The 33-year-old blueliner embodies the perfect blend of skating ability, skill, grit, character, leadership and more grit, and he has been outstanding once again through the first six weeks of the 2010-11 season.
Clearly the leader of the Stars’ defense corps, Robidas has been contributing at both ends of the ice and has also assumed a stronger role in the dressing room. Over the past year, he has received many votes as one of the NHL’s most underrated players, but as he continues to perform at a lofty level, Robidas has garnered more and more attention for himself.
Through his first 14 games, Robidas has contributed two goals and eight points, both of which lead Stars blueliners, while logging a team-high 23:02 of ice time per game. And even after suffering a -3 hit (one of which was an empty net goal against) during the club’s back-to-back losses in Los Angeles and Anaheim Thursday and Friday, Robidas still sported a strong +7 plus/minus rating that ranked him fourth on the squad and among the NHL’s top 25, one week after he topped the entire league.
The scrappy 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Sherbrooke, Quebec also routinely gets involved in the physical aspect of the game, dishing out a team-leading 269 hits last season, good for fourth in the league, while chipping in with 25 so far this year.
“He’s doing it all,” said Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen
. “Everybody always talks about how he’s underrated and people don’t know about him, but everybody in this room respects him so much and look up to him. When we have a hard time, we look at what he’s up to and it’s usually good stuff and he kind of shows us the way. The way he plays on the ice, it’s great for me. He does all the right things and he helps me out a lot.”
“He does everything for us,” added Stars coach Marc Crawford. “Stephane is competitive, he skates well, he’s got such compact strength. He’s as strong a guy as there is, pound-for-pound, in the league and he’s able to fend off much bigger opponents. His skating ability and his thinking ability and his competitiveness all put him at a premier level.”
Typically, the humble Robidas deflects any praise he receives to his teammates and downplays the validity of the statistics.
“When you play on a good team with really good players that can score goals and goalies that make good saves, that always helps your plus/minus,” Robidas shrugged. “I don’t think I do anything differently than I did in the past. Sometimes, it’s just different situations, like sometimes you step on the ice and you score a goal or you get on the ice and get scored on. I try not to focus too much on those numbers, I just try to play as best I can. For me, the main thing is to be really solid defensively. That’s my main focus, and trying to help the team win. That’s all I really care about.”
He certainly has stood out defensively, as the plus/minus figure helps demonstrate. For a guy who battles against the opposition’s top forwards every night, the numbers look even more noteworthy.
“That’s pretty impressive,” said Robidas’ usual defense partner, 25-year-old Nicklas Grossman. “We’re out there against the top lines, it’s a big task but at the same time, it’s a big chance to work on your game and I think he’s been at the top in the plus/minus, that’s just proof of him doing a good job. It’s been awesome to play with the guy.”
And at the other end of the ice, Robidas has continued to flourish offensively after posting career-highs of 10 goals, 31 assists and 41 points last year. And while his power play minutes have actually been slightly reduced this season, Robidas still possesses a great shot from the point and skates and moves the puck so well, it opens up scoring chances for both himself and his teammates.
Following a recent stretch where he chipped in a goal and four assists in a three-game span (all home victories before the recent road trip), Robidas denied he’d made a conscious effort to boost that area of his game.
“I’m not trying to do more or less,” said Robidas, who’s registered 17 shots on goal in 14 games after firing a career-best 199 last year. “I’d like to get more shots on net, I don’t have a lot so far this year - that’s something I’d like to get better at. And there’s a few areas of my game I know I can be better and I want to be better and there’s other stuff that I’m happy with. I try to make a happy balance in trying to play an overall very good game.”
“He’s our leading point-getter among defensemen and in the top 30 in the league, and he’s done that without the benefit of being the number one guy among defensemen on the power play this year,” Crawford said. “He’s kind of taken a backseat role and he’s still able to play that premier position, but we also recognize that we need him for so much more, so if we can save him some minutes there, we’re able to squeeze him a little bit more at 5-on-5 against tough opponents. So many of the games are close, so those are some of the decisions that we’ve made as a staff to utilize him that way, and he’s been supportive of us.”
But on top of everything he provides on the ice, Robidas’ biggest impact just might be in the dressing room.
“He’s just Mr. Consistent,” marvels captain Brenden Morrow
. “He works hard every day, competes every day, the discipline he has. He’s starting to be noticed around the league and I think people are starting to realize the type of player he is, but more important than that, the leadership he has, what he does on and off the ice around here, teaching the young guys and just being a real good professional.”
“It doesn’t matter how long he’s played or how old he is, he always goes out there and wants to get better,” added Grossman. “That’s what you see in him. He’s been great. He’s a huge part of this team and a solid piece of the D corps, because he’s one of the older guys. He’s just a great role model for us other guys to look up to. He’s doing the right things all the time, on and off the ice and I think it’s great to have a guy like that on our team.”
Even with all the evidence cited by his teammates, as one might expect, Robidas minimized the importance of his presence in the room, but he still inadvertently highlighted his greatest asset.
“I think a lot has to do with the age - I’m not doing anything differently than in the past,” said Robidas, who was originally Montreal’s seventh-round choice (164th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m not really vocal in the dressing room, that’s not my type. I try to help guys if I can. I’ve been in different situations. I’ve been one of the guys that’s been a healthy scratch a lot, I know how those guys feel, I know it’s not easy, so sometimes, if I can help them or encourage them, that’s more where I try to be like a leader in that sense.
“I think for me, it’s just lead by example. I think that’s the best thing I can do, lead by example.”
If the Stars do follow his example, they will indeed enjoy considerable success this year.