He’s always demonstrated flashes of offensive proficiency, but over the final quarter of last season Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley
managed to sustain a consistent level of production unlike anything he’d ever accomplished before in the NHL.
While his overall numbers from 2009-10 were not all that eye-opening, as Daley registered six goals and 22 points in 77 games, his performance picked up considerably following the Olympic break. After compiling 10 points (three goals, seven assists) over the final 18 games, expectations for Daley in the coming season have heightened considerably.
Daley especially sparkled during a nine-game stretch in March in which he recorded three goals and seven points, including a game-winning goal, giving Stars fans a glimpse of the talented offensive catalyst he has always looked like he was on the verge of becoming.
As he enters his seventh NHL season, Daley vows to replicate that offensive emphasis in his game in the new season.
“Definitely, it’s something that I need to keep going,” said Daley, who turns 27 one day after the Stars open 2010-11 in New Jersey Oct. 8. “It’s going to help myself and help the team, obviously, to ride that, so I’m looking forward to starting off the way I finished. I’m excited about it.”
His coaching staff and teammates also feel confident that Daley is skilled enough and determined enough to maintain that element in his repertoire while not sacrificing his defensive responsibilities.
“He’s got the ability to do that, that’s one of his strengths and that’s something that he needs to use,” noted fellow defenseman Stephane Robidas
, who led club blueliners last year with 10 goals and 41 points. “It shows everyone how effective he can be when he does that and he’s a big threat out there when he’s using his speed. He’s got a great shot and he can pass the puck, so I think he’s just got to keep moving in that direction.”
“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 added. “He’s tailor-made for it because he skates and he does have pretty good offensive instincts. I think you’ll see him get better and better offensively, the more confidence he gets.”
Daley did excel as an offensive defenseman in junior hockey, averaging about a point-per-game over his last two seasons with OHL Sault Ste. Marie, including 20 goals in 57 contests his final year, but upon turning pro, he focused much more on improving his defensive abilities.
And it worked. Even though his offensive output has never exceeded the modest career-highs of seven goals and 25 points he achieved in 2008-09, Daley has developed into a dependable top-four defenseman during his time in Dallas.
Last year, lining up primarily on the second pair alongside Karlis Skrastins, he recorded a +3 plus/minus rating, tied for third on the club, while also ranking third on the squad with 131 blocked shots. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound defender also logged a personal-best 22:11 of ice time per game, ranking second on the team, so he clearly has earned the confidence of the coaching staff.
“He knows how to play in the defensive zone, he knows how to position,” Crawford said. “Last year you started to see him take a little bit more ownership of his read in the penalty killing area. He was put in many more positions to have that opportunity. And experience teaches you. Trevor has taken a step in that area. I think his confidence comes because he does things instinctively now defensively.
“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, so now he’s starting to maybe put that together offensively a little bit more.”
Despite having surgery on his shoulder after last season ended to repair a nagging problem that bothered him off and on since initially injuring it last December, Daley enjoyed his off-season, both personally and as far as his workout regimen.
“It was great, I spent it all up north, it was a good summer,” said Daley, a Toronto native who was the Stars’ second-round selection (43rd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. “I had shoulder surgery at the end of the year, so I rehabbed for a while and other than that, it was a lot of lower body and a lot of cardio. I also got to chase a one-year-old around, so that was pretty extraordinary, something I’d never done before, so it was fun.”
As for the Stars and their mission to return to the playoffs after not qualifying the past two years, Daley acknowledges that the club’s overall defense has to improve over last season, and even though the same group of blueliners is back, he is confident they can rebound.
“We’re obviously a little bit more aware of the mistakes we made last year and lot hungrier to get the job done,” Daley said. “We, as a D corps, know that we’re under a microscope a little bit. As hockey players, the way we are, it’s natural to take offense to that and try to prove people wrong. So I think that’s something we’re looking forward to. Getting off to a big start is going to be a key.”
A healthy Daley concentrating on increasing his offensive contributions while also continuing his strong defensive play, will go a long way towards making that a reality.