Moving on from his Canucks struggles, Braden Holtby’s starring in Dallas


Holtby, who was bought out by the Canucks in the summer, still says his work with goalie coach Ian Clark is playing a big role in his current success.

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Braden Holtby is honest about how the last 18 months have gone for him.

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He left the Washington Capitals, where he’d had so much NHL success. He signed on with the Vancouver Canucks, hoping to find two years of new success.

But the Vancouver experience lasted just a season, where he struggled on ice and eventually was bought out from his contract by the Canucks.

He landed in Dallas, where he’s had a strong start to the season.

Goalie coach Ian Clark of the Vancouver Canucks works with goalies Michael DiPietro #65 and Braden Holtby #49 on the first day of the Vancouver Canucks NHL Training Camp on January, 4, 2021.
Goalie coach Ian Clark of the Vancouver Canucks works with goalies Michael DiPietro #65 and Braden Holtby #49 on the first day of the Vancouver Canucks NHL Training Camp on January, 4, 2021. Photo by Rich Lam /PNG

“What was it, a year and a half? Felt like four,” he joked Saturday at Rogers Arena, after he and the Stars had a midday practice. “Just strange. It was just a strange year. Everything. For everyone. Not just me. Definitely a year that no one’s gonna forget.”

“You have high expectations every time you go into a season,” he said about the 2020-21 Canucks season. “I thought that we would have a chance to push, to really compete, and it didn’t happen obviously.”

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Things were difficult off-ice with the players and their families getting sick from COVID-19 — Holtby didn’t want to discuss off-ice matters — and they were a struggle on the ice too. Holtby appreciated all the work he was able to put in with Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark.

He knew going in that there would be an evolution in his game from what he’d done in Washington, but with the protocols in place and the lack of a preseason, it was always going to be a challenge.

“Ian and I talked a lot about (new ideas) throughout the year … It’s tough to do anything like that when you don’t have practices and you’re playing all the time,” he said.

“I did some pretty good work foundation-wise,” he added. “Obviously, it was a difficult year for that to really do a ton but … I learned a lot from (Clark).

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“He loves to work, he loves to grow his goalies, and that was what was really exciting. That was kind of something I really enjoyed and appreciated. So I think it’s a little easier; those things are coming in a little more second nature (this season) and we’re making our own little adjustments too, to see what the best way is for me.

“As you get older your body changes, and it’s trying to adjust to those and try and create a little longevity that way too,” he said. “It’s a little tougher at this age,” he joked.

Dallas Stars goaltender Braden Holtby (70) stops a breakaway shot by Ottawa Senators left wing Alex Formenton (10) during the third period at the American Airlines Center.
Dallas Stars goaltender Braden Holtby (70) stops a breakaway shot by Ottawa Senators left wing Alex Formenton (10) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. Photo by Jerome Miron /USA TODAY Sports

He’s happy in Dallas. There are bits of things that remind him of how things were in Washington, but it’s still a whole new experience and, at age 32, that makes it worth it.

“Every person’s different, right? I think with Jeff, he has a lot of similarities to Scott Murray in Washington. In the same way, they are really good at making you feel confident about who you are as a goaltender and just going out there and playing free,” he said of working with Dallas goalie coach Jeff Reese.

“I think it’s challenging for everyone. But it’s fun. I mean, in challenges you can grow and you can become a better person, a better player.”

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