It’s already been an uncomfortably long off-season for the Dallas Stars, and even though it’s been ridiculously hot in the Metroplex lately, forward Toby Petersen
is already looking forward to the 2011-12 season.
The 32-year-old native of Minneapolis enters his fourth full season with the Stars, one that will feature a new coaching staff in Dallas following the recent hiring of Glen Gulutzan from the AHL Texas Stars along with his assistant Paul Jerrard.
For a group that came agonizingly close but ultimately missed out on the playoffs for a third straight season last spring, this will mark a fresh start, and the optimism and excitement that accompanies it is palpable.
“It’s all exciting,” said Petersen of the changes. “Last year was a step forward, a step in the right direction, but we missed the playoffs, so obviously, it’s tough to handle, any time you’re sitting here with a long summer. Hopefully, we’re obviously looking to build the momentum and with Gully behind the bench, I think that’s a good guy to grow with the team. We have a lot of young guys who are huge parts of our team, like Jamie Benn
, so it’s good to have a young guy back there with a lot of energy to help bring them along.”
Petersen endured several injuries in 2010-11 but still managed two goals, both short-handed, and six points in 60 games, while delivering 56 hits and blocking 36 shots. The versatile third- and fourth-liner is also a key penalty killer, as he ranked third among Dallas forwards averaging 1:42 of PK ice time per game. He also played one AHL game on an injury rehab assignment last season and expressed enthusiasm with the addition of Gulutzan behind the bench.
“Obviously, as players, we were all anxious to see how it would play out and who would get hired,” acknowledged Petersen, who has one more season remaining on a two-year, $1.55 million contract he signed in April 2010. “We were reading the papers just like all the other fans and seeing who the finalists were, and when Gully was announced, I was personally very excited. My experiences with him were minimal. He ran a few practices last year at training camp and then I played one game with him at Cleveland this year when I was on injury rehab, but in talking with other players who played for him, even before he was up for the job, the players commented on what a great teacher he was, how calm he is, how patient he is, and those are great attributes that I think will definitely come into play at this level.”
While Petersen admitted it was difficult to make a judgment on his new coach from just one game last season, he’s seen enough to know that Gulutzan is ready for the challenge.
“We lost, we had a tough one,” Petersen laughed regarding that one AHL game, in which he earned an assist. “I did notice that definitely he was very patient, he was a calming presence behind the bench. Obviously, through the course of any game, there’s a lot going on, tough calls and things like that, and I could tell he was used to dealing with that stuff. And you play that over the course of a season and that could be a very helpful thing for a team, you’re going to go through a lot of ups and downs through the schedule.”
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Petersen also skated under new assistant coach Paul Jerrard for that one game, as well as for two 20-goal, 50-point seasons between 2005-08 at AHL Iowa, so having that prior knowledge and experience can only help the transition.
“There’s a number of guys that I had worked with in Iowa that have gone on to play in the National Hockey League,” Jerrard said. “Toby Petersen
was down there, Krys Barch was down there, just to name a few of the guys that we’ve had in the past, that have gone through and paid their dues in the American Hockey League and put themselves in good position to be NHL players now. It certainly does help, giving us a familiarity with it. I’m not coming into the group as a complete unknown.”
Petersen, who played an important role in the club’s last trip to the playoffs when Dallas advanced to the 2008 Western Conference Finals, noted that it was somewhat painful to watch, but he did tune in to view some of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, in which Boston defeated Vancouver in the Final for the Cup.
“I watched a bit. I didn’t watch every game, but definitely watching the style of play going on out there, just enjoying it more as a fan than anything else,” reported Petersen, who was originally Pittsburgh’s ninth-round selection (244th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft and helped the Penguins’ AHL affiliate at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton reach the Calder Cup Finals in both 2001 and ‘04. “It’s never easy to see guys you battle with all year moving on, especially in the West - like when Vancouver kept advancing, it’s tough to watch. It definitely gets me geared up for next year, it gets all of us geared up for next year and gets us pumped up to play against them.”
With that goal in mind, Petersen has been working hard on his off-season conditioning program for a while now, remaining in the scorching Metroplex for most of the summer under the tutelage of Stars’ strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen.
“It’s been good, just a lot of training with J.J. down here, just trying to stay cool,” said Petersen, who is a type-one diabetic. “I’m doing the team’s program and the team has each guy doing individual stuff, whether it’s weaknesses or strengths, everyone’s workout is a little bit different. As a whole, they changed the whole workout a little bit this year.”
That type of determination is what has defined Petersen’s career and made him a valuable under-the-radar depth player that is crucial to any team’s success and the Stars are glad to have him on the roster.
’s character and work ethic are the type of attributes we want in our players,” said Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “He is a very versatile forward that can play throughout your lineup. He is a good example of the type of professional we want.”
And he’s going to be ready to get back to work next month.