The de facto leader of the club’s defense corps would never acknowledge it, but the early start to the off-season did benefit Robidas by allowing him to undergo hip surgery and fully recover before ramping up his workouts over the last two weeks at the Stars’ Dr Pepper StarCenter practice facility in Frisco.
Now, fully healed, Robidas is back in the Metroplex skating alongside a growing number of teammates, enjoying the process of preparing for another season.
“Just getting back in shape, that’s where I’m at right now,” said Robidas, who recorded five goals and 30 points last season for the Stars, while leading the club in ice time for the third straight year, averaging 24:31 a game. “Just doing a little skating, working in the gym, trying to get back and get ready for training camp.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Robidas suited up for 81 games last season, missing just one game due to suspension, although his gritty, physical style did take its toll on his body in the form of the nagging hip injury.
“I couldn’t work out really this summer, I had hip surgery again, so I was eight weeks on crutches, so I didn’t do much,” said Robidas, who delivered 216 hits last season, ranking third on the club and 16th in the NHL, marking the fifth straight season he topped 195 hits and finished among the league’s top 20 hitters. “I can start cranking up right now. That’s why it’s good for me to be here early and get looked at every day. Using the facility here is much easier. Back home, I got to go to the gym somewhere, I got to skate somewhere else and it’s a little longer, so here I have (Stars strength and conditioning coach J.J. McQueen) who can work out with me, and I can go on the ice and have a lot of guys I can skate with, so it’s a lot better.”
As competitive as he is, Robidas admitted it was difficult for him to sit back and allow the hip the time to properly heal, but now that it’s fully recovered, he’s glad he did.
“It’s feeling pretty good. So far so good,” said Robidas, who also chipped in with 135 blocked shots, second-most on the Stars, in 2010-11. “It’s been a long process, but I’ve been patient and I think that was the main thing for me. Even though I wanted to push it a little bit before, I had to be patient and wait until it’s completely healed and now I can go.”
The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec spent much of the summer back in Canada, where he thoroughly enjoyed the consistent 70-80 degree weather, but the 34-year-old Robidas, now entering his seventh consecutive season in Dallas and ninth overall, is gradually transforming into a Texan.
“The kids started school and all their activities, so we’re back home,” said Robidas, who has two school-age children. “For us, it’s home. Even though I grew up in Canada, it’s home now. That’s where I spend most of the year and the kids have friends here, we have friends here and a house, so it’s pretty nice to come back.”
As eager as Robidas is to get back to playing hockey again, the additions of new head coach Glen Gulutzan, assistant Paul Jerrard and the Stars’ collection of free agent signings have him even more excited to start 2011-12.
“I think everybody’s excited. We haven’t made the playoffs in three years now and you want to get off to a fresh start,” said Robidas, who elevated his game to a new level in his last post-season appearance, amassing three goals and 11 points in 18 games when the Stars advanced to the 2008 Western Conference Finals. “I think (the new coaches) have new ideas and a new philosophy, not that the other ones weren’t good enough, but it’s a fresh start for everybody.
“If you look at our team, our identity is that we want to be a team that’s hard to play against and if you look at all the signings this summer that we have, they all fit the role. I think we have a lot more depth. They’re established players in the NHL, they know their roles.”
One of the new signings in particular that Robidas endorsed was that of veteran blueliner Sheldon Souray
, someone he’s skated alongside before.
“I played with Sheldon in Montreal,” reported Robidas, who was originally drafted by the Canadiens in the seventh round (164th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft and spent parts of three seasons with them from 1999-2002. “He was my D partner when I was there, my second year, and he was my D partner in the All-Star Game, too, when I played in the (2009) All-Star Game in Montreal. I think it’s a great addition. He’s a good player, he’s a really good guy, he brings a lot to the table - great shot, he brings some toughness, he’s a big guy size-wise. He brings something that we really didn’t have last year and that’s always a plus when you can add something that’s missing.”
Robidas believes that the depth the new additions will provide should more than make up for the loss of star center Brad Richards, who signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, citing the model of the most recent Stanley Cup champions.
“I think if you look at Boston’s team last year - they won the Cup and they beat Vancouver, who was supposed to be the best team, but I think they won with their depth,” Robidas pointed out. “Obviously, their goalie made a big difference, but if you look down the line, they had four lines rolling. They had really good players, but they didn’t really have that superstar. Chara’s a big, strong player, but there’s no Sedins, there’s no Sidney Crosby - they played the right way, they all played the system.
“That’s the identity that we want to have. I don’t want to live in the past, but we want to get back to that old mentality. Not saying that we’re just going to play defense and sit back and all that, we’re going to be aggressive and going to be upbeat, but we’re not going to get intimidated or pushed around, we’re going to match up well with the bigger teams and that’s a real plus. If you look at our division, you play Anaheim, San Jose, you play LA and Phoenix, they’re all big teams and I think we added some size and some grit. I’m very excited with the new acquisitions.”
All in all, Robidas is very enthusiastic to get the new season underway.
“We’ve got like seven new guys coming in, we have a new coaching staff, but if you look at the core players, most of the core is still here, so that’s a good thing,” Robidas added. ‘And you’ve got guys like Jamie Benn
, who has another year under his belt, you got a couple of young defensemen who got another year last year, so everybody’s growing as a team and personally, I’m very excited with the new changes and everything. I just can’t wait to start the season.”