Dallas Stars players had their pens and pencils out to go with their thinking caps from the sound of things coming to us from Prince Edward Island after day one of training camp 2011. Players started unlearning what Marc Crawford had installed over the last two seasons and made way in their hockey brains for Glen Gulutzan's new brand of hockey with a video session before the first official practices. The system, it seems, is one that is emphasizing more defensive responsibility and a finer appreciation for details.
"Refining some stuff in the d-zone," said Gulutzan of his first day emphasis. "We're not scrapping anything from last year, we're just building on it and trying to refine it a little. That was the emphasis of today: The d-zone coverage. We had a couple of other things sprinkled in there as far as things that we felt needed emphasizing coming into this year, but the main thrust today was the d-zone coverage."
"We didn't look at all the systems," said Stephane Robidas. "We worked the d-zone coverage and I think it's pretty good. Gully seems very detail oriented. All the details on the ice are very important to him and if he sees something he's not afraid to come and tell you [...]."
If there's a team that can appreciate the need for details, it's one that finished with 95 points and outside of the playoff picture after a loss in the very last game of the NHL's regular season.
In a video on DallasStars.com, Razor opined that there was a lot of thinking out there on day one and Brenden Morrow agreed. "It wasn't habit yet. Once we grasp it, it's going to go really well. He's had some success with it and we're excited to put it into play."
That's a sentiment that might scare some Stars fans a little. During Marc Crawford's first year with Dallas it was said often in the media that the players were having to think too much about the new system being installed, rather than reacting instinctively to developments during play. With their third head coach in three calendar years, players will have to rethink the game again, with the first preseason game coming quickly on Tuesday night in front of what will be an amped up Montreal crowd.
"Our goal is to get our spine together," said Gulutzan. "The backbone of our game, the non negotiable items are: Our d-zone, our tracking and our forecheck. That's going to form the foundation for us. That's our goal going into Montreal; to have that foundation in place."
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We talked all week long about what the major story lines out of this camp and preseason would be and the early returns, after a day of tweets and content coming out of Charlottetown, is that the stories and tribulations of the individuals are being shoved aside. In their place is a focus on the team as a whole, and on Coach Gulutzan's vision for this season.
Part of that vision, it seems, is a frenetic pace to the proceedings from day one. "We'll practice that way: pacey, all the time," said Coach Gulutzan. "If you're going to play pacey you have to practice pacey. The two have to be together." True to his word in June, Gulutzan seems to be placing a premium on playing with great pace while at the same time aiming to be responsible in their own end.
When asked if this training camp was different for him and his staff at the NHL level, Gulutzan was quick to downplay any newness on his part. "No, it's the exact same thing. We've done what we did in Austin for the last two years and what I did in Leas Vegas for the last three. So for the last five years it's been kind of the same thing. There are a few little tweaks. We try to get more detailed than I was four years ago."
"We had some good dialogue between players and coaches and between players and players and whenever you have that going on you think there's some learning taking place."
With only eighteen days between now and a daunting back to back with the Chicago Blackhawks to open the season, the learning will continue on the fly all the way until puck drop on October 7th, with our first chance of sneaking a peak at the curriculum this coming Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
Stars captain Brenden Morrow talked about the need to keep the focus on the ice and not on the protracted sale of the team which, as he says, has been described to him as being ready to be concluded "next week" for over a year now.
Still, when asked by Razor, Brenden admitted to looking forward to a resolution and knowing a bit about the quality of the bid put forth. "It sounds like the bid is pretty good, so whoever buys the team is going to really want it."
Until then, it sounds like players have plenty of details in Gulutzan's new system to keep them busy.