Mar 20, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) stops a shot by Phoenix Coyotes left wing Ray Whitney (13) during the overtime shootout at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Yesterday on Defending Big D we discussed where the newest Dallas Stars may fit in Glen Gulutzan's line combinations for the 2012-2013 NHL season. Simultaneously, new left wing Ray Whitney was appearing on 1260 The Team in Edmonton on the Nielson and Fraser show to talk about his future with the Stars and how he came to be here.
"There was a couple of things this year," said Whitney of contract negotiations and how he chose Dallas as his destination. "Obviously the length of contract was important. Dallas offered me two years right away. They were willing to give me that kind of commitment. They were the only team that was willing to give me that kind of commitment."
Not even the team that took him to the Western Conference Finals last season?
"Phoenix did offer me a two-year [contract] but not anywhere near financially what the Dallas Stars did," said Whitney.
Stealing a 40 year-old from a division rival might not be what fans clamoring for new ownership have had in mind these last two+ seasons of waiting and hoping for financial stability, but there's no doubt why a 77 point player is here and not in Phoenix next season: Tom Gaglardi.
After the jump Whitney talks training as an elder statesman in the league, why he came to Dallas specifically, and what he think's will happen with Shane Doan...
The Team 1260 asked Whitney what he thought he'd be able to bring to the table in light of his advancing years and how expectations of himself have changed coming into a new deal with a new team/set of circumstances.
"I expect to be able to do the same things I did last year and over the last, basically ten years, which is be fairly productive on the offensive side, and certainly help the power play."
That's the long and short of it as has been sold to the fanbase by management and how the move has been played in the media. The Stars need offense. They need power play help. They need short term contracts while kids prepare in Cedar Par: Ray Whitney is, therefore, their guy. (Ignore the part where the Phoenix power play was basically as historically bad as the Stars' was last season.)
There's more to it, however, according to Ray...
"I think one of the other reasons they brought me in, and I talked to Joe Nieuwendyk extensively about it, is they just want to change a little bit of the attitude and a little bit of the culture inside the locker room," continued Whitney.
"From what I understand, and I'm not going to toot my own horn on this but, I am able to balance fun and work at the same time. I realize you have to have fun when you're playing the game and in the same sense you have to be able to know when you've lost four in a row that it's time to get down and get serious. I like to do that. I like to keep it fun. I like to keep people entertained, but I like to win as much as anybody, so I think that is another factor in why I'm there."
A change in the locker room attitude is a concept open to many different interpretations, but when coupled with what Tom Gaglardi said of his team in May as well as the Ribeiro and Ott trades, it certainly seems as though "leadership" was of concern in the Dallas Stars' front office, and Whitney is a guy who will be expected to make an adjustment in that department while he's here, as well as hopefully leaving behind a positive imprint after he's moved on in (presumably) 2014.
He considered Dallas because of the second year and the money, but that's not all he likes about the team, as he told 1260 The Team.
"I think what people have to understand is that every team has pieces and every team has an opportunity starting from zero to get in and have success. They [Dallas] have a good goaltender, which is something you need in this league now. Probably more than anything."
Ray Whitney has been around a long, long time, and knows that success is built from the net out in this league.
"You need a goaltender - it's funny, you say Jamie Benn and Eriksson and we all love that, but the Phoenix Coyotes last year didn't get to where they were going without Mike Smith. The Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne was a huge part of that. As Lundqvist (with the Rangers). So all the teams that get anywhere and have any success, it usually starts with the goaltender out and I think Kari lehtonen is one of the best in the league right now, and there are some talented people up front."
(They didn't discuss the personnel on defense here.)
Instead the conversation steered toward how a 40 views training in today's NHL compared to two decades ago when he joined the ranks.
"I didn't train back then," said Whitney of his first NHL off-seasons. "There was a day when you went to training to get in shape and I was just starting in that era where you would start training - there were guys training (before). I was a little bit of that cocky, skilled forward who thought, you know, I never really had to be in shape. I wasn't heavy. I never did get heavy, but if I look back now to my first six or seven years in the league, if I would have trained as hard as I do now, I think things would have been different."
"I think I could have had a lot more success earlier in my career if I had trained properly and trained like the kids do now-a-days, which is the biggest change in the game I see now with how these kids are prepared coming out of junior or college."
The Stars hope Whitney will create plays on the ice while creating a positive atmosphere in the locker and weight rooms. The work ethic that keeps him productive at his age, as with Jaromir Jagr, is something Gm Joe N. obviously feels his young Stars need to learn in order to continue building a solid foundation upon which winning can be achieved. Whitney knows that success is just a couple of standings-spots away.
"Once you get into the playoffs - The idea is just to get into the playoffs. You just have to get in. Once you're in amazing things can happen."
*Whitney added toward the end of the interview that from his personal experience he does not see Shane Doan moving on from the Coyotes organization. He's given it everything and would like to stay. He's doing his due diligence now in exploring options, but it sounded as though Ray views it all as a time kill until the Coyotes know for sure that they're going to be around for the long term.