Nick Obergan. 6th April, 2010 - 8:39 pm
The Dallas Stars? season officially ends Saturday, missing the playoffs for a second straight season. And with the organization looking more like a team ready to rebuild than contend, this could spell the end of the fantastic career put forth by Mike Modano.
Modano, who will turn 40 in June, has spent his entire 20-year career with the Stars organization, and if this is the end, he should be celebrated league-wide for what he has done, not only for the Stars? franchise, but for American hockey as a whole. It is a career that has seen seven All-Star appearances, and nominations for the Calder Trophy, Selke Trophy and Lady Byng.
Modano was drafted 1st overall in 1988 by the Minnesota North Stars, just the second time an American player was taken with the 1st pick in the NHL draft. He stayed in the WHL for one last season after that, pouring in 39 goals, 66 assists and 105 points in just 41 games. 41! As a rookie in 1989-90 he shone immediately, controversially losing out on the Calder Trophy to a 31-year-old after contributing 29 goals and 75 points in 80 games.
Over the next 13 seasons, he never finished below 28 goals in any season in which he played more than 55 games. In 11 of the 15 seasons following his rookie year, he would tally at least 77 points ? 2 of those seasons being cut short by injury. 9 out of 11 seasons from 1991-92 to 2001-02 he scored more than 30 goals. If he was healthy, he was consistent and deadly with one of the best slap shots in the entire league. Modano was both a sniper and a playmaker: his career high of 93 points was reached twice, once because of a 60-assist season, the next because he reached 50 goals.
If he plays in all three remaining games, Modano will reach 1,459 games played for his career. On March 12th, days before an emergency appendectomy, he passed Brendan Shanahan for 23rd on the all-time points list and (if he retires) will remain there with his 1,357 points ? twelve points behind the next player. He is tied for 24th all-time with 556 goals, and his 801 assists are good for 29th. Add in his very solid +119 career rating and there is no doubt this man will be enshrined in the Hall Of Fame three years after he retires (the customary waiting period).
Those are his all-time ranks, but it is more impressive to see where he ranks among American-born NHL players, because a case could be made that he is the best ever. Modano leads all Americans in the history of the NHL in points (125 above second-place Phil Housley) and goals (18 more than Keith Tkachuk of the Blues), and is second in career assists wedged in between Housley and Brian Leetch. Modano is also third in power play points and second in short handed points, just proving the versatility that he showed in the second half of his career and the progress he made towards becoming a two-way center, much like Steve Yzerman did.
Modano played in the playoffs in 15 of his 20 seasons, which included three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored 20 points in 23 games as a sophomore when Minnesota lost to Pittsburgh in the Finals, then had 23 points in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances in 1999 and 2000 ? 1999 marking the lone Cup victory for both Modano and the franchise. In 174 career playoff games, Modano has 58 goals, 87 assists and 145 points. He also owns the Stars career records for goals, assists and points. And with Jere Lehtinen being the only one in the top-10 of any of those categories (6th in goals, 9th in points), Modano will likely remain on top for another 2+ decades.
So as the season, and likely the career of Mike Modano, comes to a close, fans around the league celebrate this remarkable career and bid a warm farewell. And as they do, they will be waving good bye to the greatest player in Stars franchise history and one of, if not THE, greatest American-born NHL player of all-time.
Nick can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter at @nickobergan