Jeff Woywitka’s road to becoming half of the Stars’ No. 2 defensive pairing alongside Trevor Daley was a bit winding, but by the time the 2010-11 season was over, the 27-year-old blue liner had played in 63 games and posted solid numbers (2-9-11, plus-5 rating) for Dallas.
However, like several members of the Stars’ roster, the Alberta native is a free agent on July 1 but there’s no doubt he’d love to remain a Dallas Star going forward.
“I’ve built some good relationships with the team here,” Woywitka said. “I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys. I’ve just learned a lot over the last couple years here, especially this year-playing a lot more and contributing a lot more. I felt more comfortable with myself and the way I was playing. Everybody was there supporting me.”
And among his biggest fans is Daley, who was paired with him for much of the season. In fact, the defensive duo has already talked several times about their future as a pairing going forward.
“I would love to keep the band together. We got to sit on a patio and talk about that,” Daley said. “I’d love to see him back for another year. That would be good for the team. I really enjoy playing with him. We’ll see what happens.”
One reason why the Woywitka/Daley pairing was so successful is because the two veteran defensemen developed such a close friendship off the ice, that it was only inevitable that their strong relationship bled over between the lines.
“Yeah, me and him got a good relationship. We played together all year,” Woywitka said. “I’ve learned a lot from him in the way he handles himself. He’s a tremendous player. I felt comfortable with him all year. There were some great moments in our play. I felt comfortable with him. We got along really well and it showed.”
But one of the most impressive qualities that this young blue liner displayed last season was the incredible patience he displayed. That’s because the 2010-11 campaign was one where he started the year outside of the defensive rotation. But once he got his chance, he made the most of his opportunity and started for much of the rest of the season.
This came after a 2009-10 season where he played in just 36 games and honestly didn’t know where he stood with the Dallas organization heading into the start of training camp last September.
“Coming into camp and with last year finishing the way it did, I figured I was going to have to wait my chance,” Woywitka said. “Early this year, it was taking a while. I was just trying to stay positive. Obviously there are things going through your head when you’re not playing early on and things mentally that you’ve got to deal with. I waited for my chance. When I came in, I didn’t come back out again. Playing with a guy like Daley helped me a lot in staying positive.”
And since he and Daley developed such an effective partnership, that’s clearly a pairing he’d like to see continue. So that obviously means this young defenseman wants to find out whether or not he’ll be returning to Big D next season in short order.
However, he also has been playing in the NHL long enough to realize that as much as he wants to learn whether or not he’ll remain a Star, the process doesn’t always go so quickly.
“Obviously the quicker the better but that’s something we’ll have to talk about, my agent. We’ll see what the story is here and go from there,” Woywitka said. “I’d love to stay here but we’ll see how it goes.”
But no matter where he is playing next year, his off-season preparation will remain the same because everything else is pretty much out of his hands.
“You’ve got to start the summer and get your training underway because that’s the only thing you can control right now-get your training under way,” Woywitka said. “That’s the only thing you can control right now, what you’re doing for your training and making sure you’re ready to go wherever you’re at next year, making sure you’re at 100 percent so once the puck drops at training camp, you’re ready to go and move forward.”