The Dallas Stars have missed the playoffs two straight years, but in defenseman Stephane Robidas’ eyes the Stars are on a par with every other team in the league at this point. As far as the 2010-11 season goes, everybody is tied with a record of 0-0-0. It's an opportunity to leave the past behind and move forward.
“It doesn’t matter what you did in the past, it’s what you are going to bring to the table this year,” Robidas said. “I think everybody is coming with a fresh attitude and ready for a fresh start. It’s a fresh start for everybody. We’re all starting at the same level and at the same amount of points as Detroit and everybody else. It’s up to us to prove to ourselves and to prove to the rest of the league that we’re a good team.”
Robidas and some other Stars players have been skating at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Frisco in preparation for the coming season. Forward Toby Petersen is another one of those players.
“We aren’t happy with the way the last two seasons have ended. We have a lot to prove and we’re going to set out right away to get it headed in the right direction,” said Petersen.
The Stars don’t believe they are that far off course. Sure, they finished 12th in the Western Conference but they were only seven points out of the final playoff spot.
“I think we look at ourselves as a playoff team heading into the season. Obviously, we can’t say that about last year, but a few bounces here and there,” said Petersen. “You can say that about every team and most teams are probably saying that about themselves. We weren’t completely buried in the standings. You’ve got to look at last year and try to look at the positives and not focus on all the negatives and try to move forward.”
It’s not hard to go back over an 82-game season and pick out games or stretches and see where you squandered seven, eight or more points. Putting together a winning streak of more than two games would have helped. Putting together 1-5-1 and 3-6-2 runs out of the Olympic break didn’t help.
“You’ve got all those shootouts that we lost last year. I hate talking about that, but those are points that we lost. To me, that’s why I am optimistic because we weren’t that far off,” said Robidas. “If you take those points we lost in overtime and shootouts, we could have been in the playoffs. I’m not saying we were happy with where we finished because we weren’t. But there is room for improvement. It’s not like it is a big mountain to climb.”
But there are still some hurdles to overcome. Getting the goals against, which ranked 23rd in the league last season, down will be an area that gets a lot of attention.
“We want to tighten it up defensively, have a better penalty kill,” said Robidas. “There were little things we didn’t do right last year. Our PK was awful (27th in the league) and we gave up a lot of goals. It wasn’t just the goalie or one guy or this or that. It was the team. We’ve got to do better in those departments. It’s something we want to focus on for the upcoming season.”
At this point, the Stars will bring back basically the same team the played out the final part of last season with a couple of notable departures.
“It’s a new look team in a way, but a bulk of the guys are back and that can help because we have a lot of familiarity with each other,” said Petersen.
The new look comes in the form of the two big names that will no longer be suiting up for the Stars. Management decided to part ways with center Mike Modano and goaltender Marty Turco. Modano signed on with Detroit and Turco with Chicago.
“We are going to miss them, but it is part of the reality,” said Robidas. “Sometimes when you’ve got young guys pushing you’ve got to make changes when the team isn’t going in the right direction. I think that’s one of the reasons they made those moves this summer.”
Robidas likes to point out that while the Stars are a younger team they aren’t that far removed from a trip to the Western Conference Finals (2008), and that they still have 12 players who played during that playoff run still on the roster.
“You add to that some veteran guys, some good young players and Kari Lehtonen, who is a proven goalie and played really well for us when he came in,” he said. “For me, all that is just positive for our team.”