|Mike Hedden (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Colton Sceviour, who has played with Texas all four years of his pro career, put things in perspective a bit, "If you look at the season overall, coming off what happened last year, I think we were projected to finish 24th or so in the league and we ended up finishing 2nd in the league record wise. In the big picture, it was a successful year, but right now it stings that we're not playing."
Looking back at the year that was, the Stars had a pretty remarkable season. Their leader through it all, captain Maxime Fortunus, saw all three phases these Stars went through on the season.
"It was weird," Fortunus remarked. "We've said that we had three teams this year. All year long we've managed to battle hard and win games to finish first. We had a lot of confidence. We knew we had a good team and after the trade deadline we had to gel as fast as possible."
A lot of that gelling and overall hardnosed play can be attributed to the coaching of Willie Desjardins, who was awarded the Pieri Coach of the Year Award for his efforts. It was really quite remarkable to see how the Stars played the same way in game 1 as they did in game 76. No matter who was on the ice, it was Willie Desjardins hockey.
"They demanded hard work," said Sceviour. "From day 1, practices weren't overly long, but they were quick. You always had to have your feet moving. That's one thing they stressed: if we work hard in practice, we'll work down teams in the third period. That was our mentality. We tried to make teams play at our pace and keep up with us."
"They were consistent," he added. "When you were on the ice, it was time to work. If you aren't ready to work, you aren't going to play."
|Radek Faksa (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
That work ethic is a big plus to grow on for Texas, who will return many of the same players as they had this past year.
"There's a good nucleus and we know what we want to do," said Desjardins. "It's exciting for next year. We want more. That's our slogan coming out of playoffs. We're committed to finding a way to be better next year."
Of course, much of that nucleus is still up in the air. However, some of the black ace players from this postseason will be coming back next year, including John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka. The team believes that time with the team provides invaluable experience, even if it is off the ice.
"They said they enjoyed their time," said Coach Lidster regarding the defensemen. "It's good to see how hard the guys approach the game and how hard they work. In some ways, the AHL is more of a grind than the NHL with three-in-threes and bus travel."
Others who will be here eventually but maybe not next year also spent time in Cedar Park, including Radek Faksa, Troy Vance and Emil Molin.
Captain Max Fortunus continued, "They showed they care about the team and they are willing to come here and work hard. I think for guys it's fun to come over and get used to how things work so when they come next year it isn't a surprise. The closer you are here, the closer you are to playing in the NHL. You never know what's going to happen."