Mike Modano has been pretty quiet far this off-season. His statements have been innocuous, his appearances around town and on television light hearted and pretty non-substantive. He has said all along that he'd like to see "how the ownership situation works out." He'd like to see "what kind of role he might have with the team next year." He's not sure if he wants to deal with the grind of another 82 games + (hopefully) playoffs + training camp and preseason. Those are all fair points.
So why today? Why during a week when trades are heating up, 10 days before free agency starts, when the draft is heavy on everyone's mind does Mike Modano take the opportunity to "put it out there" that if he plays next season, it's likely not going to be in Dallas? Why not just wait the extra two weeks and see how things shake out like he suggested he would? Why go as far as to put a number on it (75% sure he wants to play next season) this afternoon?
I put on my tin foil hat this afternoon and it occurred to me that this seems a little too calculated for our easy going hockey hero. Either the situation is what it is: The Stars just don't have room or dollars for him (they don't) and he's made up his mind that he wants to play (that's becoming quite clear) OR he is attempting to influence a situation with Joe Nieuwendyk that is outside of his control at this point. "How badly do you not want me in another uniform?"
What do you think?
Either this is "I'm going to be available, league, so maybe factor that in this week when you're talking amongst yourselves," or its a game of chicken with the Dallas Stars who will come out of this looking like a big steaming pile of camel dung to the season ticket holders if they let Mike Modano wear another uniform. That may not be fair, but being a sports fan is an emotional proposition.
Even though the idea of him leaving rips my heart out, I think we all need to take a deep breath...
Our poll here earlier today indicated that most of you would rather see the Stars take care of Mike simply because he's Mike.
You don't have to go too far off the reservation to see the negative feelings about this...
From the Dallas Morning News blog comments:
All of the respect I have for Nieuwy will evaporate overnight if he lets the face of our franchise go to another team.
Joe could easily set himself up as the Dallas hockey fans' most hated personality if he lets Mike walk away
One of the most respectable guys in the sport. I don't really understand why Dallas pushed him out the door after all that he's done for their franchise.
I'd quote you all, but you're just too reasonable, classy and fair minded.
Nevertheless, these sentiments would grow and discord would fester in an already unsettled fan-base at a time it can ill afford it. Joe's going to do what he feels gives the team their best chance to win hockey games, of course, but this would be a little black eye that we who are so connected to the team wouldn't like to be any part of. The thought of Mike coming to the AAC several times next year in another uniform is one that makes me physically ill.
I discussed this question a bit after the season was over, you might recall. Would the Stars Actually Prefer that Modano Retire?
What about the other side of the coin?
Are you a better hockey team next season without Mike Modano than with him? Joe has to consider the possibility. Pending off-season departures (I think we all feel certain the potential for Center movement involves departures, not arrivals) it's a hard question to answer, but think it through with only the players currently on the team. Is Jamie Benn ready to lead an attack and balance the offense as a third line center? Is the difference between Modano as a 4th line guy and Sutherby as a 4th line guy so small that you'd rather just save the money?
What about special teams? 10 power play points, sure, but 13 total minutes on the penalty kill all season long. Seriously. He went from 2 minutes per game on the PK in 2008-2009, to an average of 13 seconds a game in 2009-2010. So they won't miss him there.
When you combine that with the six other guys on the team that can play center and the omnipresent budgetary considerations making money to sign 40 year olds scarce, it's easy to see that this is a much tougher decision than "Well, we can't let him go because it's him." There's the developments of Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell to consider as well. Do you move pieces and affect the long term viability of the center position for the sake of one-season? Should Mike be the one to compromise and play the wing in a (much) lesser role?
Puck Daddy takes an alternate approach, beseeching mighty Mo himself to make it easy on the team, himself and the fans and just hang them up:
It's hard to imagine a more moving sendoff than the one Dallas fans gave Modano, and a more Hollywood ending than the one he gave Dallas fans. The North Stars jersey skate and salute was the perfect coda. Modano could easily be a productive depth player next season while wearing another city's colors. But the fan in us doesn't want to see the next Brett Hull-as-a-Coyote. We want to see Yzerman retiring with the Red Wings.
That would be ideal, but as Mr. Wysh says, Mike still "has the fire."
Do you remember Joe Montana in a Chefs uniform?
Do you think of the Red Wings jersey when you remember Derian Hatcher?
It won't be the end of the world. It will feel like the end of the world, but when the dust settles and Mike Modano is retired in Dallas, involved with the team again in some form or fashion, it won't matter. He can come home again, and wherever he may go, we'll know he's really our guy. Not theirs. And we'll remind whoever it is about it like petulant little children. Frequently.
This is an emotional issue, but the unfortunate circumstances warrant a moment of consideration before we go blasting the team for this and that. It might be time to simply move on. At least consider it, however briefly.
And if it makes you feel any better, there's always the usual: Point a finger at Hicks' way just for good measure.
Alternate reading: Pro Hockey Talk, DMN on Modano, ESPN's original report, Mike on ESPN 103.3 today at Andrews, TSN Modano Report