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Daley Has Found Offensive Groove for Stars

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Since making his National Hockey League debut in October 2003, Trevor Daley has built a solid reputation as a high-quality puck moving defenseman for the Dallas Stars. The 28-year-old blueliner who is currently in his eighth season has always made solid contributions on the offensive end of the pond, but his chipping in never came at the expense of handling his defensive responsibilities.

But through the halfway point of the 2011-12 season he has been able to do both. He is currently tied with Sheldon Souray for the most points Dallas d-men with 16 markers (4-12-16), a total that has recently risen thanks to Daley registering 11 points over his last 16 games.

The highlight of that solid run of form was a three-point showing (one goal, two assists) in a 4-2 win over Boston on Dec. 31, 2010. But he also had the game winner in consecutive road wins at Los Angeles and the New York Rangers in mid-December.

Such solid production has definitely impressed his new head coach.

“We feel he’s been very good this year on both ends of the rink and a very committed player both ways. I can’t tell you how important he is for us,” Stars first-year coach Glen Gulutzan said. “His skating ability and just his overall game, his defending, has been really good this year. I think Dales has taken his game to a new level this year, I really do. That’s exactly what we want from a player like him. He can be a game changer.”

And while some players might take much of the credit for such an uptick in offensive form, Daley is completely the opposite. Always the consummate team guy, he chooses to give his teammates the credit for his recent success on the offensive end.

“When you’re out there playing with great hockey players that makes a huge difference. I’m excited,” he said. “As long as we’re winning and the numbers are coming, I’m going to be happy.”

He comes off a 2010-11 season where he set a career high with 27 points (8-19-27) and was one of four Stars to skate in all 82 games. However, any hopes he had of repeating that feat this season ended when a back injury in late November shelved him for three games.

Since he’s returned to full health, he has clearly done some very good things on both ends of the pond, something he attributes to a strong recovery from that aforementioned injury. “It was actually kind of a weird injury where I got to do spa days every day. So it’s kind of nice with different injuries, I got massages and went for hot tub,” Daley said. “That was my treatment. It was all right. I was happy to get back and get at it, but once I was back it was fine. Once it went away, it was fine.”

For the bulk of this season, the Toronto native has been partnered with Nicklas Grossman at the blue line and it’s a pairing that has worked on several levels. In fact, it looks like his defensive mate’s recent run of offensive form has rubbed off on Grossman as he has three assists in his last six games.

Daley was paired with Jeff Woywitka for much of last season and even though he and his new defensive partner haven’t been paired up for all that long, he feels that he and Grossman have quickly developed a solid synergy nonetheless.

“Yeah, it’s good. He’s a big experience guy,” Daley said. “Grossie’s not just big, but he’s real experienced back there. He’s been in the league now a long time. He knows his role and he allows me to do what I need to do.”

At least early on in preseason, he was paired up with newcomer Souray and the  man known as “Hammer” was asked for his thoughts about his young teammate back then and No. 44 stated that this could be a breakout season for the man known as Dales.

Judging from his recent outburst, it looks like the veteran blue liner was on to something.

“Confidence, he’s playing in situations where he’s gained some confidence where he probably hasn’t played before,” Souray said. “I think he’s gotten a lot of confidence just in playing situations-being on the power play. He’s been a real good penalty killer. Right now, he’s just grabbed another gear. He’s joining the rush. He’s making real good plays offensively. He’s jumping into the play and managing his game on both ends of the ice. He’s not trying to create offense and sacrificing his defense. I don’t think he’s playing out of his element. He’s scratching the surface of how consistent he can be.”

That’s heady praise indeed from a guy who has spent more than a decade in the NHL and who has skated alongside and faced more than his share of quality d-men in that time.

However, for Daley his recent offensive surge only drives home his adherence to a simple approach that was instilled in him as a rookie by a former Dallas assistant coach. “Hopefully it (my offensive production) just keeps increasing. That was my goal coming into it right from day one when I started with Rick Wilson was the same goal-we’ll keep improving every day,” he said. “That’s what I’ve accepted.”

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