Having played three games for the Stars last season, Vishnevskiy knows the level of play that is expected of him. He says the biggest lesson he learned last season is how to be in position and know what to do with the puck before he gets it. He has also learned that there is always room for improvement in all aspects of his game.
“I’ve got to improve everything,” he said. “You can’t stop and be focused on one thing. Just try and improve everything, your whole game.”
When recalling his first NHL game, April 7, 2009 against Minnesota, Vishnevskiy says his teammates were key in helping him through his pre-game jitters.
“I was a little bit nervous. It’s your first game, you don’t know what to fully expect. The guys helped me a lot. They were talking with me, telling me to play easy the first game and not try to do too much. If you play a simple game, you will be okay.”
Fellow defenseman Stephane Robidas
, who has been paired with Vishnevskiy on defense for much of the preseason thus far, says he has already noticed great improvement from Vishnevskiy’s play last season.
“When you see a guy progressing like that, it’s a good sign, you don’t want him to stay at the same level,” Robidas says. “He’s progressing and still learning, and I think he learned a lot in the last year playing in the minors.”
Robidas is a one of the most experienced defenseman on the Stars roster, having played five full seasons in Dallas in his eight seasons in the league. He says he tries to help out youngsters like Vishnevskiy and lead his team with his play.
“I try to lead more by example, how I approach a game, how I play the game. I show up to practice and try to work hard. Vishy’s a young guy with a lot of talent. He’s got great skills, he’s a good skater, good shooter, good passer. He’s good, I didn’t really need to tell him much. “
As an offensive-minded defenseman, Vishnevskiy is excited at the prospect of playing in Coach Marc Crawford’s system. In his final season of juniors in 2007-08, Vishnevskiy recorded 45 points (17-28-45) in only 45 games, following up a personal best 51 points (14-37-51) in 60 games the season before.
“I think [Crawford’s] style of play is pretty good. Last year they were telling me to join the rush, but it wasn’t exactly like this year. This season the forwards have full control of the puck, and you have to go with them almost every shift. With the new strategy, there is more space for the D. It’s pretty good.”
With solid offensive skills, Vishnevskiy needs to work on his defensive game at the NHL level. He believes working with Robidas will improve his work on the defensive side of the puck.
“I really like playing with Robi,” Vishnevskiy says. “He’s really good. He talks on the ice, so I can hear him from anywhere on the ice. He just lets me know what’s going on if I can’t see the play. He makes it easier for me to play.”
Robidas is quick to remind that, although Marc Crawford is known for having aggressive offensive play, defense is still the way to win games.
“Marc told us today that he’s not only an offensive minded coach,” Robidas says. “He wants us to be defense first, make sure we play really well defensively, and then when it comes to offense, we’ve got to be there to support each other and play as a team. That’s when we create chances. I think the main thing for us is to really play well defensively. When we get the puck, then we can go. He doesn’t want us to go reckless or be all over the place and play a run-and-gun game. Everyone talks about how offensive he wants us to be, but first we’ve got to play defense. “
Both Vishnevskiy and Robidas admit that all defensemen are competing in the battle for roster spots. Robidas notes that the Stars have a lot of defensemen currently under contract, and with the new administration, everyone is fighting for ice time.
“Everyone has to prove themselves – it’s a new coaching staff, we have a new GM,” Robidas says. “Everyone is starting from the same level. You have to earn your ice time, it’s not a given. It’s like that for everyone, whether it’s for myself or Vishnevskiy.”
Vishnevskiy believes that if he sticks with the advice he’s received and keeps it simple and plays his game, he will find a permanent home with Dallas.
“I am just continuing to do the simple things [in training camp],” he says. “I don’t want to do too much. I’m just trying to get better as a player. I am trying to do what I can do, but better.”