In a year that the Stars did everything from miss the playoffs, get placed on the market, and say farewell to an icon, 2010 will go not go down as a popoular one but it will certainly go down as an unforgettable one.
The team entered the 2010 calendar year in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, then went on to win just one of their first 7 games to kick off January. Though still in contention, they pretty much burried any realistic hopes of getting back to the dance in an overly competitive Western Conference that’s pretty unforgiving to any team going on a losing streak like that. In a second half that seemed all too reminiscent of a year previous, the Stars were unable to bring any consistency and failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
The Stars would make it clear they were going with a new face between the pipes in February as Joe Nieuwendyk would trade prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy to the Atlanta Thrashers for hard luck goaltender Kari Lehtonen, all but spelling the end of Marty Turco’s days as a Star. Lehtonen would show some promise and had some stellar performances in net before season’s end. It was still debatable as to wether or not bringing him in to replace Turco would be for the better, but it was clear that something had to be done.
Along with the team’s well being, the unknown future of an icon was sitting on the front burner. The big question that crept from the back of our minds at the start of the season, to the very forefront as far as the Stars and the fanbase were concerned was this: Will Mike Modano remain a Star ?
As the March 3rd NHL trade deadline approached, some wondered if the Stars might be receiving offers for Mike Modano. We learned right after that they had received offers from three teams, one being the Washington Capitals. Joe Nieuwendyk approached him about the offers and Modano chose to tough it out with the only team he’s ever known.
Cue April 8th vs the Ducks. It was official that the Stars would not be heading to the playoffs. In one of the more anticipated games in Stars history, we said goodbye to a couple longtime favourites, aswell as the brightest star to ever shine for the franchise. A love affair between Modano and the Dallas faithful that began on October 5th, 1993, was now coming to an unimaginable end almost 17 years later. Though it was still up in the air at the time, it would turn out to be his last game as a Star on home ice.
With the Stars trailing 2-1 and just 1:47 left on the clock, Mike Modano tipped a Trevor Daley point shot to tie it and send the AAC crowd into a frenzy. As if the night couldn’t have been anymore storybook, the shootout would hold even more dramatics. Modano and Jere Lehtinen would supply the shootout goals while Marty Turco would cap off an already great night, stopping both Duck attempts he faced to give the Stars the win in a very emotional night for everyone. Ovations for the three would bring tears to everybody’s eyes: their’s, the fans, and still mine anytime I feel the need to reminisce and watch the highlights from that special night.
The next game would be another to mark on the calendar. It turned out to be Modano’s last game as a Star and seemingly planned, it was in Minnesota where it all began over 20 years prior. He was named the game’s first star in a 4-3 Stars shootout win, and skated onto the Xcel Energy Center ice to receive the honor wearing the home jersey he wore as a North Star for two seasons before they retired it back in 1991. The crowd stood in ovation to show appreciation for the superstar they still considered one of their own. The superstar they saw drafted 1st overall by the North Stars in 1988 that brought them out of their seats for four seasons before the team headed south in 1993.
The NHL Entry Draft in June saw the Stars picking 11th overall. The Stars had their sights set on U.S. World Junior gold medal winning goaltender Jack Campbell. Though a couple highly touted defensemen were dropped and were still available at #11, the Stars never waivered. They got their guy and Jack Campbell is a very promising prospect and has all the makings of a franchise goalie.
With the off season in full swing, the Stars officially up for sale, and that $45million budget still handcuffing GM Joe Nieuwendyk, frustration was obvious at not being able to bring in any outside help. There was even some concern as to wether or not the club would even be able to afford to retain their own free agents. James Neal and Nik Grossman were set to become RFAs and Mike Modano a UFA. Though it was still unclear wether Modano would retire, or sign another contract and wether or not that would even be with the Stars.
Much to the shock and dismay of Stars fans, on June 29th Joe Nieuwendyk would announce that the club will not be offering Mike Modano another contract. It was still unclear at that point wether he would even return at all to play, but it was clear that if he chose to, it would not be with the Stars. It was officially the end of an era for the Stars and Mike Modano and would eventually be persuaded to sign a one year deal with his hometown team and rival Detroit Red Wings. Marty Turco would go on to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Stars would make small splashes in the free agent pool by signing former Blackhawk forward Adam Burish and former Canucks backup Andrew Raycroft. Nik Grossman and James Neal would be re-signed and other than saying goodbye to Mike Modano, the off-season would be a fairly uneventful one.
With not much help brought in and key veterans leaving ( Jere Lehtinen recently officially retiring ), the cash-strapped Stars were picked by many to miss the playoffs for a third straight season. So far though, the Richards-Eriksson-Neal line has been dynamite, youngster Jamie Benn is making huge strides, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow seem to have re-found their game, and the goaltending tandem of Lehtonen and Raycroft has been pretty good for the most part.
The Stars sat in first place in the entire Western Conference just two days before Christmas. They’ve since slid a little bit going 1-2-1 in their last four. They still lead the Pacific Division and have many in the hockey world shocked with their success so far, including most Stars fans.
Heading into 2011, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Brad Richards is set to become a UFA at the end of the season and that’s priority number one for management. Nieuwendyk has made it clear he wants to re-sign him and Richards has said he would like to stay. It’s still up in the air though as to wether he will be retained, or perhaps dealt by the February trade deadline.
Through all of the negatives that have gone on and are still going on, the team is on track to return to the playoffs and GM Joe Nieuwendyk has every intent on building a winner sooner rather than later. A new owner would do wonders.
Bring on 2011. It should be another memorable one and a turning point for the Stars. Definitely the fresh beginning of a new era.
About the Author
Written by Travis Currie
Im your typical sports fan. Just a little more crazy about it. I live and die for my teams and I drive my girlfriend nuts. I consider myself the world's biggest Stars fan. Ive been a fan since I was a young kid going back to the mid 80's. Favourite Stars player of all-time is of course Mike Modano. Favourite non-Stars player of all-time is Peter Stastny. I love talking sports so please leave a reply to anything you agree or disagree with. If youd like to contact me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org