The Dallas Stars depart Prince Edward Island for good today after spending three full days in practices and video sessions. They let Glen Gulutzan's new message soak into their brains, soaked some lobster in some butter, and journey on to Montreal before bringing the whole show back to Dallas where we anxiously await their arrival.
So much of the fanbase and media that covers this team were in Texas all weekend and it's been a little difficult to grasp exactly what kind of work has been going on up there, what the new guys look like on the ice, what Glen Gulutzan's system is exactly, and how it differs from previous regimes in Dave Tippett and Marc Crawford.
Gulutzan talks about pace, playing in a team's face, and also about being defensively responsible. The players are starting to regurgitate his message in limited interviews they've done (mostly with Dallasstars.com and the incomparable misters Reaugh and Strangis) and while we wait to see them with our own eyes on Thursday night, we'll try to read the tea leaves, so to speak, and gain insight through the quotes.
"The way Gully wants us playing this year is just an up-tempo, in your face kind of style," said Burish in an interview with Ralph Strangis. "It's a lot of energy, a lot of skating, and I think that fits into the personality of our team."
It's hard to find guys that aren't positively beaming in the training camp portion of the preseason, brimming with positivity (and why not?) but Steve Ott agreed whole heartedly.
"I'm excited," said Ott. "Everything we've done so far has been the way I like to play, and I'm sure a lot of the other guys do as well."
If there's an official buzzword of camp, it's "details." Gulutzan was said to be very organized before camp began and he hasn't disappointed.
"[It's] playing a detailed game," said Burish of what the system is like. "Knowing where to be at the right times, being in right positions, playing sound defensive hockey, keeping people away from the front of the net."
"It's detailed, but it's simple," Burish continued. "The nice thing he tells us is that there's going to be some things that are non-negotiable [...] but [he's] never going to take hockey sense away from you. 'If there's a play out there you can make, make the play, and then we'll go back to our systems'."
Steve Ott compares certain aspects of the system to Dave Tippett like elements...
"Some of this stuff is similar to even the Tippett days with our 1-2-2's or our 1-3-1's," said Ott to Razor Reaugh, "and I thought we had some major success in my first few years doing those kinds of systems and to be back playing that way...I'm excited for that."
There are those who may groan at the thought of a 1-2-2 or a 1-3-1 (these being forecheck/defensive systems, depending on your outlook on life) as they will conjure images of what some remember to be something akin to "the trap" but it's not uncommon in the NHL today, and the Stars have had great success with that over the years, as Ott said. With Marc Crawford the Stars used more of a 2-1-2 look much of the time. A more conservative approach should yield fewer high quality rushes against.
Ott calls the system aggressive at the same time.
"We're going to be very aggressive, which means a lot of hard work and when you have that hard work you're a team that's hard to play against. You're going to see a team that battles hard, is very responsible, is never giving up high [quality] scoring opportunities and is always having that extra commitment to the play."
The gritty forward turned top six forward, if all goes right this preseason, reflected on playing with Jamie Benn in the Black/White scrimmage on Sunday evening and liked what he saw, of course.
"Playing along side Jamie Benn makes things a lot easier out there," said Ott. "He skated up the ice, made a couple nice moves and had a nice shot and I picked up some garbage and then put it in. I'll hopefully see that a lot this year if I get the opportunity to play with him. He's such a gifted player that there are going to be a lot of loose pucks laying around."
The new forecheck, the new line combinations and the added enthusiasm for a new season, new teammates and a new system will all be on display in Montreal tonight, and we'll be listening to Ralph and Razor "call the crap out of it" (Razor's words, not mine) with a gameday thread full of fun tonight.
"Everybody's skating all the time," added Burish. "There's a lot more energy and guys are moving. It's a fun way to play the game."
We'll see it in our minds eye tonight, and then we'll see it in person on Thursday night when the American Airlines Center officially opens for (hockey) business, and finally be able to comment on this new system for ourselves.