ARLINGTON, Texas — For much of the calendar year, Derek Holland has a full-time job as an integral part of the starting rotation of the Texas Rangers. But when the Ohio native isn’t pitching or prepping for his next start, the lifelong hockey fan is keeping up with the goings on surrounding the Dallas Stars.
The man known as “The Dutch Oven” was good friends with now former Stars agitator Steve Ott during his time in Big D and No. 45 is now pretty tight with 2012 NHL All-Star center Jamie Benn.
Once baseball season is over, Holland is a regular visitor to American Airlines Center to see the team play and even though the Rangers are currently amidst a fierce battle with Oakland to see who will win the American League West title, he still had time to weigh in on how he thinks the Stars have fared so far this offseason, one where the club has picked a new GM, new head coach, pulled off several big trades and also drafted twice in the first round.
“I think those are going to be big pickups [Seguin and Gonchar], especially with the new kid [Nichushkin]. He’s 18 and from Russia. That’s going to help, so I think that’s huge,” he said. “The way they’ve turned everything around-the coaching staff, the new logo, everything, I think it’s going to be a whole different ballgame. The good thing is for me personally I’m going to have a lot of expectation for them because I feel like it’s a great team that’s coming in.”
Holland touched base with Benn, an admitted Yankee fan, earlier this summer and likes the fact that under new Stars head coach Lindy Ruff, Jamie will be moving back to his more natural position of center instead of dabbling on the wing like he has done over the past few seasons.
“I talked to Jamie a little bit when he was in town. He’s out of town now, but we talked a little bit, just had a good time with each other. It’s definitely looking good for the Stars,” he said.
He added: “I think it [the move back to center] will be good for him. Whatever makes him more comfortable, this is me as a baseball player talking because I don’t play hockey or know what the atmosphere is. But you always want to be comfortable. So, I feel like that’s something that’s actually going to be really good for him, but you can’t really control too much about that but I know he’s probably excited to get there and do that.”
Even though he grew up following the Columbus Blue Jackets in his native Ohio and was also once a season ticket holder for the Phoenix Coyotes since he previously made his off-season home in Surprise, Arizona, Holland has kept up with the Stars almost from the moment he became a Ranger.
And now that he calls the Metroplex home over the winter, he is a regular attendee at Stars game. But not even he could foresee how many changes the Stars have made to their organization since the season ended in a fifth straight year without a playoff berth in late April.
“Yeah, actually I am [surprised at how many changes they’ve made],” he said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to look at it as a positive. It’s sad to see a lot of guys go-[Brenden] Morrow, [Steve] Ott and all those guys from before take off.”
Holland added: “But at the same time, you can tell that they’re obviously building for the future and they’re getting themselves to win now. That’s the big thing. You’ve got to be excited about it as a hockey fan. They didn’t to make the playoffs the past few years, so it’s just good to see that they’re doing anything and everything and shows that they really care about Dallas and making the Stars a name.”