We continue celebrating Dallas Stars history this summer as we move closer and closer to their 20th year in the Metroplex with a look at Marty Turco.
The fledgling Dallas Stars drafted a young Marty Turco in the fifth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, before he ever put on the maize and blue sweater of the University of Michigan. Over the next four years, his countless accomplishments at the NCAA level would place him near the top of hockey's goaltending prospects, ready to take the next step to the NHL. By the time he had graduated from Michigan and taken over the top spot in net for the Stars' affiliate in Kalamazoo, it was obvious to everyone that he was clearly the heir apparent to Eddie Belfour's crease.
After being brought up the ranks from junior hockey to college and the minor leagues, it didn't take Turco long to make a name for himself in the NHL. Between "Eddie being Eddie" and Marty being anything but, a goalie controversy quickly arose. After spending two years in the role of backup goalie, the Marty Turco era began in Dallas. By the time his run in the number one spot was over, he'd own just about every statistical category a goaltender can own for this franchise.
Why He's On The List:
He has more wins, shutouts, games played, minutes played, assists, and consecutive games played than any other goaltender in the history of the Stars franchise, dating back to 1967. He twice won the NHL's Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award, was named an NHL Second Team All-Star in 2002/03, and played in three very memorable NHL All-Star games, including the 2007 game in Dallas.
Turco is one of the most popular, yet polarizing, players in team history. Some blame him for the Stars playoff woes of the 2000's, while some are willing to defend him tooth and nail. Regardless of where you stand in this debate, there is no question that he belongs on this list for his statistical compilations alone.
Continued after the jump...
Marty Turco's professional career began as a member of the Michigan K-Wings of the IHL. He was just another face in the seemingly bottomless sea of goaltending depth that the Stars franchise had become known for. His first year in the pros was 1998-99, the year that Ed Belfour and Roman Turek were stonewalling the opposition en route to a Jennings Trophy and a Stanley Cup Championship.
Neck-and-neck with Marty on the depth chart was the K-Wings previous starting goaltender, Manny Fernandez. Supplanted from the Stars top minor league affiliate, the Stars assigned Fernandez to the Houston Aeros of the IHL for that season. Fernandez would impressively lead the Aeros to a 1999 Turner Cup Championship, putting the Stars in an awkward position going forward with their goaltending plans.
Turco and Fernandez would enter an open competition at the start of the 1999-2000 training camp. The winner would be sent down to the IHL, while the loser would back-up Belfour in the NHL. You read that correctly. With seemingly annual NHL expansion, the wise choice for the Stars was to keep Marty Turco in the minors for another season, preserving his off-limits status in the expansion draft.
Manny Fernandez would eventually be traded to the expansion Minnesota Wild at the end of the 1999-2000 season, and Marty Turco would finally make his NHL debut the following year. Turco would start his career off very strong, providing a challenge to an aging Belfour, who responded poorly to say the least.
During the two years that Turco and Belfour co-existed in the Stars locker room, Belfour's off-ice issues and on-ice struggles led for many fans to call for a change to be made. In early 2001, Belfour walked out on the team in Boston, upset with Ken Hitchcock over an optional practice.
Hitchcock had no other option but to give a young Turco an unscheduled start, only the 10th of his career. He would respond with his first NHL shutout. During Belfour's absence, Turco would stop 93 of 95 shots faced, before eventually returning to the bench when Belfour returned to the team.
This was the beginning of the end for Belfour's tenure in Dallas, and enough to get Stars fans really excited about the future of the goaltending position, riding on the shoulders of the very affable #35. When Belfour's contract expired before the 2002-2003 season, Turco inherited the job of undisputed starter.
Turco's first season in the starter's role was very successful. He set an NHL modern-era record for the lowest goals against average (1.72), suited up in the NHL All-Star game, and finished second in the voting for the Vezina. He had become one of the Stars most visible and popular players. He would be out-dueled by the unstoppable Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the second round of the playoffs that year.
In the lock-out disrupted two-seasons of 2003-2006, Marty Turco's regular season play was once again spectacular... but the story with Marty Turco was never his regular season heroics. The conversation is always about his playoff performances. In both 2003-2004 and 2005-2006, the Colorado Avalanche would end the Stars playoff hopes before they really got started. Marty's lackluster play led many fans and pundits alike to question if Marty Turco was able to rise to the occasion and be a big game goaltender when it matters the most.
Not until the 2007 playoffs did Turco begin to shed the "choker" stigma. In the opening round against the Vancouver Canucks, Marty Turco would record 3 shutouts in 7 games, tying an NHL record. The problem with that stat-line is that the Stars lost the series. Somehow, in a series where Turco had to be literally perfect in order to win, and managed to do so three times in a seven game series, he was still saddled with blame by many Stars fans.
The thing with Marty Turco's playoff struggles weren't really that he was bad or a choker. He just had a knack for being outplayed. From Giguere in 2003, to Roberto Luongo in 2007, Turco was always the second best goaltender in the series. With a fanbase that was used to seeing Belfour stare down the likes of Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Dominik Hasek and come away victorious, Turco had big shoes to fill.
Finally, during the 2008 playoffs, Marty Turco would lead the Stars deep into the playoffs for the first time in his career. Impressive and decisive victories over the defending champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round and bitter rival San Jose Sharks in the second round led Turco to a matchup against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals. Turco would make it a close series, but the Stars team was eventually outmatched by the red machine in six games.
In 2009, Turco would pass Cesare Maniago on both the all-time games and minutes played list for the franchise, but he would never again suit up for the Stars in post-season play. He would be almost an after-thought during the now famous "Modano's Last Game" at the American Airlines Center, as fans had already turned their attention to Kari Lehtonen as the new number one goaltender.
Turco would continue his career as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, before eventually suiting up for spot duty with the Boston Bruins, but for all intents and purposes, his career ended on that night at the AAC with Modano and Lehtinen.
While many fans will remember Turco for being just good enough to go home empty handed most years, Turco deserves much more credit than that. On his way to setting just about every goaltending record in franchise history, putting up gaudy numbers, and becoming a fixture at the NHL's All-Star weekend, Marty Turco also became engrained in the city of Dallas and the culture of Stars hockey.
He may not have ever won Lord Stanley Cup, and he won't see his number raised to any NHL rafters, but Marty Turco sits firmly in the top 10 greatest Dallas Stars of all-time.