Dallas Stars Daily Links: Jason Spezza Finally Comfortable with New Surroundings
The former Sens captain is enjoying his time with Jim Nill in Prague, and all signs point to next season's being equally fun for everyone on the Stars. Also, the Lightning are getting closer, and the Caps have used up their margin for error.
After captaining the franchise he broke into the league with over ten years ago, it's little wonder that Jason Spezza took a bit to get acclimated to Dallas during the early portion of last season. With the Stars mired in an early-season defense/goaltending allergy, things got complicated and lines got shuffled. What was supposed to be the beginning of a (we hoped) long stay in Texas instead looked a lot like the Stars had somehow found a way to disconnect the magical servos that made Spezza operate like the top draft pick and elite player he was.
Of course, being a long tenured player, Spezza knew that even without the first-line production he had been accustomed to, there were still other responsibilities he had to face:
“In the room, I know that being one of the veteran guys gives me a little more of an outspoken presence in tougher times. That’s stuff you just gain out of experience and being somewhere. I feel much more comfortable now than I did in the first three or four months of the year.”
Spezza is one of nine Stars players competing in the World Championships May 1-17 in the Czech Republic. Spezza, who plays for Canada, is coming off a four-point game (two goal, two assist) Tuesday in a 10-1 win over Austria. Spezza is tied for the tournament lead in scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) after seven games and is showing he can compete with the best players in the world.
The second overall pick in 2001, Spezza has long dealt with high expectations, and said he has placed those expectations on himself.
“I think that’s the key for me, I’m always asking for more,” Spezza said. “Whether I was in Ottawa or in my first year here, I’m always looking to do better — to score more points, to play better defensively, to win more faceoffs, to win more games. That’s just how I push myself.”
Spezza wasn’t happy with his first season in Dallas. He said there was a clear transition period, and that he felt like he understood his role better as the season wore on.
“I think I was just more comfortable in the second half. I played better and understood where I was on the team,” Spezza said. “You get to know the coach and you get to know the system. I think early on in the year there’s a lot of trying to figure out guys and figure out who you’re playing with. It’s easy to put five names together for a power play, but until you play together you don’t really know the little plays you have to make and who likes the puck where.
Check out the whole piece, as usual.
The power play comment is especially interesting, as it's no secret that the Stars' man-advantage group went from being an effective guerrilla marketing group for #firefraser to dragging the team's power play into the top 11 of the league by season's end. Whether that was simply a matter of player cohesion or solely a result of the Droparoo (aw, we won't get to hear Ralph say that again), the Stars as a group did become far more lethal on the job as the year wore on.
One hopes that Spezza's game will continue with a similar trend next year as well. Nothing is certain, and age is a thing, but if all the new-relationship jitters have truly been sorted out, the high expectations for last season just might end up finding their fulfillment a year too late. Seems like most relationships end up working out that way, right? Now go watch Serendipity or something.
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I am going to make a classic Pepsi product reference in a little bit here. It's not Crystal Pepsi, but actually something even better!
Goose Gosselin says the Stars should draft big defensemen and goaltenders this summer because Jack Campbell hasn't panned out. Also, Lindy Ruff is "as a good a coach as you'll find." [DMN]
Mark Stepneski rounds up your Stars in the IIHF Worlds yesterday. Esa Lindell still leading Finland's defense in ice team, ho hum. [Stars]
Remember when the Stars were in the Pacific Division and like 70 of their games started at 9:30pm? Well, AHL fans are going to have that lovely experience next year as the Texas Stars have been moved to the AHL's Pacific Division to accompany all the new California teams that have been created. Get your sunflower seeds and Josta ready for those late nights! [100 Degree Hockey]
The Lightning took care of business last night just like we knew they would, taking down the Canadiens 4-1. Kucherov and Stamkos did their jobs. [NHL]
Here's a great piece on how to prepare for the big Game 7 tonight between the Caps and 'Gers. [Grantland]
Josh Harding may be retiring this summer. Tough end to a very inspirational career. [Star Tribune]
If you liked Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, then you'll love this look at Mike Babcock's various travels. [Winging It in Motown]
Gabby's a winner, in case you have been falling for the "Boudreau can't win in the playoffs" narrative lately. This guy has some credentials. [TSN]
Noah Hanifin is ready to be drafted third (most likely) and, it would seem, to play in the NHL. [SportsNet]
Finally, check out Eichel's GWG from yesterday as the US pulled out an OT win. This guy is probably going to be drafted next month.