With one of the themes of the 2007-08 Dallas Stars training camp being the club’s search for more offense from some of the younger forwards on the roster, one name may have been overlooked.
Defenseman Trevor Daley
, who’s entering his fourth NHL season, is another player who the Stars will be looking at as a possible source of more goals. Not yet 24 (his birthday is Oct. 9), Daley has developed into an excellent all-around defender, but has yet to put up prolific offensive numbers.
“I think he’s spent the last couple of years really working – and we’ve put him in positions to really work hard – on the defensive side,” noted Stars Associate Coach Rick Wilson, who deals primarily with the defensemen. “He has offensive upside, and we’d like to see where that potential could take him.”
Daley has shown flashes of offensive skill, and an intriguing statistic from last season that demonstrates how valuable his scoring contributions can be, is that the Stars were a perfect 12-0-0 in games that he recorded a point.
With a career-high four goals among 12 points in 74 games in 2006-07, there is still room for improvement in that area. Daley knows it and expects to upgrade those totals this season.
“I feel that I’m going to put a little more pressure on myself to provide more offense,” Daley admitted, “and obviously, I don’t think the team will be too upset with that. As long as my defensive game stays the way it is, and I keep improving on everything, I think we should be all right.”
Thus far in training camp, Daley has been looking to take on a more offensive role, and executed one of the prettiest plays in Sunday’s scrimmage, when he cut into the slot and roofed a backhander over goaltender Marty Turco’s shoulder.
Plays like that validate his attacking abilities and just might secure him a more permanent spot on the power play’s second unit. Last year, Daley averaged just 43 seconds of ice time per game with the man-advantage. A significant jump in that figure could go a long way towards boosting his point total and his contribution to the team’s success.
“There is a little hole there, an opportunity we hope he grabs,” Wilson said. “We hope he can show some consistency there and some productivity and just continue to add to his game.”
“Trevor has been here couple of years, he’s got a great defensive base under him,” added Head Coach Dave Tippett. “He’s a solid NHL player that plays in all situations. The next step to his game is taking an extra boost on the offensive side, a little more poise and patience with the puck. If those things continue to grow in his game, his power play time will grow.”
As Daley continues his evolution into a more complete defenseman, adding more offense to his repertoire can only benefit the Stars.
“He was able to work the game from the other side, which is never a bad thing to do,” Wilson said of Daley’s first couple of seasons. “So now, we feel he could add to it (offense) without losing any of that confidence and understanding he’s already gained.”
“He’s a really good player,” added fellow defenseman Stephane Robidas
, who paired up with Daley often last season. “He’s still young. He proved last year he can play in any situation. A really good skater, good vision, good passer, he can play physically and block shots. I think he’s a really good all-around defenseman and he’s a key part of our team. You need guys like him to step up his game. I’m one of those guys too.”
One area where Daley isn’t expected to help the Stars this season is in the shootout, but based on how the club ended its on-ice session Monday, it is one area the team enjoys practicing.
The Stars have devised a unique and fun way of honing this aspect of the game that is now vital to a team’s success in the new NHL. The Stars have fared well in the shootout, fashioning a league-best 21-5 record in the two seasons since it was implemented.
Here’s how the drill works: as one player gets ready at center ice to skate in on one either Marty Turco or Mike Smith in goal, the remaining players line up along one side of the boards or the other, depending on whether they believe the shooter will score or not. Those on the ‘he-will-score’ side have to skate over and back once if the guy misses, and those on the ‘he-will-not-score’ side have to go two laps back and forth if he makes it.
It creates some interesting scenarios, as some players show various degrees of confidence in their teammates’ ability to score, which of course, results in plenty of razzing each other.
“You’re creating a little bit of fun,” Tippett said. “The guys razz each other. Goalies need to see some shootouts and players need to do a few shootouts, so it’s a good way to incorporate a little skate into it where they don’t think about the skate as much as they are ripping each other. Just one of those things to lighten the mood a little bit.”
While the majority of players stayed on the ‘he-will’ side most of the time, there were some, most notably Robidas and center Mike Modano, who remained on the ‘he-will-not’ side for virtually the entire drill. Robidas made sure to point out that it was not because he lacked confidence in his teammates, he just had more faith in his goaltenders. He also took the deteriorating condition of the ice after an hour-long session into account.
“We’ve got two good goalies on the ice,” Robidas said. “I think sometimes at the end of practice, the ice is harder to make good moves, so the goalies do pretty well. It takes a pretty good move to beat the goalie, especially towards the end as the ice gets chippier, so that’s why I stayed on the other side.”
“It’s kind of fun,” captain Brenden Morrow
said. “You have a choice if they’re going to score or not. There’s a bit of bragging rights if you do score and guys are going against you. It’s just a fun drill to finish the day.”
With pre-season games on three consecutive days starting Tuesday, Tippett indicated that the time for players on the bubble to catch management’s attention is now. Their performance in actual games will more than anything shown in practice or scrimmages up to this point.
“It’s the next stage of the evaluation process,” Tippett said. “We want to get our team together and playing, but there’s still an evaluation process where people make an impression. They have to take it into games and take it to the next level, and this is the next level of competition.
“We’ll play a lot of players in the three games, so you see what a lot of people can do. That’s the stage that we’re in right now. They come quick and you better be ready for them.”
There are actually four games in that span, starting with Tuesday’s rookie game against the St. Louis Blues’ rookies at 4 p.m. at the American Airlines Center. That will be following by the ‘regular’ pre-season game at 7:30 pm. One ticket to the regular game gets you in for both, but fans need do need a ticket for the night game to get into the rookie game.
One player who will not be playing Tuesday is center Mike Ribeiro
, who injured his ankle in Sunday’s scrimmage. At first, it was deemed minor and day-to-day, but Tippett indicated it could be slightly more serious than originally thought.
“Ribeiro looks like he could miss anywhere up to a couple of weeks,” Tippett noted Monday afternoon. “He’ll be evaluated today. He seemed fine walking around here yesterday and then he left in a boot, and then this morning it was real sore, so they sent him for an MRI. We’ll see what the MRI spits out. We’ll be cautious with him now.”
Also sitting out the club’s primary on-ice session for the second straight day were veterans Jere Lehtinen and Stu Barnes, each with minor shoulder ailments, as well as youngsters Francis Wathier
, John Lammers, Vojtech Polak and Aaron Gagnon.
“They’re fine, though,” Tippett said of Barnes and Lehtinen. “They skated this morning and I just wanted to keep them out of contact for another day. I would be surprised if they see any of these three games, because we have other players we need to see.”