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Counting the Stars - Number 41

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. For a recap on the list so far, click here.

Here it is folks, our first real questionable pick of a number. #41 was kind of a tough call for us as on one hand you have goalie Mike Smith, who all Stars fans at this point are quite familiar with due to his very recent history with the team. On the other you have Brent Gilchrist, who long time Stars fans are much more familiar with - and in some cases it's not a fond familiarity since he left in the summer of 1997 to sign with the Detroit Red Wings in the hopes of winning a Cup.

There is no dispute that Brent put up better career numbers during his six seasons in Dallas than Mike Smith did in his one and a half seasons. Gilchrest was a solid all-around forward who could chip in offensively in a third or even second line winger role at times, but also was very strong defensively and a excellent penalty killer.  Smith, while during his short time in Dallas was arguably the best back up in the league, was still just a backup.

And while we know Gilchrest left on his own to pursue a championship elsewhere, we'll never know if Mike Smith would have ever stayed with the Dallas Stars to challenge for the starters job, or if he would have gone the route that goalies like Dan Ellis and Manny Fernandez went and signed with another club in the summer in the hopes of winning what would be an easier battle for the starters position.  Sure Smith was a fan favorite when he was in Dallas and many lamented the Richards trade simply because it involved Smith, but did the Stars not just get something for a player they were going to end up losing anyway?

This debate about who was the greatest Star at number 41 ends up becoming a debate about what a fan values more in a player. Is a player that is traded away given the benefit of being more loyal to the team than a player who signs with another team in the off season because that team represents a better chance at a championship?

So what was more important to us and who did we pick? Follow the jump to find out.

#41 - Mike Smith

Most Dallas fans coming into the 2006-07 season hadn't really heard of Mike Smith and those who had weren't exactly sure he was the right pick over the likes of fellow Stars goaltending prospect Dan Ellis.  After October 21, 2006, any fears that he wasn't going to be a capable backup for Marty Turco were swept away as he made 22 saves to shutout the Phoenix Coyotes. From there Smith continued to put up very solid numbers as he posted a 2.23 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and finished the season with a 12-5-2 record with three shutouts on the way to being named to the NHL's 2007 all-rookie team.

A look past the numbers though shows us that Smith provided a much needed 'push' for Marty Turco to stay competitive. It wasn't a stretch by mid-season to think that a slump by Turco would have opened the door for Smith to gain the starters spot for Dave Tippett's team and in fact in mid-February Smith posted a three game winning streak beating the Wild, Ducks and Avalancheall at home from the 6th to the 11th.

Going into the 07-08 season, Dallas fans again looked forward to having the best backup goaltending any team in the league could ask for, but by then thoughts of what the Stars might have to do down the road started to come up. Was Smith good enough to be a full time starting goalie? Could he expedite the departure of Marty Turco from Dallas? Would he even be given the chance or was management so sold on Marty that Smith would have to face facts at some point and sign on with a different team that could offer him a chance as a full time starter?

Smith again put up solid stats as the Stars backup. A 2.46 goals against average, .906 save percentage and a 12-9-0 record with two more shutouts to his credit before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the Brad Richards deal thus ending any kind of speculation of what Smith's future in Dallas would be. While the addition of a former Stanley Cup champion and playoff MVP is always a great one, fans still wondered if the cost of giving up a goalie like Smith was too high a price to pay.

It's that fan longing for what might have been a great career in Dallas, not to mention the departure of Smith and a resulting lack of a quality backup goalie since then combined with Marty Turco's season long slump that has underscored just how valuable Smith was to the team and it's why he's our pick at #41.