John Klingberg focused on relaxation this summer in Sweden. There was a lot of training mixed in with golf and quality time with family and friends. But for the past month, his mind has been turning towards hockey, and he's been itching to get back to Dallas.
This week, the Stars defenseman was among the latest batch of players to arrive in town and join the informal skates in Frisco as training camp draws near.
"The last month it's been creeping back, a lot of those thoughts," Klingberg said. "I am excited to be meeting a lot of the new faces. They seem like really good guys, funny guys. And obviously seeing all my old teammates, too.
"I am really excited to be back."
There's plenty to be excited about after a big offseason for the Stars, who underwent some significant changes. There's a new head coach in Ken Hitchcock and a lot of new players including goaltender Ben Bishop, defenseman Marc Methot and forwards Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Tyler Pitlick.
"You look at the strength we have up front and bringing in even more strength and then Methot on the backend, it's looking pretty good on paper," Klingberg said. "With Hitchcock coming in and the other coaches, I have a really good feeling about this year."
Video: SJS@DAL: Spezza, Klingberg team up for backdoor goal
Methot, who also joined the skates in Frisco this week, was quick to make an impression on Klingberg.
"He's going to bring a lot of personality. That's something I noticed just from one day. He seems like an awesome guy, a funny guy," Klingberg said. "He and [Dan] Hamhuis are going to bring leadership on the backend, and I want to be that guy, too. They have a lot of years in the league, and that's something all the young [defensemen] can look forward to and pick their brains. It's great to bring him in, and it's going to make this team a lot better."
There is work to be done though. Klingberg said the Stars are going to have to be ready when camp opens to focus on areas in need of improvement. High on that list is team defense, a sore spot last season. The numbers weren't pretty. The Stars ranked 29th in goals against last season. Five-on-five, they were 28th in scoring chances against and 25th in high-danger scoring chances against. But with Hitchcock and the new staff, there is optimism the tide will turn defensively.
"We need a couple of pointers, not too many, just a couple of pointers we know we have to be good at," Klingberg said. "And that's something we have to be good at all the time. I don't think it has to be that hard to play good defense. Everyone just has to be on the same page. Everyone has to know what we are doing all the time. Sometimes it's been a little confusing around the players what we were doing. I think Hitch is going to make us a better team defensively."
While there was disappointment on the ice with the Stars last season, Klingberg enjoyed success on the international stage in the spring. He helped Team Sweden win a gold medal at the 2017 World Championship in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. The Swedes defeated Canada, 2-1, in a shootout in the championship game and claimed their first gold medal at the World Championship since 2013.
Video: DAL@FLA: Klingberg nets a clutch go-ahead tally
"We found a way to win, and it was a great experience," Klingberg said. "I played a lot of national team games before but playing Canada in the finals and overtime and all that, it was a great feeling to end up on the winning side."
Klingberg had a strong showing at the tournament, recording six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-seven rating in ten games and leading a strong Swedish blue line in scoring. Klingberg said the tournament gave him a shot of confidence heading into this season.
"For sure. It's a lot of experience, and you can bring that back over here," he said.
Now, he is back over here, optimistic about what lies ahead and eager to get going.
"I am really happy to be back," Klingberg said. "I have been looking forward to it for a month now."
This story was not subject to 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.