While they’ve missed the playoffs the past four seasons, Aaron Rome, who recently signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars, knows just how tough the Pacific Division squad can be.
Their last post-season appearance came in 2007-08, a campaign that saw Dallas win 45 games, to finish third in the Pacific. They hooked the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs, losing to their rival in six games.
Yet, despite their tough playoff luck in recent times, Rome, who signed a three-year, $4.5-million contract, has plenty of respect for the team whose jersey he now wears.
“Last year, they were a very tough team to play against,” said the defenceman, who was a member of the Vancouver Canucks for the past three campaigns. “They are very tenacious and hard working. They are competitive and they play hard.”
They are also blessed with plenty of young talent.
“You look at their lineup and see you lots of youth, guys that are only going to get better in the years to come,” said Rome, who has appeared in 174 NHL regular season games. “As I said, they owned us on a couple of occasions. They were a difficult opponent.”
Rome, who hails from Nesbitt, Manitoba, is hoping the start of the 2012-13 campaign is much more memorable than the beginning of his 2011-12 season.
The 28-year-old began last year on the sidelines after suffering a broken hand during training camp. He returned to the lineup in the early stages of November after missing the first 14 games of the campaign. In the first four games of his return, Rome recorded three goals and added two assists.
“You never expect that to happen, but it did,” said Rome, who was the 104th overall selection of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. “It’s tough to be out of the lineup and all you can really do is heal up, work hard to get back and then be at your best when you return.”
With Dallas, who have brought in free agents Jaromir Jagr, one of the game’s most accomplished offensive players, respected veteran forward Ray Whitney, along with acquiring scorer Derek Roy from Buffalo, Rome will look to build on his solid year with the Canucks.
“There were a lot of appealing aspects to signing with Dallas,” said Rome, who has also played with Anaheim and Columbus during his NHL career. “Hopefully, I’m able to step into a larger role and play on a consistent basis. It’s a fresh start. Last year, it was tough with injuries (he also missed three games with a thumb injury). I’m going to train hard and be ready for the new season.”
For now, Rome, who skated with Saskatoon, Kootenay, Swift Current and Moose Jaw during his junior days in the Western Hockey League, will spend time with his family before revving things up for 2012-13.
“When we got the news I was going to Dallas, it puts a lot of things in motion,” said the 28-year-old blueliner. “We’ll find a place to live, do all the moving and the rest of things that come with going to a new team.
“We were actually sitting down at the lake at my in-laws cottage in Manitoba when we found out about going to Dallas,” continued Rome. “My parents were also here, too. It was just a nice, quiet, relaxing time. Everyone was really happy about it.”
Rome would be even happier if he could help play a role in getting the Stars back into the Western Conference top eight.
“That’s the goal, for sure,” he said. “You can see the organization is committed to winning. Dallas has always been a very competitive team. You see what they are doing and it’s very exciting.”
The 6’1”, 220-pounder is ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity and I am hoping to do whatever I can to help the team,” offered Rome. “It’s always a tight race right until the end of the season and every game is important. Hopefully, we can put together a really solid year.”