The coaches are getting ready as well. While they may not be working out on the ice like the players, they are meeting and planning and getting their practice plans in order.
After a summer spent at his cottage in Minnesota, Coach Tippett arrived back into town last week for good, and clearly is ready to go.
“I’m very excited about this season,” he said. “Obviously we had a great run (last year); not as far as we would have liked to be but we’re excited to get back. We’re very enthused about our group right now. It’s a young group that is hungry and is ready to get back. Led by Brenden Morrow
and Marty Turco, our guys our going to be hungry out of the gate. We’re looking forward to getting back to training camp and playing hockey. These guys are such good friends – this whole group – and from what I’ve seen already with the guys working out, they’re excited and ready.”
While the entire team brings a lot of confidence to camp after a playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, the new season brings new opportunity and a clean slate. The Stars have to earn their way back to where they were.
“We always talked about, ‘Confidence is earned,’ and we earned that confidence through our play and the level of commitment and the level of competition that we brought last season,” Tippett said. “So that confidence was earned and now we have to earn it again. This is a new group in a lot of ways; we’ve added a few new players. But every year you have to prove yourself. That confidence pushes players to the edge of the trough but that confidence to jump in is earned and we’ll start with that message from the first practice of camp.”
One of the strengths of this team is the depth at the center position. Adding Brad Richards has been the key to the potential of three productive lines for Dallas, something that Tippett feels very good about.
“We feel very comfortable with our center position,” he said. “I had breakfast with Mike (Modano) and he is very enthused to get going again. We all know that Brad Richards will be a much better player, having played with us for a couple of months after the trade and adjusting well. He’ll have a fresh start and his first full camp with us. It’s a new year for him. He played well for us but I think he’ll improve immensely. Mike Ribeiro
will continue to grow as a top player and give us a nice effort. There is no question that center is a strong position for this team.”
Another strength of this club for Tippett is the leadership that continues to grow and improve every year. Brenden Morrow
has proven himself a top-notch captain and last year’s playoffs was more evidence of how much he has grown as a player and as a leader.
“I think what he did was take another step,” Tippett said. “Brenden just willed our team to win in the playoffs. I’ve talked about this for a while and our leadership has changed a little bit. Mike and Lehts and Zubie are still strong members of our team and go a long way in helping us win, but Brenden and Turco, Ribeiro and Richards, have jumped in there and have been leaders and they are the ones who are pushing this team ahead. Brenden is the catalyst and he’s got some strong leaders right behind him, which is a good thing. This team has a lot of leadership and character.”
No one was happier than Tippett that his staff - Rick Wilson and Mark Lamb – received contract extensions last week.
“Well deserved, Tippett said. “I think we work very well together and complement each other well. They do a tremendous job for our hockey club. They are the unsung heroes. These guys do so much work behind the scenes that no one sees. They make such a valuable contribution towards the success of our team. Hopefully we can continue to work very well together.”
Stu Barnes was added as the third assistant on Dallas’ staff last week, something Tippett wanted very much because of the leadership and qualities that Stu brings to the table.
“It’s the end of a wonderful career for (Stu),” Tippett said. “He’s been a very good player in the NHL for a long time. We were very fortunate to add him to our organization a few years ago and now he’s moving on to the next stage of his life. Les (Jackson) and Brett Hull) and I talked at length about how it is very important that we keep very good people within our organization and certainly Stu Barnes falls under that category. I think he’ll be an excellent coach. He was a student of the game as a player. We feel like he will be a strong addition to our coaching staff.
“He’s always been very knowledgeable about the game. He reads players well and works with others very well. There are certain players that are interested in the structure of the game and understand how teams work and he is one of those types of guys.”