At long last we reach the top spot in our top-20 Dallas Stars retrospective, arriving at the only destination possible in the timeless American hockey icon that is Mike Modano.
Mike Modano was drafted first overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988, and after a year in juniors would go on to score 75 points in his rookie season. After a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with Minnesota in 1991 Modano would accompany the franchise to Texas in 1993 with a reputation as being one of the league's brightest young stars.
In his 17 years with Dallas and one with Detroit he would amass 1,374 points, making him the all time leader in American born scoring. He also holds the record for goals by an American (561) and playoff points by an American (145). He helped drive the Stars to the Conference Finals in 1998, won a Stanley Cup in 1999, and went to the Finals again in 2000. He served as team captain from 2003 to 2006.
Modano holds franchise records for games played (1459), playoff games played (174), goals (557), playoff goals (58), assists (802), playoff assists (87), points (1359) and playoff points (145).
The Stars chose not to offer Modano a contract at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 season. He played one year in Detroit before signing a one-day contract with Dallas and retiring on September 23rd, 2011.
Why He's On The List:
I place this sub-headline here merely for the sake of consistency with the other 19 player profiles we've authored to fill the void the summer and the lockout have left in this space content-wise.
The end was never really in doubt, was it? Apologies to Ladislav Nagy, Janne Niinimaa and Doug Zmolek. All of whom receieved heavy consideration for these top honors.
From Mike's retirement press conference, as only Razor could:
To those that had the pleasure to stand at ice level when Modano skated by, his grace and fluidity are unforgettable. There was an elegance to his play that was singular and mesmerizing.
The memories are immortal. The broken wrist he played with for the final five games of the 1999 SCF is legendary. His recognizability in the 90's in a new hockey community was nothing short of rock-star-like. The numbers speak for themselves.
In his first 12 seasons in Dallas (through the 2005-2006 season) he posted 874 points in 862 games. His offense was as dependable as any this franchise has ever had, and it was that the crowds came to see. It was he who sold Reunion Arena and the American Airlines Center out every night for a decade.
There is perhaps, in the minds of many, a different side to Modano's legacy that will go largely unrecognized in the annals of Stars history, and that was his propensity to often times project less than 100% effort, whether it was the case or not, not to mention what is widely considered to be a failed captaincy experiment.
Mike's contemporaries in the Western Conference's ruling class during his prime (Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman) routinely outscored him by significant margins and filled their display cases with major NHL awards, leaving many to wonder if he had more to give.
The downward spiral of the franchise itself in his final two seasons here and his diminished role on the ice contribute, perhaps unfairly, to a perception of laziness or an air of "give-up" in his game at times. His comments confirming as much later while in Detroit didn't help the matter.
We pause to acknowledge those feelings that many have, but they're almost completely irrelevant to the discussion. Mike Modano is simply the greatest Dallas Star there has ever been or will ever be, barring the appearance of a future league MVP and multiple cup winner. And even then...
The jersey flapping in the wind, the team and U.S. born records, the playoff performances, those one-timers down low in the corner...There's every reason to call him the greatest based solely on on-ice performance, but it's the off-ice intangibles that will never be matched.
Mike was the person - the exact person, that the city and the franchise needed to make it work here. In a market where a good portion of the league's surnames were unpronounceable, where icing wasn't understood and Zamboni was a funny word no one had ever heard of before, a good looking, offensively gifted American playboy with that smile was key.
Winning, all on its own, might have sparked the love affair with hockey that existed here around the turn of the century. Perhaps with the Mavericks and Cowboys in such a down-trodden state, it was going to happen anyway.
But probably not.
Modano sparked it all with his outrageous speed and offensive displays, instantly becoming the most recognizable hockey player in a city that recognized little else about the game. For 20 years children could go to Reunion Arena or the AAC and ask a simple question: "Where's Modano?"
If one listens closely at the AAC, the question can still be heard even to this day - A testament to his legacy while also emblematic of the irrelevancy in which the franchise finds itself once again without him.
Staubach, Nowitzki, Aikman, Modano. He's the greatest American to play the game. He's the greatest Star to play the game. He's also in the conversation of most important athlete in Dallas sports history to his respective team. Who was more iconic? Who meant more? Who was needed more to achieve that timeless greatness of championship teams?
Much has been said in this space of Modano in recent seasons and as he enters the respective halls of fame that he will in the coming months and years it will be said again and again.
Because he deserves it.
If the current predicament the Stars are in has taught us nothing else, it's to be endlessly appreciative of the good times through which we've been blessed to live.
So we'll never stop thanking Mike Modano, the franchise's greatest.