FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 18: Mike Modano of the NHL's Dallas Stars attends the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 18, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mike Modano is making news these days. He's making news due to his upcoming induction into the US Hockey Hall of Fame, he's making news due to his persistent stance that an on-ice comeback, however unlikely, is not yet completely out of the question, and he's making news discussing the final days of his playing career in a Dallas Stars uniform.
"It's still irks me to this day," Modano told Bob and Dan on The Ticket Monday, "and it still probably will for a long time that I couldn't finish here and that I couldn't get one more year under my belt in Dallas and finish it out here."
Many felt he should have been given carte blanche here until he wanted to be done. Others saw the extenuating circumstances of the day and knew what had to be done. Few issues have divided the fan base more than that one a pair of off-seasons ago, or had a bigger effect on the conversation 41 nights a year at the AAC.
Our friends at The Ticket decided to tackle the issue Monday when Mike made his media rounds concerning his pending induction into the US Hockey Hall Of Fame, and quote-worthy bites, certainly in the hockey news desert that is July, were recorded for dissemination. A breakdown of the entire conversation follows the jump...
The conversation turned serious Monday when Bob Sturm, to his credit, dove head first into the closet to dig up those skeletons from the spring of 2010.
I'll block quote the beginning of the exchange to avoid taking anything out of context.
BS: "Now that you've had a couple of years, is it clear to you why and how it could have been different and could you have played things any differently or does that not sit in your head at all? Sure it sits in your head..."
MM: "It sits in a bad area of my head."
BS: "Is it just something that makes you a little bit annoyed when you think about it?"
MM: "Yeah. Very."
Looking at the question and answer printed you'd have to conclude that he's annoyed at how he could have played things differently. Listening to the audio makes it seem like anything but that.
"I don't know how I'd word it politically correct[ly]," struggled Modano, when asked to elaborate on the aforementioned annoyance.
"In the case with Nieuwendyk he felt he needed to do something," he continued. "That was the start of the change that happened here. I think, obviously, [Marc] Crawford was a bit of a hiccup up here, and that didn't turn out as well as everybody thought. So you know, that happened, you had to find Gulutzan, you had to find some sort of transition with the owners. So I think I was kind of the main start of all of that transition. It's still irks me to this day and it still probably will for a long time, that I couldn't finish here and that I couldn't get one more year under my belt in Dallas and finish it out here."
The tide of public opinion in the last two years where Modano is concerned seems to have shifted, interestingly, among those who call themselves hardcore Stars fans. "He quit on the team" and "He wasn't trying in his last couple of seasons" has become a popular, though unfair, sentiment shared whenever he re-enters the news cycle. Consider that just two months after his last game in Dallas 75% of fans voted here on this site to give him another year, or to even rearrange the roster to accommodate his wishes if he wanted to stay. (That poll is here).
As he transitioned to the Red Wings the narrative shifted. He was going "home" to Michigan. The Wings had a top notch organization. The older locker room was a better fit. In November of 2010 Modano told Yahoo Sports of his last seasons in Dallas - "I got heavier. I didn't eat very well. I kind of gave up on it. I thought the end was coming, was looking me in the face."
Like Morrow's comments about the Olympic year of 2010, or many of the things that Brad Richards said on his way out of here and into New York, comments like that spawned revisionist histories and changing sentiments after the fact among Stars fans.
BaD radio asked Modano about his willingness back then to be a shepherd to younger players - a mentor, like Jaromir Jagr was reported to be in Philadelphia last year. Could he have done anything differently?
"I think my patience was probably shorter back then," Mike added. "I think with the direction the team was going and I think the uncertainty of the ownership, I think as you get older, those are kind of the last things you feel like you want to deal with as a player. You want to finish strong, you want to have some success as a team and play well. You're a little turned off from the game [in those circumstances]. So maybe my body language and accessibility was shorter than probably it was before that, but looking back at it I probably could have handled things differently and my attitude probably could have been a little better. I think I was frustrated at the same time as probably everybody else was."
It's an honest answer, and perhaps a gracious one, admitting he could have done things a little better. It's born of the frustration he felt then (who wouldn't feel frustrated in that situation? These guys are still humans) and the frustration he obviously still feels now looking back on the way it ended.
It's easy to forget the cloud hanging over the organization at the time of his departure. The internal budget set by the lenders, the raises already scheduled due to salary structures, and the need to give younger players an elevated role the following season all but forced Nieuwendyk's hand. With Ribeiro, Morrow, Richards, Neal, Benn, Ott, a seemingly advancing Tom Wandell, a possible return by Jere Lehtinen, and others all pushing for ice time, it made little hockey sense and absolutely zero financial sense to keep Modano at the time. They almost flat out couldn't do it if they wanted to, based on the reporting that was being done at the time.
The question now is, do these things need to be said aloud at all? Two years seems like a long time, but his legacy is still evolving. Credit goes to Bob and Dan for asking tough questions and to Modano for giving honest answers, but one can't help but wonder what the narrative will look like 5, 10 or 15 years from now. (And if they get credit, we surely get blame for WAY over-analyzing, but we felt the quotes should be entered into public record anyway.)
Chances are that 20 years from now if they made "Dallas Stars: Behind The Music" (if you don't get that reference, don't tell us, you're making us feel really old) the questions asked may not be all that different but the answers may change with time, healing, and hopefully a lengthy run with the organization's front office for Mike.
Are you still trying to plot out which side of the AAC they'll put the Modano statue and which side of the building they'll put the Dirk one, or do comments like these significantly chip away at a fan-base's fondness and admiration for it's greatest Star?
(Personally I still think the AT&T Plaza is big enough for both statues...)