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Counting the Stars - Number 44

Every day this summer Defending Big D will count down the greatest players in franchise history (both Dallas and Minnesota), based on the sweater number they wore. Keep coming back for a look at who's the best in Stars history.

So think you know who we're gonna take at 44?  Sure when you think back of recent history of the Dallas Stars, Jason Arnott would be a lock with his four seasons from 2001 to 2006 and 184 points total.  But lets face it, Arnott scored the Cup winning goal against the Stars in 2000 and then left the Stars in the summer of 06 for... The Nashville Predators?! No offense Preds fans, but we've had players leave the Stars for Cup pursuits in Detroit and while we didn't like it we at least understood. No one though leaves for Nashville hoping they are the final piece of a Cup winning team.

But even if Arnott left under better circumstances and scored a Cup winning goal for the Stars instead of against them, his numbers still wouldn't match the numbers posted by our greatest Star to ever wear the #44...

#44 - Steve Payne

He played 10 NHL seasons and while not all of them were spent wearing the #44 - half of his career he wore #26 - they were all spent with the Minnesota North Stars.

Drafted by the North Stars in the second round 19th overall (ahh yes the days when there were less than 20 NHL teams) of the 1978 draft, Steve quickly made an impact as a rookie scoring 23 goals and 40 points in his rookie season - good for 7th in team scoring!  The very next year was even better where he posted his career highs in goals (42), points (85), plus minus (+37) and power play goals (16).  He was named to the NHL All-Star game for the first time. 

It was in the playoffs though where Payne found an extra gear though helping lead the Stars to a semi-final berth in the 1980 playoffs scoring 16 points in 15 games, and then the following year leading the North Stars in playoff scoring with 17 goals and 29 points in just 19 games played.  In 71 career playoff games he had 35 goals and 70 points and was considered a clutch performer the entire way through.

A four time 30 goal scorer and a seven time 20 goal scorer, his career was derailed in the 85-86 season when a deabilitating knee injury cut short his career, limiting him to just 22 games.  He was never the same player after that as he only managed 79 games in his last three seasons. His physical play became almost non-existent as he battled through not only knee pain, but later abdominal and neck injuries as well.  Ultimately it was the neck injury - suffered in a hit from behind during a game in 1987 - that forced an early end to his career.

He finished his career with 228 goals, 238 assists and 466 points while in 71 playoff games he had 35 goals and 70 points.  He remains one of the most prolific offensive players in Stars history but at the same time his full potential never truly realized as he was still in the prime of his career when he beame hurt.