Wiebe’s World: Despite missing camp, Stars’ Jason Robertson hasn’t missed a beat

Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson celebrates scoring against the Washington Capitals in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (Gareth Patterson/AP)

WINNIPEG — Jason Robertson has spent the first month of the season poking holes in the theory that a player who misses training camp is bound to spend a good chunk of the first half playing catch-up.

The Dallas Stars left-winger has quite simply not missed a beat, picking up precisely where he left off last season. You might even make the argument he’s raised his game — which is impressive when you consider the standard he’s set for himself early in his career.

“If you know Jason Robertson, I don’t think his personality is susceptible to distractions bothering him,” Stars head coach Peter DeBoer said. “What bigger distraction (can there be) than missing the entire training camp? Look how that’s bothered him.

“As a coach, you’re always concerned about guys who miss camps and I would say that the norm would be that you would be behind. It just tells you that (Robertson) prepared well and did what he had to do while he was out to make sure that he was ready to start the season.”

Part of what Robertson did after his normal training partners (his brother Nick from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Jalen Chatfield) had departed for training camp was get onto the ice with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan.

After skating on his own for a couple of weeks, Robertson not only appreciated the on-ice structure of working out with the USNTDP, but Robertson leaned into the opportunity to be a sounding board for many young players who would love nothing more than to follow in his footsteps to the NHL.

“It was more mentally kind of a grind because you don’t know when (the contract negotiation) is going to end — and you’re staying prepared and ready,” said Robertson, who inked a four-year deal worth $31 million that carries an AAV of $7.75 million on Oct. 6. “It was nice to get some practice reps and shoot on a goalie again. They really took care of me and gave all of their resources to me. I’m very grateful for that. It was a win-win (situation).”

After Sunday’s game, Robertson is up to 10 goals and 23 points in 15 games — tied for fifth in goals and tied for third in points behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Aside from missing out on training camp, Robertson clearly hasn’t been bogged down subconsciously or otherwise like some other players after signing a bigger ticket deal, since it’s natural to press to show that you’re worth the investment or to try and live up to the hype that often comes with a substantial raise.

“I’m not saying anything to blow smoke, but in junior, it kind of came like that. I put up numbers and then I just kept doing it every night. Last year I did that, so the expectations this year are still the same,” Robertson said. “Mentally, it’s a thing where you’ve got to perform well and put in the work. The biggest thing is not getting complacent when you get to this level. I have a great support staff, great leadership group and (play on) one of the best in the NHL (with Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski).

“It’s a great situation I’m in. Right now, I’m still growing and still learning. I have high expectations to compete and do all of the right things and produce offence for this team. That’s why they pay me. Last year, I never set a goal to accomplish and this year, I’ll do the same. I am trying to score as many goals as possible, but I’m not looking at a number and trying to achieve it. That’s not my personality.”

As for the negotiation process and being apart from his teammates at a time when plenty of bonding occurs and the foundation is set for the season ahead, Robertson did his best to keep an even keel.

“Your agent is there to take care of you and my agent was. He’s been there and has dealt with this sort of situation, so I trusted that something was going to get done,” Robertson said. “We kept an open line of communication between us two and I was happy to get it done.”

Robertson brings a lot to the table in addition to being one of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL after recording 41 goals last season.

“Just the intelligence and the IQ of his game,” DeBoer said. “I didn’t know him well as a player. Obviously, you see the numbers on a stat line and they’re impressive, but when you’re around him every day, you see how he creates the offence he creates. He’s finding different ways other than just his skill or his head to create offence.”

Now in his 17th NHL season, Pavelski knows a thing or two about playing with highly skilled players during his career and he’s seen plenty of growth from his frequent linemate.

“The big thing is the high consistent base where his compete has been and that seems to get better and better,” Pavelski said. “He’s learned to win battles and he’s a super smart player. He knows the game well and knows what’s going on throughout the night and he’s got a great skill set on him. A sneaky, high-end skillset.”

Pavelski doesn’t recall a particular moment where Robertson’s game started to take off into a different stratosphere, just a steady progression.

“It’s been building for two-and-a-half years now,” Pavelski said. “Once he got that little bit of confidence going for what he can do, he’s never really looked back.”

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News that the next World Cup of Hockey would be delayed until 2025 was met by a collective shrug of the shoulders for plenty of observers, but you can count me among those who view this as a serious disappointment.

No, the World Cup of Hockey isn’t at the same level as the Olympics when NHLers are involved but as someone who watched the Canada Cup with great interest in my youth, this opportunity for best-on-best hockey between countries is a tool that could be imperative to growing the game.

The chance to see Mario Lemieux skating on a line with Wayne Gretzky in 1987 for that series-clinching goal against Russia at Copps Coliseum helped enhance my passion for hockey. Fans of the sport have been robbed of the opportunity to see guys like Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid potentially play together for Team Canada.

You could say the same thing about a number of NHL stars from a variety of countries.

When the last World Cup of Hockey was held in 2016, Team North America generated plenty of buzz with their young stars and up-tempo game.

Of course, the situation regarding Russia being at war with Ukraine is a complex one and was a big factor in the decision to postpone.

But if Canada and the United States can come together to put its best players under the age of 23 together for a multiple-week event, there’s got to be a way to not only make it work but to make this a priority for the NHL and the NHLPA.

Several other countries have emerged on the world stage in recent years, so adding a country like Denmark to the field would certainly make some sense as a starting point.

As mentioned earlier, the World Cup of Hockey probably won’t ever fully replace the Olympics when it comes to must-see TV, but it could be a valuable tool when it comes to showcasing the stars of the game and the game itself. That’s something the entire NHL needs as the world continues to push forward after the pandemic.

Going nearly a decade between showcase events before getting onto a regular international schedule isn’t an optimal way to get that accomplished.

The sooner that gets taken care of, the better.


With Jack Eichel making his second trip back to Buffalo since the trade that sent him to the Vegas Golden Knights, it was impossible not to notice the impact the former Sabres centre made by notching a natural hat trick.

Colleague Luke Fox took care of that story in point No. 2 of Saturday’s Quick Shifts column, but what caught my attention was Eichel’s honesty towards the post-game comments he made in that first visit when he said it was the loudest he’d heard the building in seven years.

Prior to the game this week, Eichel was asked about those comments and he provided some valuable perspective on why he might have been emotional after hearing the booing from the Sabres fan base.

“I know what to expect this year,” Eichel told reporters. “(Sabres fans) were great to me while I was here. The only thing I would say is that I was maybe a little bit surprised and I don’t know why, I probably shouldn’t have been last year. Maybe a little bit surprised by the reception.

“I’m just like anyone else. I’m a human being and it was emotional for me like it probably was for them. Maybe I was a little bit hurt and that’s probably why I said the things that I said. But listen, that’s all in the past now. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘I wish I didn’t say it.’ I just don’t think there’s enough time for that. What happened happened. It’s in the past and I’m trying to just focus on the present.”

Good for Eichel to admit he was hurt by the response and not provide an answer littered with cliches.

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The New Jersey Devils own the longest winning streak in the NHL, having captured nine consecutive games to rise to the top of the Metropolitan Division with an impressive record of 12-3.

It’s the first nine-game streak for the Devils since the 2007-08 season.

Of course, the big question is whether the Devils can maintain this pace, which could be even more challenging with their top free agent signing Ondrej Palat out indefinitely after undergoing groin surgery.

Palat, who has three goals in six games, is expected to play a valuable role in the mentorship department along with being a productive player once he returns.

Speaking of shrewd acquisitions, the Devils’ trade for goalie Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals — and subsequent three-year deal worth $10.2 million — is also looking good right now.

With Mackenzie Blackwood off to a mediocre start before he was sidelined with an injury, Vanacek has picked up the slack and been solid between the pipes, posting a record of 6-1-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

While much of the talk around the Devils focuses on the skilled forward group, it should also be noted that they’ve got a defence corps that is much improved, thanks in part to three separate trades that brought in John Marino from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche and Jonas Siegenthaler from the Capitals.

Those moves augmented the Devils going out and getting Dougie Hamilton in free agency during the summer of 2021.


• Those sounds you heard were the collective sighs and deep breaths of three teams that snapped lengthy losing skids this week. The St. Louis Blues were able to snap their eight-game streak with a victory over the San Jose Sharks and then followed that up with a win over the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames both brought seven-game slumps to a close with wins over the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets respectively.

• After a sluggish stretch, the New York Islanders are making noise, winning eight of 10 games to rocket up the standings to second spot in the Metropolitan Division. Brock Nelson is leading the offensive charge with eight goals and 17 points, while fellow pivot Mathew Barzal has put together one of the more interesting stat lines to start the season with no goals and 16 assists. Barzal is known as a great passer, but he’s also generating plenty of looks with 42 shots on goal. You’d have to think it won’t be long before he finds the back of the net.

• Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux had a homecoming of his own this week and he also made his presence felt, chipping in three assists as the Ottawa Senators earned a 4-1 victory. Giroux has provided a nice boost for the Senators to go along with his leadership, producing seven goals and 15 points in 14 games since signing a three-year deal worth $19.5 million ($6.5 million) as an unrestricted free agent.

If there’s a topic you’d like to see discussed in this space, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at wiebesworld9@gmail.com.

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