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Strong Chemistry Key to Stars’ Success

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars’ franchise-record eight-game road winning streak might have ended on Friday night in Calgary, but not even a loss to the Flames on their home ice can dim what this year’s team has done to date. With a 29-14-5 record and 63 points, they remain atop the Pacific Division standings and also among the top teams in the Western Conference.

photo by Trey Hill
A big reason why the Stars have made such a noticeable leap in year two of the Marc Crawford era is because the team chemistry is much stronger here than it’s been in some time. Not only is this team fighting for the name on the front of the shirt, but they are also giving their all for the rest of the guys in the room.

It’s a camaraderie that clearly carries over to the ice. When the locker room is open to the media even for a short period of time, it’s not hard to tell how much these guys enjoy playing alongside one another and also enjoy each other’s company away from the pond. That room is often a raucous place with plenty of banter flying back and forth and of course, a fair share of good-natured ribbing between teammates.

So, where do the roots for this improved chemistry lie? Well, that all depends on who one asks but a number of players feel it began back in preseason, when the team traveled to Prince Edward Island to begin preparing for the upcoming season.

“That started with our trip up to PEI, being together early and being together a lot,” center Brad Richards said. “Winning also helps out too. You win a little bit and people loosen up, hang out more and you don’t come to the rink sick of each other. Winning solves so many things, so it goes hand in hand. We’re a close group but winning close games with the comebacks has brought us closer together. Everybody’s involved. There’s no one in here who doesn’t feel involved. We’re having fun right now.”

Fellow center Steve Ott agrees with Richards’ assessment.

“For sure, the team camaraderie started in Prince Edward Island. We had a lot of fun up there, got to bond and grab that relationship, that brotherhood early in the season,” Ott said. “I think it was extremely important for us to go up there and do that. We came back pretty gelled and a strong team. Obviously, we’re a bit disappointed from the last couple of seasons not making the playoffs. But the new youth energy [on this team] makes it extremely easy to kid around with each other, joke with each other and also rip on each other as much as possible.”

As one of the longest-tenured members on this team, Ott has a larger frame of reference for comparing the chemistry of this year’s Stars to how tightly knit other teams were in the past.

But the newest Star, winger Jamie Langenbrunner, also sees it. In fact, he noticed that strong bond from the first moment he entered the room after he was acquired from New Jersey on January 7.

“How close everybody was [was the first thing I noticed],” Langenbrunner said. “It was a group that everybody is engaged in the locker room. Everybody is contributing something and that’s so important. If you’re going to go through a big run, you’re going to need everybody to be pulling. It’s usually not your superstar players that have to do it for you night in and night out. It’s going to be guys down the lineup that contribute in big ways whether it’s blocking shots or a big backcheck. That’s the way it’s going to have to continue if you want to be a championship-caliber team.”

And it’s not like the recent addition doesn’t know a thing or two about what kind of chemistry it takes to win a Stanley Cup. He was a key contributor to the Stars’ championship run in 1999 and then captured a second cup with New Jersey in 2003.

When asked if he sees similar chemistry with this group compared to what he saw with those two championship squads, he offered a quick response.

“It’s building. You start by having that group that has all those parts,” Langenbrunner said. “Then, you have to go through some battles to believe in everything and to keep on solidifying. I think it’s here. That possibility is here. Now it’s up to us to make those steps and win those big games to keep building that confidence and keep pushing forward.”

However, even though he is one of three guys on the team along with Adam Burish and Richards who have won a Cup, that doesn’t mean he feels any more important than any of the other leaders on this team.

“I think there will be times where something will be said and it will be time. There is a great group of leaders here,” Langenbrunner said. “Just because you’ve won doesn’t mean you’re put on a pedestal. These guys have done a lot of good things and are doing a lot of good things here in building this team. There will be times just like there was when Guy Carbonneau or Mike Keane stepped up, said something or did something in the game that changed the course of the game. That’s the way teams are built and championship teams are built.”

Dallas can take another step forward on Monday night when they visit Vancouver, a game set for a 9:00 PM Central Time face-off.

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