February 27, 2016

Stephane Robidas

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"That's a hockey players nose," said coach Dave Tippett.

He was talking about steady defenseman Stephane Robidas' crooked sniffer. Broken "four or five times," Robidas nose twists preposterously. You can immediately tell that he is a hockey player.

Tippett appreciated Robidas' play far more than he was fascinated with his sneezer. But somehow his nose was fittingly symbolic of the career of this undersized rearguard.

Like his nose, Robidas was far from the prettiest of players. He was gritty and tough, the hardest worker on the roster. He thrived by making the simple play and strong positional play. He was an excellent shot blocker and the only thing more underrated than his skating ability was his hockey sense.

"He's a guy that his teammates really like and really want to succeed," Tippett said. "He brings a work ethic and an energy to the room. He likes everybody, and everybody likes him."

He had to work his butt off just to stay in the lineup early in his career. Drafted 164th overall by Montreal in 1994 after a solid QMJHL career with Shawinigan, the Habs probably never expected him to make much of an impact. But he gave everything he had and earned a spot on the roster in 2000-01 and 2001-02 as a depth blue liner.

The Habs let him slip through on waivers to begin the 2002-03 season. Atlanta selected him but immediately moved him to Dallas in a pre-orchestrated trade.

Robidas did not immediately fit in in Dallas. He was lauded for his work ethic and for being a great teammate, but he was stuck in the seventh defenseman role. In fact, the only way he could see much additional ice time was to skate a few shifts as a hard forechecking fourth line winger.

The Stars decided to trade Robidas to Chicago during the 2003-04 season. It was with the Hawks that season that he finally got a chance to really play, averaging over 20 minutes of ice time.

Yet the Hawks would not offer Robidas a qualifying offer in the summer of 2004, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Robidas used the opportunity to return to Dallas where he continued to improve his play.

All the hard work and dedication really paid off in the 2008 playoffs. With Sergei Zubov and Phillippe Boucher injured, Robidas really stepped up nicely, upping his minutes played to over 25 per game while also quarterbacking the power play. The Stars upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in the opening round.

With that playoff performance Robidas finally "arrived" in the NHL. He would be a mainstay in Dallas for another five seasons. He was even invited to the 2009 NHL All Star Game and was reportedly a strong candidate for Team Canada's roster at the 2010 Olympics.

Robidas would have brief stops in Anaheim and Toronto late in his career, but faced even more bad breaks, twice breaking his leg in the same season and then being unable to play at all due to a knee injury.

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