The Dallas Stars training camp opened with on-ice sessions that were fast and hard-working. How did captain Jamie Benn, one of the older forwards on the ice, prepare for the new puck-possession style new coach Pete DeBoer favors?
“Just tried to get faster,” Benn said. “All these young guys are coming in and they can skate. I ain’t getting any younger,” he joked.
The captain is sporting a Vikings-esque hair cut tied into a top knot and looks relatively lean to the naked eye. In other words, the cliche “best shape of his career” label could go to Benn for the Stars’ training camp submission. However, he wasn’t the one that won the off-ice fitness testing the team did. That went to Luke Glendening for the second year in a row.
Being in good shape is a kind of prerequisite for NHL training camps these days. So that won’t be what gets the Stars improvement in the stands. It’s going to be improving their scoring, something has been a desperate point of need for a few seasons now.
“We’re trying to play fast and get that puck, move it up the ice as quick as possible,” Benn said. “We work together as a group of five out there. It’s not just the defensemen, it’s the forwards and working as a five-man unit that’s going to help us play faster.”
“It seems very familiar to a few years back, which is exciting personally,” he added.
Could that ‘few years back’ he alluded to be when the Stars played a faster pace of hockey under Lindy Ruff? That team won the regular season Western Conference title with a 50-23-9 record (109 points). It would be a 180-degree turn around from a team that barely made it into the playoffs last season as the second Wild Card in the West.
If they want to get there, it will start with getting a better start to the season. While seasons cannot be lost in the first 10 games of the year, they can make it insanely more difficult to make up ground as the year goes by.
“It’s no secret we’ve put ourselves in a little bit of a hole the last few years, so that’ll kind of be our first goal,” forward Joe Pavelski said. It’s a consistent message the team is already on the same page on. “The last years we started maybe a little bit slow, and we chased a little bit being in the Wild Card,” defenseman Esa Lindell said.
“That’s something we don’t want. We want to be top-three in the conference.”