How could anybody not love Robi? Seriously.
He’s adorable, he has that French-Canadian accent, he has a sweet disposition. Yet he’s just about as tough as they come.
He gets hit more than anybody, it seems, and most of the time it looks like he’s surely going to have trouble getting up. But he just pops up like nothing happened.
In Game 5 of the Ducks series, he was hit in the face with a puck. His visor got the brunt of it but it did break his nose. Brenden Morrow helped him off the ice as he was bleeding pretty badly. But he only missed a couple of shifts before he was back out there on the power play. Then in Game 6, wearing a full cage, he had a goal and assisted on the game winner.
In the series against the Sharks, his assist on Morrow’s series-winning goal was genius. He wound up to shoot, watched Nabokov drop to stop the shot, and passed it to Morrow, who was standing there all alone. That’s not the work of a defensive defenseman.
Robi can skate like crazy. I love watching him skate backwards, especially. He has a move that he uses all the time, yet it works pretty much every time. If he’s being pressured in the defensive zone, he’ll zoom around the net with the guy right on him and whip around on the other side a good three strides ahead of the guy. He can out-maneuver backcheckers with ease.
This season he really came through for the Stars when both Zubov and Boucher missed huge amounts of time. There’s a really nice article on the Stars site about him and how he shone with all the extra responsibility. He ran the power play a lot of the time, which helped him to score nine goals after having zero in 2006-07. During the playoffs, the power play was really clicking while he was running it. Not to take away from Zubov, who usually runs it, but I think it benefited from the change in styles a little. Maybe next season they can mix it up a little more, knowing what Robi can do.
The other thing he did this year, especially in the playoffs, was help the kids. Even though it seems like he’s just a kid himself, he’s a full-fledged veteran at 31. He played with Nick Grossman most, and we saw what a great job Grossman did as a rookie.
He got a little national attention for a change, too, after his dramatic turn in the Anaheim series. The Ducks were impressed.
“It’s funny, shaking hands out on the ice there, I was last in line and Robi was right in front of me,” [Dave] Tippett reported. “And it’s interesting to hear the comments he was getting from Anaheim players about what kind of player he is. We all recognize it in our room, but to hear the Anaheim players say that to him, that’s gratifying.”
I think Robi is a good example of a defenseman hitting his stride later in life. I don’t think he was ever bad, but his size probably held him back some. Montréal drafted him, but in 2002 they waived him at the start of the season and Atlanta picked him up and traded him to us. I loved him right away and I was pretty ticked when the Stars traded him to Chicago for John Klemm at the beginning of the season in 2003. Fortunately, they saw the error of their ways and signed him as a free agent in 2005, right after the lockout.
Stéphane credits the season he played in Germany during the lockout with helping his confidence. Getting all the ice time he could handle, he was able to step up his game and it has really shown over the last couple of years. He was rewarded with a relatively long-term contract for the first time in his career.
He’s an example of what I’m always saying about young defensemen. You can’t tell what kind of player they’re going to be for a few years. You have to let them mature. If you have a d-man that shows potential, you can’t give up on him when he’s 24, because when he’s 27 and a star on some other team, you’re going to be kicking yourself. We’re lucky he’s got such a sweet disposition and he didn’t hold a grudge about being traded.
This year, in the playoffs, Robidas really showed us what he can do. He showed us that he can be a leader and that he can run a power play and that he can take a beating and still pop right back up and score a few points. It’s something I’ve suspected for a long time.