Travis Morin is not old, but among an absurdly young Texas Stars team, he definitely plays the role of elder statesman.
Fresh off a trip to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals a season ago, this year’s version of the AHL franchise features a plethora of new faces. Of the 27 players on the Texas roster finalized Monday, just four players were born before 1995.
“The young guys get a lot quicker and as I’ve grown older I get a lot slower,” Morin said. “They keep me working hard I guess and keep me trying to skate fast and keep up with them. But sometimes I still don’t feel like an adult playing a game. It keeps young at heart.”
The Stars begin their 10th anniversary season Friday night at 7 p.m. against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Texas will raise its Western Conference Championship banner to the rafters before the puck is dropped.
Dallas sent three players to Texas on Monday in AHL veterans Justin Dowling and Gavin Bayreuther as well as Joel Hanley, who is new to the Stars’ organization.
Less than half the roster spent more than half the season in the AHL last season.
The coaching staff will use the first few games of the season to evaluate the guys that will move to the ECHL team in Idaho and continue to work out lines in Texas. Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Admirals will have a better mixture of veterans and rookies.
“For us, we’ve got pretty much a whole new staff and 10 or 11 new guys on the hockey club so it’s exciting times,” Texas head coach Derek Laxdal said. “The new players coming in know the history of being in the finals three of the last nine years so it’ll be a great experience for them.”
Laxdal and his staff have not named a captain because there are so many new faces on the team, and they won’t do so until they find the right player to wear the letter. Morin has previously held the role but passed it to Curtis McKenzie, who is now in the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ organization, last season.
“We’re going to be a pacey, puck-possession team,” Laxdal said. “We want to play in your face and be physical. It’s about trying to implement the way you want to play and we’re going to try and mirror Dallas a little bit.”
Lax dal and Morin are excited to have a young team. They said there is going to be a lot of growth and some mistakes, but it’ll be good for the fans to watch the next wave of Dallas players develop together.
The team last year didn’t start well, but by the end of December had said within reach of the division. The Stars played well for the rest of the season, won the division and rode a hot goalie to the finals.
“It can vary from year to year,” Morin said. “Sometimes it just clicks early and other times it takes a while. Line combinations and who’s playing with who can take a bit. These first few games are critical to getting the cohesion down.”
Morin said this team has the talent to continue the playoff tradition, it just might take some time to get into a groove.
“It’s an organization that wants to win every year and we’ve put together pretty good teams on a consistent basis,” Morin said. “This is a very talented team. Like any year, you come in here refreshed and you don’t always know what you have.”
Texas goes on the road the second week of the season, but wraps up October with a back-to-back weekend sets, hosting the Iowa Wild on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20 and welcoming in the Chicago Wolves on Oct. 26 and San Jose Barracuda on Oct. 27.
Laxdal is quick to pump the breaks when it comes to repeating the success the team had last season, rather focusing on how he can help the NHL team.
“We have a process and that’s to develop players for the Dallas Stars to win games,” Laxdal said. “To do that you have to have the expectations of making the playoffs. You do that and anything can happen. It’s the same expectations, but you have to manage the development and growth of the organization.”