Johnny Oduya stood in front of the media group he’d seen so often the previous few seasons, his Chicago return coming before the regular season did.
“I don’t know when the next game is, January or February? So it’s pretty far off,” Oduya said of the next time his new team, the Dallas Stars, would be in Chicago. “It’s a big part of my career, obviously. It’ll be a fun game.”
The former Blackhawks defenseman parted Chicago with great memories and two Stanley Cups. He’s settling in with the Stars, who the Blackhawks hosted in their final preseason game on Saturday night. For Oduya, the transition has been an enjoyable one.
[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Bryan Bickell ready to heed waiver wake-up call]
“Obviously in a new spot, there are always things you have to get into,” he said. “I’d been here in Chicago for a couple of years, and you’re accustomed to some things you don’t think about during games. But it’s fun where you’re in a new position. You feel you’re starting over. You want to learn, you want to be a part of the new team organization; so that’s something fun.”
Oduya had started the summer giving the Blackhawks some time, given their cap situation, to figure out if they could re-sign him. But on July 14, Oduya told the Blackhawks he was going to look elsewhere; the next day he signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Stars.
Much like Patrick Sharp, who was traded to the Stars on July 10, Oduya brings a wealth of experience to a young Dallas team. But Oduya said it’s not a situation of a team leaning on him and his experience.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]
“It’s a collaborative effort,” he said. “Obviously we don’t have the experience of the Hawks but you have to start somewhere. And learning everyday, moving forward, that’s what you have in mind. I’m not worried about that at all. We’re trying to play good collectively and be as strong as possible.”
The Stars got players like Oduya and Sharp to bolster their already talented roster. They wanted guys who have been through the playoff rigors and know what it takes to get to the pinnacle. The Stars want to be that team again. Guys like Oduya will help.
“Of course it’s a part of the, how do you say, evolution of the team: we have to move forward. It’s something we’ll work on every day,” Oduya said. “We started doing camp here and maybe emphasizing a little bit more of the defensive team play. The ability is there with scoring and getting a lot of guys involved up front. But defense is a team thing and something we’re working on. We’re optimistic; we have a good young team and we’re hungry so we want to move forward.”