FRISCO, Texas — Sure, there were moments last season when Dallas Stars fans realized that Brenden Dillon was indeed a rookie, but the young defenseman more than held his own at the Dallas blue line during a truncated regular season.
So, when the 22-year-old d-man headed into this, his first full NHL season and second campaign overall with the Stars, it was reasonable to expect the 6-foot, 2-inch British Columbia native to pick up right where he left off at the end of last season.
And through the first month of the season, he has done exactly that as Dillon has six points (3-3-6) and was a healthy plus-6 during the 10 games of October, earning him rave reviews from first-year Stars head coach Lindy Ruff.
“He’s played strong for us. He’s got good numbers. I think the number you look at the most, it’s sometime a little misleading is the plus/minus. I look at the number of chances that he’s been on the ice for. Some of the stats that we keep and those numbers are real good,” Ruff said.
“He’s been fortunate maybe on a couple of shots that have found a way to get into the net but when you’re going good, good things happen. I think he’s using his legs more over the last four, five games,” he said. “Physically, he’s been involved.”
Dillon agrees with his new coach that he did a lot of good things in the opening month of the season but maybe the thing that epitomizes exactly what he brings to the Stars is his realization that no matter how well he does in the various aspects of his game, he knows there will always be room for improvement.
“I think as team we all can grow. Personally, I always want to get better. Nobody’s perfect and every day that’s why we’re here at practice. We’re not 12-0 to start the year. I think playing with Robi, he’s been a great d partner helping me out,” he said. “Personally, I just want to strive to get better and help us win games because unless we’re in the playoffs this year and eventually going all the way, we’re not going to be satisfied.”
And one way he realizes that he can get better each and every day is by playing under Ruff, a longtime NHL head coach who also happens to be a former defenseman in the League himself. Ruff’s top assistant James Patrick also spent a number of years at the blue line in the NHL and Dillon knows tapping into their vast knowledge and experience is something that will only help him continue to improve every time he hits the pond.
“He [Ruff] is very straightforward. He’s laid out what he expects from us. We can’t really use that as an excuse for ourselves, that we don’t know this or don’t know that. He’s brought that accountability and we just know what to expect from ourselves,” Dillon said of his new coach. “He’s been through the good. He’s been through the bad. I don’t think there’s too many situations he hasn’t been a part of or been in himself whether it’s been as a player or as a coach. You can’t really teach that. You can just be a part of it.”
The young Canadian blueliner clearly found his comfort zone last season as a rookie while being paired alongside a Dallas fixture in the back in Stephane Robidas, who Dillon also lived with during the early part of last season. He’s again paired with No. 3 in the back and Robidas agrees that there is definitely much to like about his young teammate and the immense skill set he brings to the Stars defense.
“He’s been just steady, consistent. He’s been a force. He’s a big, strong, physical guy. He can move very well. Obviously, he’s been shooting the puck very well too,” Robidas said. “He’s just being himself.”
The veteran defenseman has also noticed one rather subtle but clearly positive change in his fellow d-man this season.
“I thought last year he was great but I think he’s getting better with the more he plays, the more he gains confidence,” Robidas said. “He’s jumping into play a little more this year, joining the rush and has got some really good chances.”