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Gulutzan Expects Blueline To Be Better

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

This is the second in a series of articles after having visited with Stars Head Coach Glen Gulutzan, previewing the club’s various position groups, special teams and overall team outlook.

The Dallas Stars’ group of forwards underwent some significant changes this offseason, but the defense will look a lot like last season. Still, there were some changes.

Joining the group is Aaron Rome, who signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the Stars on the first day of free

Aaron Rome will help bolster the Stars' blueline this season.

agency. The 28-year-old Rome, who played the last three seasons with Vancouver, will bring some size and physical play to the Dallas blue line.

“He’s a quality, character player who is going to add some bite back there,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “He has some experience in the Cup Finals in the last few years.”

Gone from last year’s defense group are Sheldon Souray, who departed via free agency, and Adam Pardy, who was traded to Buffalo along with forward Steve Ott in the deal that made Derek Roy a Dallas Star. Souray logged 20:27 of ice time last season for the Stars, so there’s a significant hole to fill.

“Sheldon will be a loss for us. He played lots of big minutes for us against the best players in the league,” said Gulutzan. “That’s why we’ve got Rome coming in, to help us out with that. He’s got a lot of experience and character.”

Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Philip Larsen and Mark Fistric are all back and, along with Rome, give the Stars six defensemen under one-way contracts.

Alex Goligoski is going to get a lot more minutes this year than he had previously. ‘Dales,’ ‘Goose’ and ‘Robi’ will be kind of anchoring things,” said Gulutzan. “We are bringing in Rome and I expect ‘Lars’ to be a better player after getting his feet wet for the first year. ‘Fisty’ is a big, strong guy who played well for us last year.”

Alex Goligoski returns to the Stars blue line in 2012-13

There also is an opening on defense and there are several players who will get a look, including two guys who saw NHL time with the Stars last season.

“You’ve got Brenden Dillon and Jordie Benn, who had tremendous seasons in the American Hockey League last year and came up and played well here, a couple games for Jordie and one for Dillon,” said Gulutzan. “You’ve got big (Jamie) Oleksiak coming up from juniors. We also have Patrik Nemeth, who is coming in from Sweden and has been playing pro for three years already. We’ll see how that transition goes for him. There’s going to be competition among those guys, and you’ve got older guys – depending on how much ice time and how the kids play – there’s a guy like Max Fortunus.”

Dillon has received a lot of the attention as the front-runner for the spot, but Gulutzan said the competition is wide open and the Stars will keep an open mind.

“The beauty of it is camp is going to dictate that,” he said. “I am not going to say. No one has penciled someone in here. These kids have to come in and earn a spot, but there is a spot there.”

As to how the pieces fit together on defense, time will tell.

“We’ll see what transpires in camp, but maybe you’re looking at ‘Goose’ and ‘Robi’ starting off and see where we go,” Gulutzan said. “There’s going to be a lot for a lot of guys there and I think they are going to have to share it. There will be more on ‘Dales,’ ‘Goose’ and ‘Robi.’ ‘Romer’ is going to come in and play a big part. I expect ‘Lars’ and ‘Fisty’ to have bigger roles. Collectively, it’s almost the same group.”

But the Stars head coach thinks, while the group is almost the same, it can take a step forward this season.

“We want to defend fast this year. We’ve got some guys that can move back there,” he said. “I believe we’ll be more efficient defensively after a year with the system. That efficiency, along with a couple of little tweaks, I think we will be able to defend better.”

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