FRISCO, Texas — Stephane Robidas has seen a little bit of everything through his first 12 seasons in the National Hockey League. And the Dallas veteran defenseman who has been patrolling the blueline for the Stars for most of the past nine seasons has also unfortunately seen his team miss out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past five seasons.
However, while it might sound cliché to say that this year is different, things truly have changed in Dallas. That’s because since the final horn sounded to signify the end of the lockout-shortened season in April, the Stars hired a new general manager in Jim Nill, a new head coach in Lindy Ruff, rolled out a new logo and new jerseys and also pulled the trigger on several high-profile trades that netted the club players like Sergei Gonchar from the Senators, Shawn Horcoff from the Oilers and Tyler Seguin from the Bruins.
But it’s not like Robidas, now 36, hasn’t seen changes before during his time wearing a Stars’ jersey. However, even he will be the first to admit he hasn’t seen the organization change on such a large scale since he’s been with the club.
“I think it’s really like a fresh start for everybody. Everything’s going to be different but the goal remains the same-to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. We haven’t put ourselves in the situation where we could do that,” he said. “Forget about the past and what happened. I think that’s the main thing for this team, is we’re looking ahead and looking at the future but not really the future. It’s really we’re looking [at the] present.”
As someone who has 12 years of NHL experience on his resume, getting acclimated to new teammates is far from a foreign experience for this affable and seasoned d-man. But considering the high number of changes, especially the number of new players Nill has helped bring to the Stars, even he admits he’s looking forward to skating with all of them.
“I think we added some really quality players and quality people. They’re really good players. They’re going to help our team,” Robidas said.
However, it’s not just the young players that No. 3 is looking forward to skating with. The veteran defenseman also wants to see how some of the young players who saw ice time for the Stars last season will continue their progression in a full, 82-game season.
“We’ve got the young guys that got experience last year that now they know what to expect. They’re going to take their game to another level,” Robidas said.
And while this experienced defenseman has definitely done his fair share to help solidify the Stars at the blueline during his two separate stints in Dallas, part of reason why he’s not only been able to stick around in the league for over a decade but also been able to excel and see some of the biggest minutes on the club is that he realizes that even now, into his mid-30s that he still has a lot to learn about how he can better play the game and help his team win.
“I think if everybody can increase their game just a couple percent, if everybody does that in the end it’s going to be a pretty significant difference. We all need to get better. Sometimes you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and say what could I have done better? Where could we improve? I think that part has been done and now it’s to move forward and really look ahead,” Robidas said.
One other big change for this Stars fixture will be that beginning with this season he’ll also be working not only under a new head coach in Ruff, but his top assistant, James Patrick, a former NHL defenseman who coordinated the Sabres’ defensemen during his time working under Ruff in Buffalo, will now be working equally closely with the Stars’ contingent of blueliners.
“I remember watching him play. I played against him a little bit when I was in Montreal. He’s a guy that played for a long time. He knows the game. He’s been around the game. He was an assistant coach for a number of years,” Robidas said. “I think he brings a lot of experience from his playing days. I know some players that played for him again and they have nothing but good things to say about him. I think it’ll be fun. For an older guy like me, it’ll be fun to learn from a veteran guy like that who played. I’m still learning. I’m 36 but there are things I’m still learning. I think I can learn a lot from a guy like James Patrick.”