He believed that with more ice-time he could show his abilities that made him one of the top offensive defensemen in the Western Conference last season.
But Daley indicated he never got the chance, which is why he hopes he can move past the disappointment of his time with Chicago and start fresh with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens acquired Daley for defenseman Rob Scuderi in a Monday trade.
“I don’t know that I got the opportunity to even know that I couldn’t fit into the system, and that’s what’s obviously most disappointing,” Daley said in a Tuesday phone interview with Puck Daddy.
"You move and you expect to be a part of it and it isn’t being given to you, so you’re always questioning, ‘is it me?’ or ‘what it is?’ I spent the last two months questioning, 'where am I going?' Like, ‘why is this happening?’ It’s part of this game. It’s the way this game works. It’s safe to say I got to see it first hand.”
Daley, 32, came to Chicago from the Dallas Stars as part of a trade for Patrick Sharp. He was supposed to help replace veteran Johnny Oduya, who signed with Dallas in the offseason. But the Blackhawks’ coaching staff never seemed to trust Daley the same way. He averaged 14:45 of ice-time per-game, 1:29 per-game on the power play and 2 seconds per-contest on the penalty kill.
With the Stars a year ago, Daley averaged 22:52 per-game, 2:44 per-game on the power play and 2:54 per-game shorthanded. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 68 games last season. This season he has six assists in 29 games.
Daley requested a trade. He has another season on his six-year $19.8 million contract.
“Chicago – every part of playing there, being there, the guys, everything I heard about Chicago was unreal and everything lived up to it. The only thing that I didn’t like about Chicago was the games, which is a pretty big part,” Daley said. “But everything else was unbelievable. The team was a great hockey team. The guys were amazing. The city was awesome, the fans are great, I can honestly say I took a lot of positives out of being in Chicago that way, but at the end of the day I felt that I needed to play and I think that’s how we got to where I’m at today.”
Being traded is a strange feeling for Daley. He was with the Dallas Stars organization from his draft year in 2002 through the offseason when he was dealt to the Blackhawks. He went from planning a long-term future in Dallas to now learning yet another new city. Daley has a wife and two children, a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, and all three have been supportive of him.
“They were getting settled in, but it’s a tough part about the business that we’re in. And obviously my first thoughts when I got traded or knew something was going to happen was ‘what am I going to do with my family? My wife right away, ‘we’re coming,’” Daley said.
With the Penguins, Daley is entering a situation that’s similar but different from Chicago. Pittsburgh also has a star-studded lineup and a win-now mentality. Last offseason, Chicago had to change much of their roster because of the salary cap and had an uneven start to the year. The Penguins changed their coach Saturday in hopes of igniting a sluggish season.
“Both teams have world class hockey players and future Hall of Famers. I think that situation is kind of the same,” Daley said. “Obviously when you get to play alongside a guy like Sidney (Crosby) or (Evgeni) Malkin, it’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and helping this team be the team they know they can be. I’m looking forward to it.”
Playing with the Penguins can even the playing field for Daley as far as showing the coaching staff how he fits with the group. The team has played one game with new coach Mike Sullivan and the coach is in the process of learning what he has with the Penguins.
“Everybody wants to see where they belong with a new coach,” Daley said. “The general manager is pretty new there too. There’s a lot of new stuff and new faces there. I just need to be myself and do what I can do on the ice and enjoy it.”
Is there any anger with Daley about turning into a NHL nomad the year the Stars have taken off as the NHL’s ‘it’ team? Daley laughed when asked about how he keeps up with his former team. Dallas has the best record in the NHL and the league's top offense.
“I’m happy for them, that’s a great hockey team and they seem to have gotten over the hump,” Daley said. “They’re a confident hockey team. The team the previous year, we were a confident team, but we didn’t play like a confident team. I think now they know they can win and they’re going out and doing it.”
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