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Quotable: Jason Spezza and Jim Nill

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Here are some quotes from Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza, who was introduced at a news conference at American Airlines Center Monday morning, and a couple quotes from Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill as well.

Nill opening statement

“It’s always nice anytime in July to have a nice hockey press conference. It’s great for the organization and it shows the commitment that we’re making moving forward. Going back to last season, our team started to make some major moves. We had a new management team in place, new hockey operations department and we had a new coaching staff. We added some new players. We didn’t know how it was all going to mesh and as the season went on, things started to gel. We had a great run to get into the playoffs and then we had a great battle in the first round and I think we showed that we’re a team to contend with. Over the summer, I sat down with our management team, with ownership-Tom Gaglardi and Bob, the Gaglardi family and Jim Lites and we’re all in agreement that we need to take this team to the next level. And to do that, we knew we had to find another centerpiece. We need another piece to the puzzle here to make this team long-term make the next move, the next jump. We had success down in Texas. As everybody knows, our farm team won the Calder Cup. That showed that we have got some good pieces in place there, have got some kids knocking on the door, some kids with some assets. As I’ve mentioned, ownership gave us some financial flexibility to make some moves. And we started doing some research and over the course of the last couple of months, we’ve been in contact and we’re very fortunate we’ve been able to add the centerpiece that is here today. We’re very excited. We have obtained an elite player in the league, Jason Spezza, one of the top playmakers, scorers in the league. He’s been in the playoffs for eight years of his career. He’s played in the Stanley Cup Finals, one of the leading scorers in the league, one of the leading playmakers in the league. Played in two All-Star Games, played in IIHF World Championships, his resume goes on and on. We started doing our research. I worked with Bryan Murray. Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators worked very well with us and we gave up some good pieces. To get an elite player, you have to give up some assets and we gave up some good, young assets. But once again, I go back to with the depth that we have down in Texas, we could make this move. It’s a long-term move. It’s something that moving forward we want to be a team that is contending every season moving forward. As I’ve mentioned, we did some research on Jason and not only with his ability on the ice, it’s off the ice which is important also. He was a captain with the Ottawa Senators. In the past, I’ve mentioned about our dressing room. Our dressing room here is as good as any dressing room I’ve been around over my last 25 years in the management part of the game and Jason being the captain, his leadership skills, is going to be huge for the dressing room. He’s a great family man. He’s got three young kids and a lovely wife. He’s going to fit into this community, so it was a move that it was almost too good to be true. And we’re excited moving forward and it’s a great move for our franchise. So, on behalf of the Dallas Stars, I’d like to welcome Jason Spezza.”

Spezza on moving from a hockey-centric city and into a possible second-line role in Dallas

“I think there’s a lot of positives to this move for me. First and foremost, I think it gives me a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and at this point in my career is all I’m looking for. I’ve been the No. 1 center where I’ve been for a long time, but I feel like to win in this League you have to have depth amongst your team and I feel like if the LA Kings and how they won is a lot of strength up the middle, so to be on a team with the center depth they already had before, having myself coming to the fold I think it puts myself and the team hopefully in a good position to compete, so that’s the reason why I feel it’s a great fit for me, is because I’m just a piece to the puzzle. You have to be willing to be that in order to win in this League. I think it’s a great fit and to have the young group and some of the young stars they have, you don’t see that very often and you hope to kind of grow with the group.”

Spezza on what is making the Dallas organization a destination for players

“I think the opportunity to compete. I think it’s paramount to be in an organization that’s committed to winning. I think that word gets around the league fast that when a team has made a decision to try to be a team that tries to compete every year and win. This city and they’ve had success in the past and the fans have been great in the past and kind of the total package makes it a desirable place to be. So for me, I’m very fortunate to come to a sports city like this that’s passionate about the game, but also with an ownership group and with Mr. Nill that are committed to trying to win. And as a player, that’s all you want, is that opportunity to give yourself a chance to win.”

Spezza on if he’s talked to Ales Hemsky yet and what made them click in Ottawa

“I have. He called me, I actually found out that he had signed here while I was kind of doing a conference call maybe with some of you guys. So, we’ve talked a little bit about it. We enjoy playing together and that some of the same teams were interested in me as they were in him and it could be a nice fit for us, so I was excited to see him come aboard. What made us click? I think he’s a smart playmaking guy who thinks the game really well. You never know what that little ingredient is that makes you click with someone, but we had it and we played probably the last 20-25 games together in Ottawa and had good chemistry. He works hard away from the puck to get himself open. He’s extremely skilled with it and is really good at buying himself time. We played a lot of give-and-go and just had really good chemistry, so I think it’s nice to have that familiarity and we may never play together, who knows? That’s Lindy [Ruff’s] job to put who plays with who, but just knowing you have that familiarity with somebody is nice going into a situation.”

Spezza on what he sees with the Stars

“We only played them twice. I watch a lot of hockey though and when you’re in the East, you tend to watch a lot of the Western games just because they’re on later when you get home after your games, so I’ve seen a lot of the team. It’s an up-tempo team. It’s a team that plays with a lot of speed. There’s some guys on the back end that can move the puck really well, which I think for a forward is very beneficial to have some mobile guys back there and obviously solid goaltending with Kari [Lehtonen]. And it seems like the team played like a team too and that’s noticeable when you watch a team play because they use their depth and they use everybody and everybody seemed to contribute. But the pace of the game and the way the team played was probably key to some success they had last year.”

Spezza on how [Stars coach] Lindy Ruff likes to play and how he fits

“I have some history with Lindy in effect that he coached me at World Championships when I represented Team Canada, so I got to know him very well. It was a month-long tournament, so you get to know him well there. He had some great ideas at the time that I really liked. We’ve had some bitter rivalries over the years with Buffalo and Ottawa and playoff series, so they were always difficult teams to play against. He’s a guy that’s been around the game a long time and has seen a lot of things, so I would imagine he has a lot of his own views on how to play the game and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to kind of work with him. Other than that, I’ve never played for him in a full year, but I’ve heard nothing but good things and also, to last in the game as long as he has, he’s obviously a very smart hockey man.”

Nill on possible contract extension talks with Spezza

“I’ll speak here. I’ve spoken to Jason’s agent, Rick Curran, and we’ve already talked. We’re going to let Jason get settled in here first. But we’ve already talked about it and kind of go from there. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I just want him to get his family in here, get settled and then we’ll move forward from there.”

Nill on if this move shows their commitment to win now

“Yes it is. When we came here, we knew there were some holes that had to be filled. We sat down and last year we were able to add Tyler Seguin and that filled a major void and we got a couple other signings. So now you start the season, you don’t know how it’s going to fit together and as I mentioned before, it was a new management team. It was a new coaching staff. There was just a lot of moving parts that we didn’t know how it was going to come together. And as we got into February, we realized you know what, there’s something special here and we ended up we made the playoffs with a great run to get in the playoffs in a tough conference as we witnessed during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We are in a tough, tough conference but that’s good. That’s going to make us better. So we went into the playoffs and I think we gave Anaheim everything they could handle. It could have gone either way and that’s the way the playoffs are, but we knew then that we still had to make another step. And that’s when we sat down with our ownership and our management team and said we got to make that next step, it has to happen. And as the summer went on and the spring went on, we realized that Jason may be available. As I mentioned, our farm team was very successful. We knew we had the assets. It was the time to do it. There’s kids knocking on the door. We have our depth now and like I said, this shows that we’re here now. Adding Jason Spezza, if you look at the scoring race last year, we would have three of the top-30 scorers on our team if Jason was with us with his production and what he did last year in Ottawa, we’d have three players in the top-30 scoring. That doesn’t happen very often other than with two or three teams in the League. Somebody mentioned about him kind of being kind of the second line. I really look at as a 1A and 1B. Jason Spezza is in the prime of his career. He’s an elite player. Having Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza out there as your two centermen coming out the door, when we go on the road, other teams are going to have a tough time matching up against us. Lindy Ruff and the coaching staff have lots of options and the other players we have on our team, it just adds to kind of the potential that we have moving forward. We’re excited about the depth. I’ve talked to Lindy. We have lots of options. There’s going to be injuries in the game. We have lots of options there, so this is definitely a statement that we’re making a move, we’re here and we’re looking forward to the season starting.”

Spezza on any importance to wearing a C or an A and wearing No. 90

“With regards to captain or assistant, no, not at all. I think if you’re a leader, you lead and if the team needs you to wear a letter, you wear a letter. But I think naturally, I think I’m a leader and you don’t need a letter on your jersey to lead. So, not at all. And with regards to No. 90, I’ve always had good luck with nines. Nineteen is retired and obviously, nine is retired. Seguin’s 91, so I thought I’d try No. 90. It’s a new spot and new number for me and hopefully it kind of sticks to be a lucky number for me.”

Spezza on the Western Conference

“It’s difficult. It’s a great conference, there’s no doubt about that. But like Mr. Nill said, I think that makes you a better team too. This League is so hard to win in, so hard just to make the playoffs in. I think that by keeping yourself on your toes by being in a race all year, I think that can only help you going into the playoffs by playing that style of hockey. I think cruising into the playoffs and trying to ramp your game up is difficult to do. So I think the competition level just makes you a better team and it creates better habits within your team and makes you probably more prepared for the battles that are in the playoffs. It’s a tough process just to get in the playoffs, but once you’re in everybody has a chance and I think by being in a strong conference, that can help because to make the playoffs you have to have a good team and if you make the playoffs, you’ve given yourself a good opportunity and you have confidence in your team.”

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