“It’s great to get going,” said Desjardins, who is taking over as head coach of the Texas Stars this season after two seasons as associate coach in Dallas. “I think all the players are excited. It’s been a long time since anybody played, so it’s always nice to have that kind of energy to start.”
Desjardins pushed the pace in the first on-ice sessions of the camp. The term ‘high-tempo’ was tossed around a lot over the weekend, and it’s a term that should be sticking around the Texas Stars throughout the season.
“I think you want to establish a little bit of tempo in your work ethic, who you are going to be during the year,” said Desjardins.
Players reported to camp on Friday, went through physical testing Saturday morning and then hit the ice for the first practice on Saturday afternoon.
“It was very demanding. The bike test was by far the hardest test I ever did,” said Francis Wathier, who is in his eighth season with the Dallas Stars organization. “I think that first practice is what Willie is going to demand from us all year. It’s high-paced, high-tempo. Everybody is going to be in good shape conditioning-wise. That’s what he is expecting of us and our team. Having gas in the tank is going to be the option all season. Nobody is going to outwork us.”
“It was good. I think we got exactly what we needed out of it, which is guys working very hard,” said forward Toby Petersen. “It wasn’t always pretty out there on the ice as far as execution, but that’s why we are out there. We’re trying to get that aspect of it. But it was good to see the guys working hard out there, chopping up the ice and pushing themselves.”
Desjardins and Doug Lidster, the former NHL defenseman in his first season as assistant coach, are overseeing a camp that has a total of 37 players, a larger number than usual due to the NHL lockout.
“It’s good timing in terms of our new staff getting adjusted and guys getting acclimated and getting into their apartments and those things,” said Texas Stars GM Scott White. “I think that’s important in terms of getting comfortable, adjusting to the pro game and just focusing on hockey.”
Among those on the camp roster are Tomas Vincour, Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon, who all are expected to be strong contenders for roster spots in Dallas this season.
There are other top Dallas prospects like Matt Fraser, who led Texas with 37 goals last season, and 2009 first round pick Scott Glennie.
There are veteran forwards Petersen, Wathier, Colton Sceviour, Luke Gazdic and Travis Morin. On defense there are guys like Jordie Benn, Max Fortunus and Tyler Sloan, a free agent signing over the summer. Also on the camp roster is veteran NHL defenseman Cam Barker, who is on a professional tryout contract with Texas.
The goaltenders include Dallas 2010 first round pick Jack Campbell, 2008 second round pick Tyler Beskorowany and Cristopher Nilstorp, whom Dallas signed as a free agent out of the Swedish Elite League this summer.
Then there is the group of Dallas prospects who will be in their first full professional seasons. Campbell is among that group that also includes defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth and forwards Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith and Austin Smith.
“This is probably the most in terms of the cupboard being really stocked since my first year in Iowa when we had so many young players,” said White. “All these guys are complemented with experienced players who are going to help their games along.”
For some of those newcomers, this is their first pro training camp. Chiasson, for example, has been to Dallas development camps and got a taste of pro hockey with Texas late last season, but this camp is a new experience.
“I am used to rookie camp where nothing is on the line, and here every guy is fighting for a spot,” said Chiasson, a second round pick by Dallas in 2009 who played three years at Boston University. “You see that pretty quickly. I was ready to go to Dallas (for NHL training camp), so I am ready to be here. It doesn’t matter. This year is huge for me, and this training camp is a great experience.”
And there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation as the Texas Stars opened camp and looked to bounce back from a dismal 2011-12 season that saw them finish last in the Western Conference. Now, with a new coaching staff and some new faces, the hope is the team can put last season behind them and move forward with Desjardins at the helm.
“There are a lot of guys that aren’t proud the way last season ended as far as wins and losses,” said Sceviour. “There are a lot of guys who want to prove that we are better players than we were last year, a better team than we were last year. We’ve got a coach that wants to do that, too. He wants to come in here and go from last place to first place. Everybody in that dressing room does. Everyone is excited to get going and prove last year was an off year. We want to prove we can be one of the top teams in this league.”
Team Black takes first camp scrimmage
Tyler Beskorowany and Jack Campbell combined for the shutout as Team Black defeated Team White 1-0 in the first scrimmage of Texas Stars training camp Sunday afternoon at Cedar Park Center.
The lone goal came when Team Black defenseman Patrik Nemeth put a shot on net and Mathieu Tousignant appeared to tip it past goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp.
There wasn’t a lot of scoring, but there were several scoring chances and some physical play during the scrimmage, which consisted of two 25 minute periods of running time.
“It was high-tempo,” said Team White defenseman Brenden Dillon. “Guys were skating really well. The pace was really up, which is definitely good to see. It’s getting all of us into shape.”
There was something at stake in the game. The losing team had to move out of the main locker room at Cedar Park Center. Dillon was among those packing up his stuff after the scrimmage and moving across the hall.
“’The losing team has to take the visitors’ locker room, which is nowhere near as nice as ours,” Dillon said. “I guess losers will be losers.”