you just don’t get the point production out of it. But at the end of the day, if he’s up there and he’s carrying the puck and getting it out of our end, which is obviously important, and getting the thing going ahead and starting the transition part of it, that’s the important part.”

As an offensive defenseman during his junior hockey days with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL, Daley piled up 188 points in 216 games over four seasons, so when the Stars selected him in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, many observers expected that kind of game from him in the NHL. 

And while Daley has always shown flashes of offensive skill since making his NHL debut in 2003-04, he concentrated more on improving his play in the defensive zone and becoming a dependable all-around blueliner.

His production has gradually increased, as he set career highs last year with modest totals of seven goals and 25 points, but the 5-foot-11, 207-pound Daley’s value has always been as the well-rounded, complete package he has evolved into. Just the fact that he ranks second on the team in ice time, averaging 22:16 per game, illustrates just how crucial he is to the Stars’ fortunes.

“He’s got the skillsets, he’s a really good player and sometimes I don’t know if he realizes how good he is,” said fellow defender Stephane Robidas, who leads the squad with 24:21. “With his speed, he’s got a great shot, he’s got great hands, and he’s really good defensively, too. He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not hammering anybody, but he’s always in good position and he can always recover because of his skating, and when he plays like that and he joins the rush, he’s very effective. We’ve seen it the last couple of weeks where he’s been really effective and joining the rush and I think that’s the way he needs to play. I think that’s how he likes to play, too.”

“As a young player growing up, he was one of the best offensive players, leading into junior hockey and the American League, and he’s found his way in the National Hockey League,” Crawford said. “I think you’ll see him get better and better offensively, the more confidence he gets, because he skates and he does have pretty good offensive instincts.”  

Of course, the selfless team-first guy that he is, Daley doesn’t like to talk about himself, preferring to focus instead on the dire straits the Stars find themselves in. With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread after a 3-2 shootout loss to Phoenix Sunday, Daley was far more concerned with righting the ship before it’s too late.

“We know what’s at stake right now, we know it’s an uphill battle,” Daley said. “We can only control what we do and winning games is our main focus right now. It’s desperation time.”

There’s no better time for him to step up and utilize his unique offensive gifts, while continuing to maintain the solid defensive game he’s always shown.

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