and Jeff Woywitka share a number of similarities both on and off the ice. Such common ground has allowed them to thrive as the Stars’ No. 2 defensive pairing for much of the 2010-11 season.
Daley, who is in his seventh NHL season, is one of four Dallas players who is yet to miss a game. In 79 contests, he has 8 goals, 19 assists and sits at plus-7. Woywitka on the other hand, is in his fifth season, has played in 60 games, has 2 goals, 9 assists and is plus-5.
While there has been much shuffling of the Stars’ other defensive pairings, this duo featuring a pair of 27-year-olds has remained largely intact for the bulk of the campaign.
Stars head coach Marc Crawford sees a basic reason for their success.
“Well, they like each other first and foremost and I think that leads to them having a good chemistry when they’re out on the ice,” Crawford said. “They both skate well. In today’s game, it seems that if people can get back to pucks quickly, they have a much better chance to make good plays. On the other side, they are both so gifted at supporting the rush. Dales is probably a step ahead of Woywitka in that regard but they both skate so well that they are threats to join as a second wave of attack.”
However, this tandem also executes their defensive duties quite well.
“We like the pair of them. They’ve really worked at keeping a good gap,” Crawford said. “They’ve worked at talking and being guys that close and don’t give much space in the defensive zone. When they play like that, they’re extremely effective. They’ve been a big reason why we’ve been successful this year.”
Just talking to either Dallas defenseman for a few minutes about their fellow blueliner, it’s abundantly clear how much mutual respect there is between them.
“It’s been great. Jeff’s a very exciting kid. When he walks in the rink, there’s always a smile on his face,” Daley said. “We feed off of each other. We’re similar types of players out there. We read off of each other. We get along great. It’s something that’s been working. We’ve been rolling with it and feeding off the momentum of it.”
Woywitka agrees. “We played maybe six games together last year,” the Stars defenseman said. “It’s been good though this year. We’ve been working well together and reading off each other pretty good. It’s exciting to play with a guy of his caliber who can skate and make plays. He’s usually mostly up the ice. When I can go, I like to go too but we’re smart about it.”
Not only does this pairing play well on the ice, but that relationship is also evident off the ice.
“Just like any other guy in this room you have a great friendship with, every time you’re on the ice with a guy and in a battle with them, you tend to feed to that guy a little bit more,” Daley said. “We talk to each other a lot before games. Days off and after games, we’re always encouraging each other and trying to make each other better. It’s been a great relationship and hopefully it continues.”
Woywitka adds: “We like to joke around but when it’s time to get serious and get ready for a game, we want to make sure we’re prepared. We’re making sure we’re positive in the room, helping everybody else around and helping the teammates, using it to bring energy to the entire group. Every night, we want to have energy,” he said. “That leads to a good performance on the ice.”
And yes, he was glad to see Daley get a well-deserved contract extension earlier this year that will keep him in Big D for years to come.
“He’s deserving of that, no question. He’s a player for the style of hockey that’s being played now.” Woywitka said. “It’s a skating game with a moving puck. His transition game is very good. He’s the kind of d-man you want in your organization. I’m happy for him. It was good to see.”
Almost from the first time they played together, which was earlier this year, Daley knew he and Woywitka were a pairing that would work well together.
“I guess it had to have been earlier in the year. The time we got together was when the team started rolling,” Daley recalled. “We started playing some good hockey and that’s a benefit to our whole team. Because of that, he and I got to stay together. We just rolled with it ever since.”