Presented with the question of whether Stephane Robidas was a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL, Stars coach Marc Crawford did some quick math.
“Six defensemen on 30 teams, that’s 180 defensemen,” said Crawford. “He’d have to be in the top 30. So, he’s a No. 1. “
Then Crawford trimmed it down some more.
“I think there are only a couple of handfuls of defensemen better than him,” Crawford said.
Robidas’ play and numbers so far this season make a good case. He’s leads the Stars with at 23:03 of ice time per game, ranks third among NHL defensemen with a plus-10 rating, has 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) and is one of only eight defensemen in the league to register points at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded.
That comes on the heels of a 2009-10 season where he set career marks in goals (10), assists (31) and points (41), and was top 10 in the league in both hits and blocked shots.
"I think he’s a No. 1 defenseman for sure," said Crawford. "He plays against top guys, has the ability to play power play minutes and is an excellent penalty killer. He can play minutes."
When you talk about top defensemen in the league, Robidas’ name isn’t a name that gets mentioned a lot. He was named Mr. Underrated by ESPN heading into this season. Yet, he doesn’t exactly fly under the radar. His invitation to Hockey Canada’s Olympic camp in the summer of 2010 said a lot about how he is regarded by some top people in the game.
For his part, Robidas isn’t too concerned about whether he’s considered a No. 1 defensemen.
“To be honest, I am not trying to be a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3,” said the 33-year-old Quebec native. “All I am trying to do is do my job and help the team as best as I can.”
Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman doesn’t seem to be much into putting numbers on things either, but he does think if you had to put a number on it Robidas is a No. 1 and it goes beyond just statistical stuff.
“Yeah, if you have to put a number on it,” said Grossman, who is Robidas’ partner on the blue line. “He is outstanding in everywhere you can think – his commitment to everything and the kind of person he is. To see him out there playing as hard as he does makes everyone else want to play hard. Whenever you feel like you’re having an off day or are a little tired and you see him on the first shift - he gets run or he runs someone and his attitude makes you snap out of it and want to go harder. That’s exactly what you want in a guy and a team.”
And Robidas is a team guy. Talk to him about his status in the league and he turns the talk to the team’s group of defensemen, which many people see as the weak link on the Stars. That’s something Robidas wants to change.
“I keep hearing all over and all the time how as a group we are not good enough,” said Robidas. “As a group our play is something we want to take pride in. It’s a little bit like our team, the whole team. We’re kind of underdogs.”
Being an underdog is something Robidas knows about. He was a seventh round pick by Montreal in 1995 and bounced the league around before finally settling in and blossoming with the Stars after signing with them just after the lockout ended in 2005.
And the better Robidas has gotten the harder he seems to work. He’s often one of the last players off the ice when the Dallas Stars practice. There are times he is the last guy off the ice.
“Somebody asked me the other day what’s my hobby. I said I really don’t have a hobby. All I do is play hockey and I have a family. That’s it. That’s what I like,” Robidas said. “I like to watch hockey. I go to my son’s hockey practice. I can talk about hockey. That’s what I know. That’s what I like doing.”
And as the Stars wrapped up practice Tuesday in Frisco, the last player off the ice?