Work in Sports
PACIFIC DIVISION |
1 Dallas Stars
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 5
By Kostya Kennedy
Center Mike Modano was talking about the dangers of playing in the NHL last month when he readily admitted, "If I had the chance to play [pro] golf, I would hang my skates up as quickly as possible. You can play golf for the rest of your life and not have to worry about someone running across the green and two-handing you with the putter."
Modano, who in 1998-99 led the Stars to the Stanley Cup despite playing most of the finals with a broken left wrist, is entering his 13th season, and if he seems weary of the NHL's grind, you can hardly blame him. In Dallas that grind has been more taxing than anywhere else. The Stars lost a staggering 395 man-games to injury last season, and over the past three years they've played a league-high 63 postseason games -- the last of which was a grueling double overtime loss to the Devils in Game 6 of last year's finals. To those demands add the mental exhaustion that comes with the Stars' close-checking style: Last season Dallas played 58 games that were decided by one or two goals, more than any other team. "It's been a long road, but I think we still have a lot left," says coach Ken Hitchcock. "We have to be careful though. We have to keep the wind in our sails."
Hitchcock believes an influx of youth will help them do that. Defensemen Richard Jackman, 22, and Brad Lukowich, 24, will join the superb veteran core of Derian Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov. Plus at least three young forwards -- including chippy left wing Brenden Morrow and fluid center Roman Lyashenko, both of whom are 21 and saw limited action last season -- will be called on to support Dallas's aging all-stars. Right wing Brett Hull, 36, remains an extraordinary clutch scorer, but he had a career-low 24 regular-season goals last season and says he's "not worth" his $7 million salary. Brittle second-line center Joe Nieuwendyk, a former 50-goal sniper, scored just 15 in 48 games last year. Says one Western Conference general manager, "For Joe, the reality of being 34 has set in."
The Stars employ the best goalie in the West, Ed Belfour, and the best coach south of Detroit's Scotty Bowman, and they will be a force in the postseason. But they're just too worn to overcome the sprightly Avalanche and the bright-eyed Blues. That's why, come the first week in June, Modano should have plenty of time to practice his golf.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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