FRISCO—It truly was a new experience for Jason Spezza.
The veteran NHL center had never been traded before the Dallas Stars acquired him from the Ottawa Senators in July 2014.
And as Spezza, 32, recalls his first year in Dallas, one where he skated in all 82 games and delivered a 62-point season, he realizes it took him a little bit of time to acclimate to his new teammates and surroundings.
“Yeah, I think after Christmas I felt better. I think things start pretty quick and we kind of struggled through November and that was a difficult time, being new on the team and having the team struggle was frustrating,” Spezza said. “Second half of the year, I felt much more comfortable.”
The seasoned center spent much of last season centering the Stars’ second line, which he often shared with fellow newcomer Ales Hemsky, also a teammate in Ottawa.
On several occasions, Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff moved Spezza to the top line alongside captain Jamie Benn, who would go on to win the Art Ross Trophy by leading the league with 87 points, and sniper Tyler Seguin, who finished seventh in the NHL in goals despite missing time with a knee injury.
Spezza and Benn built a strong relationship last season in Benn’s second year wearing the “C” in Dallas. No. 14 clearly valued the sage advice he received from Spezza, who had served as Ottawa’s captain since 2013.
“We built a pretty good relationship. Obviously, he’s a great guy, great player. He was a guy that I could lean on last year,” Benn said. “We’re still bonding and it’s definitely great to have him here.”
Their friendship even survived last fall’s game between the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks. Spezza, a lifelong Cowboy fan, invited Benn, a Seahawk backer, to his house to watch the game and once Dallas beat Seattle, the captain made a quick exit from Casa de Spezza.
Of course, it was all in fun and the ex-Ottawa fixture was quite willing to help Benn evolve as a captain in any way possible.
“I just try to be a sounding board at times. When you’re captain, I don’t think the responsibility’s solely on you to make decisions. You need help from guys around you to help you out across the room, but ultimately you’re the guy that makes the decisions and talks to the coaches and speaks on behalf of the team,” Spezza said. “I think it’s important though to lend support to him so there’s no times where he feels he’s alone.”
As for his own adjustment, he admits there is a completely different vibe heading into this, his second year in Dallas, compared to how he felt at this time in 2014.
“Yeah, just excited to get going. Totally different feel for me this year coming in, I’m not the new guy anymore,” Spezza said. “Comfortable with everybody and the surroundings, so know what to expect, so I’m excited for the year.”