There's a scene in the cinematic tour de force Shallow Hal where Hal is having a discussion with his good friend, and they are talking about the ugly duckling syndrome, where a girl turns beautiful late in life and doesn't even know she has the beauty that she has. It's seen as the perfect combination.
Stephane Robidas is kind of that way...except as a hockey player.
Think about it, Robidas was selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game last year. He was invited to Team Canada's Olympic Orientation Camp this summer. You don't get those things unless you are a darn fine hockey player.
But Robidas started his career as a seventh round draft pick and was pretty much given up by teams twice in his career. In 2002, the Montreal Canadiens placed Robidas on waivers. In 2005, the Chicago Blackhawks failed to make a qualifying offer to the then-restricted free agent. Both teams basically figured Robidas wasn't worth it.
And those things hurt the scrappy defensemen. But instead of giving up, Robidas simply dug in. He fought hard to earn a place on the Stars, he fought hard to get into the lineup on a regular basis (he was often a healthy scratch in the early days) and he fought hard to get more minutes.
And in the past two seasons, when Sergei Zubov has been hurt, Robidas has seized the opportunity to prove he is a very good defenseman.
Robidas averaged 24:32 in ice time over 72 games last season. He was second on the team in plus-minus at plus-10, and he contributed 26 points. He also was among the NHL leaders in hits and blocked shots.
And that earned him the accolades he's receiving right now. Mix that with his salary cap hit of $1.5 million, and he is one of the most important players on the Stars.
But, are the Stars expecting too much of Robidas.
Yes, he has answered every challenge and pushed his game to a special place at the age of 32. But should he be counted upon to play 24 minutes a game and be a part of the top power play? Should he be the team's best penalty killing defenseman and have to shut down the opposition's top players every game?
That is something the new coaching staff is going to have to study this year. With the acquisition of Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka, the Stars have given Robidas some veteran help. With the maturity of players such as Trevor Daley, Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric, there will be the ability to spread minutes. So, if the Stars are healthy, my guess is Robidas will probably see his minutes closer to 20 and his time on either the power play or the penalty kill decreased.
And I think that's a good thing. Yes, Robidas has raised his game, but there still seems time when he might be pushed to hard or ``too far up the lineup'' as coaches like to say.
I believe in Robidas. I think the Stars should do what they can to keep him for the rest of his career. But I also think he can fill a complementary role just as well as a lead role...in fact, maybe better.
He is a strong, physical player who defends well. He is a good skater who makes a solid first pass. I see him as a Shawn Chambers type _ more than capable of taking over when needed, but probably better suited as a first alternate.
We'll see if the Stars agree this year. Their budget seems to indicate they will go with this group of defensemen. If that's the case, expect Robidas to be the most versatile and most used defenseman in the group. I still think they can win with him in that role, but they should definitely look to offer him more support.