Williams brings solid hockey resume to Stars

By Steve Hunt

When the Stars signed veteran right winger Jason Williams about a week ago, the first thought on the minds of many fans was some kind of joke about not knowing that the former NBA sensation who dubbed himself White Chocolate could skate. But joking aside, adding the 30-year-old ex-Red Wing is a move that could pay dividends.

In fact, in just his second game with Dallas, Williams delivered his first assist. It came in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Edmonton when the newest Star spotted Loui Eriksson streaking up the middle of the ice and delivered a pinpoint pass to his new teammate. Eriksson finished for what was Dallas’ only goal of the night.

“Everything has been really good. The whole Stars organization has been great so far in helping me get flights or whatever I’ve got to do and helping me with everything,” Williams said on Monday before the Stars began their current three-game road trip.

“It’s been a very easy adjustment. I’m just trying to worry about my hockey and that’s the main thing,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about the things off ice and try to worry about the things I can do on ice to help the team win. They do that very good. Whatever it is-help moving or shipping something, it’s very easy. Just ask them and it gets done. It’s been very good.”

When he arrived in Big D last week, he had no idea what his role might be. But Williams kept an open mind and now he finds himself in the unenviable task of acting as point man for the power play, a role normally held by offensive cog Brad Richards, who will miss the entire Western Canada trip due to an undisclosed injury.

“I’m just looking to come in and try to make an impact as quick as possible. Whatever role they want me to take on I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best I can at that role,” he said. “If it’s a checking type player or if it’s someone that’s going to score goals, whatever it is, I’m going to go out there. Whatever the coach asks for, I’m going to go out there, do my best, work hard and just try to lead by example. I’ve played with a lot of great players and have learned a lot of good things over the years. I want to try to bring that experience that I have, help out some of these younger guys and hopefully with their enthusiasm and their energy, they can help me.”

Williams made his Stars debut in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Columbus and after spending the last bit in the American Hockey League, he admits coming back to the NHL was a bit of an adjustment.

“I felt like the first few shifts, you’ve got to get adjusted again to the speed. I find in the American League the biggest thing is it’s always so scrambly. The guys don’t know their positions as well where here, it’s very strict,” he said. “It’s positional with a lot of puck control. You’re chasing it around a little more in the American Hockey League but it was good to get those games in, sort of test out my injury and things and put it to the test of playing three games in three nights, back-to-back games and stuff. It took a little bit longer than I expected but I feel good now. I’ve just got to keep doing my strengthening and taking care of doing those proper movements to warm myself up before games and practices.”

Stars head coach Marc Crawford liked what he saw from Williams in his first game wearing the Dallas sweater.

“I thought he gave us a little bit,” Crawford said after the loss to the Blue Jackets. “He had a couple of opportunities to get pucks at the net, to get his shot away. The speed of the NHL, he’s still probably got a little bit of adjusting to that after being in the American League. But there’s no doubt he’s a smart player. He puts himself in the right position. He’s above the puck all the time. He understands what’s going on out there and I think he’ll help us.”

It’s that experience that Crow speaks of, most notably his time in Detroit, when he was a member of the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup championship team that was a big reason why the Stars signed him for the rest of the year.

“I think just the experience I’ve had with winning the one Cup there in Detroit in 2002 it’s always a rollercoaster ride. To get in those moments and know how you have to act and not get too high or too low [is important]. Those types of things [will help],” Williams said. “When I was in Columbus, I came in January into a similar situation and they were fighting for a playoff spot. We ended up making the playoffs that year.”

And when it comes to his leadership style, he’s definitely someone who lets his game do the talking.

“You’ve just got to be prepared and ready to play. If I can help prepare these guys, provide some energy when I can by providing some scoring, going out and making a big hit or some kind of play that changes the momentum, it might not be something big on the score sheet but it gets us a victory or a point here and there. That’s my main focus,” Williams said.