DALLAS – Moves can be tricky.
You’re being uprooted from familiar surroundings and, if you’re an athlete, from familiar teammates. For Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp, their latest moves led them to a team that is trying to return to past glory and feels it needed a few good pieces to add to their budding mix.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Sharp and Oduya have had a pretty smooth transition to the Dallas Stars, who are looking to get back to their Stanley Cup-competing days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. To that end the Stars have gotten off to a great start this season, leading the Central Division with 52 points. And their two newest members have been big parts of the success. Sharp entered Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks with 11 goals – just five fewer than he had all last season – and 14 assists. Oduya has four goals and eight assists and is a plus-13.
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The two felt like a part of their latest team immediately.
“It’s a fun group to be added to,” Sharp said. “You can tell these guys really care about each other in the room, they’ve been together for a number of years, came up through the minor-league system together and it’s a fun locker room to be a part of. Training camp was good. It’s always nice, I feel, to switch teams in the offseason because you have that training camp to build chemistry with each other. So far so good.”
Oduya agreed, saying the Blackhawks and Stars having so much in common helped.
“It was as seamless of a transition you can get. I felt very comfortable, very at home,” Oduya said. “[There are] a lot of similarities, and the idea of playing fast-paced hockey and there are obviously a lot of skilled players. It’s just a fun way to approach the way you’re playing hockey.”
The Stars already had plenty of offense in their game. They needed to bolster their defense – the Stars allowed an average of more than three goals a game last season. That’s where Oduya has helped, and he said it was also everyone buying into playing as well without the puck as with it.
“I think we talked about it early on, just the commitment,” he said. “Defense is a team effort and a team awareness, where you have to be responsible. It’s not just when the other team gets the puck but when you get the puck, too, to make the right plays, late in games, whatever it might be, blocking shots, or taking away some plays or whatever you have to do to win. The awareness has been there, we’ve been working on it every day.”
The Stars got Sharp and Oduya because of their championship pedigree. At first the two were more concerned with just fitting into the Stars’ room. Now, however, their leadership is more audible. It’s one more way they’ve transitioned to their new team just fine.
“As the season’s going on both of us are being more vocal in what we feel can help the team on and off the ice,” Sharp said. “We’re not taking credit for anything. It’s a good group and we’re happy to be a part of it.”