For Episode 8 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we head to the Northeast for the first time this summer. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed right wing Alex Chiasson, whose stock has been sky high after a terrific rookie season in the Stars organization. Below are some highlights of our conversation with the Stars forward, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
You had a fantastic rookie season with both Texas and your late season call-up with Dallas. Do you feel as though you have to prove yourself again to a new GM and coach up in Dallas?
I think I have to prove myself again. With a new GM and new coach, obviously Mr. Nill has seen me play in the American League playoffs last year. But seven [NHL] games doesn’t make a career. I get that what I did was very special, but at the same time the business of hockey is if you don’t do it, they’ll find someone else to do it. There’s a lot of good hockey players and I just got a little chance. I really want to stick there and I think that I don’t have to, not start over, but I’ve got to prove myself again, I’ve got to show them that that’s the league I belong in.
You suffered a couple of injuries last season, including one that cut short your NHL stint in Dallas. How frustrating was that for you and are you doing anything different with your summer training because of those injuries?
Really for me, it was a good experience of playing a lot of games this year. For me in college it was a lot of 35 or 40 games and this year I doubled that. I think I played around 77 or 80 games throughout the whole season. I really understand what it is to be a professional hockey player now, playing a lot of games and all the travel. In the AHL I saw a lot of guys that have been there and they know what it takes to make it to the next level, but really for me, when I spent my month in the NHL I really understood why some players are still playing when they are 40. There’s a reason for that and you see it right away. I think it made a big change in my game and a big change in just my routine at home and how I treat every day. It’s really important that every day you do what you need to do to get better and it’s a routine that you do day after day. That makes a big difference at the end of the summer if you stick with it throughout the two or three months that you train hard.
What were your impressions of head coach Willie Desjardins, who seemed as though he really helped you navigate through your rookie season?
I owe a lot of what happened to me last year to Willie. I think Willie really pushed me to become a better player, whatever it was on the ice or off the ice. He has a strong presence in the locker room and regardless if he was on the ice or he wasn’t, I think a lot of guys respected his voice and what he had to say. For myself, when Willie said something everyone…everyone listened. Whether it was to practice hard or to go after practice to do what you needed to do, everyone did it. I think that has a lot to do with Willie and his respect that he has throughout the team and, I think, throughout the league. I’ve got friends on other teams that really said that “Texas is a hard to play, you guys play a really high pace.” I think that goes to Willie and Doug to what they do throughout the year. They are an amazing duo, that’s for sure!
It’s interesting to hear all the high praise you have for the coaches, particularly since even Willie admitted that he wasn’t sold on you as a player in the first few weeks of the season.
The funny part is I think that Willie and I are pretty close now. At the end of the year, he was talking to me about this. He didn’t really know what kind of player I could be. It’s funny how things work out. Of course I think a lot has to do with me and I had to prove myself and go through a lot of things. But at the same time, once I did it he really saw a lot in me. That’s sometimes the way it is, it’s never easy. I’d rather start on the third or fourth line and work my way through the lineup than starting up on the first or second line and not playing well, have to go down and up and down. It was a good atmosphere and I think that the work that Willie did with me really paid off throughout the year.
You had such amazing chemistry with Justin Dowling and Mike Hedden. What was it about that trio that complimented each other so well?
When you look at the different lines, it has to do with what everyone brings. I think we had a lot of things that different players brought. A guy like Dowling, he’s super, super skilled, he’s got great vision, a great passer and can score. On the left side I knew that we had Mike Hedden skating 100 miles an hour regardless of where the puck was. [Laughs] As much as it’s goofy, you know he’s going to be there and you know Heddy’s going to be first on the fore-check. If you ever meet Hedden, he’s going to go full stride and he’s a great player. I think a lot of people don’t realize how good he is, he has a lot of tools and he’s made a lot of strides since I remember playing last year at the end of my season at BU. The other thing is that we got along well off the ice, golfing or just going out to lunch. We were three guys that bonded really well.
You scored your first career NHL goal on April 5th vs. Anaheim. I can still remember you’re enthusiastic celebration, just looking for anyone to hug. What was that feeling like?
[Laughs] That was something else! One of the good parts of that was that Brenden Dillon and I really became good friends two or three years ago. I remember after the goal, obviously Fiddler made a great play, I got a picture on my phone and its Brenden and I with just huge smiles. It’s good memories. You start when you’re three or four and you skate around the pond, I remember playing outside. Then you go to minor hockey and different tournaments and then you go to midgets and then I went to college. It happens so fast. For me one thing that was really fun, I played against Saku Koivu [in that game], who when I was younger he was really the [Montreal] Canadiens star. The way that he battled cancer, a lot of people have a lot of respect in Quebec, where I’m from. It was a great game and, for sure, one game I’m never going to forget for the rest of my life.
-- Texas Stars --