Daley ready to help lead Stars’ rearguard

FRISCO– With the trading of Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro during the off-season, Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who has spent all 12 of his NHL seasons in Dallas, and defenseman Trevor Daley, who is entering his ninth year in Big D, are now the two longest-tenured players on Glen Gulutzan’s roster.

Daley, a 28-year-old defenseman who has failed to play in at least 75 games in only one of his first six full seasons, comes off a 2011-12 campaign where he finished with 25 points (4-21-25) in 79 games. This came after a 2010-11 season where he played in all 82 games for the second time in his career, a year that ended with the Stars missing the playoffs for a third straight year, this time by just a single point after falling in the season finale to the Wild.

Of course, the Stars haven’t been to the postseason since 2009 and that’s a streak “Dales” would definitely like to see end as soon as this year. And he doesn’t want that streak to end just because he and his teammates are itching to experience playoff hockey yet again. He also wants that run to end so he can again experience a normal off-season, not one that is wrought with the disappointment of not qualifying for the second season yet again.

“I think of the string of not making the playoffs, this one [off-season] was definitely the worst. Knowing what our team was capable of and just not being able to get it done was the toughest thing. It’s even worse to have five, six months to sit on it and dwell on it. But it’s back to work again, trying to figure out how to get better,” Daley said. “That’s Joe [Nieuwendyk]’s job in the summertime, to see how he can improve our team and make our team better. It’s our job to get our bodies ready and get ourselves ready. I’m looking forward to hopefully starting here pretty soon.”

Like all of his teammates who loved playing alongside “Otter” and “Ribbie,” he’s sad to see his two former teammates no longer in Dallas, but also realizes that with the trading of Ott to Buffalo and Ribeiro to Washington that he’s now the second longest-tenured Star behind only the man wearing the “C” for the club in Morrow.

“Yeah, it’s another year, another year of experience for the younger guys and for some of us older guys it’s obviously the same thing. A year older, hopefully a year more mature and hopefully a year better. I think we’re all about the same schedule-trying to improve, trying to get better and trying to get this team back to where it belongs,” Daley said.

But with the departure of Ott, Ribeiro, Adam Burish, who signed a free-agent deal with the Sharks and Radek Dvorak among others comes several new teammates, including one fellow defenseman in Aaron Rome, who was signed early in free agency after spending the last few seasons in Vancouver. And since he and Rome have played together before, he’s someone the Toronto native is definitely looking forward to skating alongside yet again.

“I think I’ve played with him [Rome] once or twice before. I think it might have been prospects, Under-18s, Worlds camp or something like that. I know him pretty well. I think we’re around the same age. I’m excited for him to come in. He comes from a winning product in Vancouver and we’re obviously trying to get back to that situation,” Daley said. “To add a face like that is definitely a step in the right direction. He’s going to bring some grit and some good skill too. I’m looking forward to having him.”

Of course, Rome isn’t the only new face on the Stars’ roster as club GM Joe Nieweundyk also signed the likes of Cody Eakin, Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Ray Whitney, all names this affable d-man is more than familiar with after having played against them throughout his NHL career. They’re also guys he is definitely looking forward to playing with as teammates.

“It’s amazing. You have a 40-year-old guy in [Ray] Whitney coming in that he’s probably at the top of his game right now. It’s incredible to see what that guy’s doing and then a guy like [Jaromir] Jagr who’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think he said he had an OK year last year. He was one of the best players on the Philadelphia Flyers so if that’s an OK year, I’m scared to see what he’s going to do with us this year,” Daley said.

And speaking of players “Dales” has some history with, he and Roy are former teammates from their days in junior hockey and much like his relationship with Rome, it’s one this Stars defenseman is looking forward to renewing this season.

“Derek Roy, he’s a great player and he’s going to bring a lot of skill, a lot of stuff that we were lacking there. We’re excited to have him,” Daley said. “I know Derek Roy from back in our junior days and growing up together in Under-17s, so I’m excited to have him on the team.”

At 28, only the Stars’ most veteran defenseman, Stephane Robidas, is older than him and even though he is still south of 30, that hasn’t stopped No. 6 from having a positive impact on the up-and-coming blueliners in the Dallas system, prospects like Philip Larsen, who skated in a career-high 55 games last season and looks to have cemented a spot in the defensive rotation under Gulutzan heading into this season.

Larsen’s development was one of the more positive stories to come out of what ended up being another disappointing campaign for the Stars. And like many of the organization’s young d-men, he credits the presence of a seasoned veteran like Daley and seeing how he handles his business both on and off the ice on a daily basis as helping shorten his NHL learning curve.

“He’s always made me feel like I’m part of the team. He’s a great guy off the ice and a guy I look up to. He always helps you and is always happy when he comes to a rink. As a young guy, I look up to him and know I want to be like him, help the young guys when it’s time to do that. On the ice, he’s quick. He’s moving his feet all the time. I think I’ve been looking at that a lot. I want to move my feet all the time. He’s a great skater, good with the puck,” the young Danish-born defenseman said.

Larsen has clearly taken every bit of advice Daley has offered to heart to help further along his own career, but he’s also done that so that he can pay that advice forward in the future as his way of helping mentor young players and easing their adjustment to the pro game.

“He’s meant a lot to me since I first came here. I’m thankful for that. When I’m getting older or when new guys are coming in, young guys, I want to be able to do what he did for me for them. That’s the way it has to be I think,” he said. “It’s always nice to come in and there’s guys like that.”

Even with a possible NHL lockout looming, Daley and his teammates are ready to get this season going, which will be the second under Gulutzan, who was hired in June 2011 to turn things around after the Stars missed the playoffs in both seasons under Marc Crawford. “Yeah, when you start with a new coach, it’s always a little different not knowing what to expect, him getting used to you and you getting used to him. I think we made some strides last year with him,” Daley said. “Coming into this year, he’s made it clear he feels obviously like a year under our belt, like any other rookie coming in, feels the same way. You’re a little bit more comfortable with the guys in what you do and what you say around them. There’s a lot of guys in here that he knows a lot more. I think it’s going to be pretty good.”

And after a season where he missed just three games due to a minor injury, he is looking forward to having another season where he possibly goes the entire year without missing a single game, something he’s already done twice in his NHL career. “It’s obviously part of the game, you always knock on wood and try to stay healthy all year around. But sometimes it doesn’t happen, especially the amount of days we travel and the grit of the game it just doesn’t happen to everybody,” Daley said. “I tried to keep myself prepared and ready all summer and in shape to play 82 games a year.”