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Hockey

Dallas Stars

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 1

By Michael Farber

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Mike Modano
Mike Modano
Mike Modano
Modano/Lehtinen
Mike Modano
Mike Modano
Derian Hatcher
Joe Nieuwendyk
Derian Hatcher
Darryl Sydor
Brett Hull
34
47
81
+29
224
20.8
24.7
63.2
204
35
5
Sports Illustrated There is no clinically proven hair of the dog or other magic potion for the dread Stanley Cup hangover, that bloated feeling of success and complacency that afflicts so many champions. But last summer Stars coach Ken Hitchcock did some empirical research on a cure. Hitchcock interviewed four other coaches or managers who had won championships -- two in the NHL, one in major league baseball and one in the NBA -- to help him better understand the potential pitfalls of The Season After. Hitchcock says the four (he declines to name them) agreed on the single biggest issue: details. "They all told me that you can't lose the fight with details," Hitchcock says. "The details have to be in place, on and off the ice. You let the little things slide, maybe the last thing that will be affected is your play. But once that happens, it never leaves. You stop having that focal point, you're gone."

To that end the Stars will have their time at the rink strictly budgeted, their off days structured and their mental mistakes closely scrutinized. Next June they will also be lifting the Stanley Cup again, a triumph that will be forged by a mature team and a consumed coach. After squeezing every last drop from the 1998-99 champions, who at times looked like they were aging faster than a portrait in the attic, Hitchcock and general manager Bob Gainey have made the Stars quicker and more skilled by doing some tinkering. Free agents Pat Verbeek and Dave Reid and the retired Craig Ludwig -- average age: 36 -- are gone, replaced by younger forwards such as 28-year-old Pavel Patera, who played for Vsetin in the Czech Republic last season, 25-year-old Juha Lind, who played for Jokerit in Finland in '98-99, and 26-year-old defenseman Jamie Pushor, who got his name on the Cup in 1997 with the Red Wings. The Stars are not abandoning dump-and-chase hockey, but as the league-wide pendulum starts swinging slowly back to offense, they will blend in a slicker, puck-control style.

"We'll miss those guys we won with," says Stars center Mike Modano, "but we'll be quicker on the third and fourth lines, which creates a little havoc. But on any team a certain number of guys will carry it. Those seven or eight guys are still here."

Modano, a three-time All-Star, is foremost among them. He says that if he and wingers Brett Hull and Jere Lehtinen play at least 75 games together, he could score 50 goals and 100 points even though the line is often used in a checking role. Joe Nieuwendyk, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, gives Dallas a one-two punch at center matched only by Colorado's Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg; Nieuwendyk also should average more than a point a game, benefiting from the maturation of right wing Jamie Langenbrunner. Now in his fourth full season, the 24-year-old Langenbrunner is a strong, aggressive skater who creates turnovers and is learning to find seams on the ice that are the provenance of goal scorers. After getting just 12 goals in 75 regular-season games in 1998-99, Langenbrunner responded with 10 goals in 23 playoff matches. "He's always been a worker, but now he has added that control game," Hitchcock says. "I think that he's ready to take off."

In goal, Dallas is grounded. Ed Belfour, a clenched fist of a man, filled in the one blank space in his otherwise gaudy résumé with the Stanley Cup and reported to training camp more relaxed, preparing for Friday's regular season opener against the Penguins with almost a sense of detachment. Belfour doesn't have Roman Turek behind him anymore -- Turek was traded to St. Louis, where he will be the No. 1 netminder -- but in front of him Belfour still has a standout defensive team that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL last season.

At last count 15 Dallas players had tattoos of the Stanley Cup somewhere on their bodies, but they are not the real marks of a champion. The Stars can repeat because they have reconditioned their team and sweated all the small stuff that might fall under the rubric of "distractions," staying ahead of the curve and the loaded Red Wings. If Hitchcock's science is right, a second Cup will be in the details.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • Eager to keep this team mostly intact, the team is already negotiating with free-agents-to-be G Ed Belfour and RW Joe Nieuwendyk, who was reportedly on the trading block before putting in a Conn Smythe performance.
  • Ken Hitchcock may have found his second line by switching rookie center Pavel Patera to left wing alongside Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner.
  •  
  • Bob Gainey took a calculated risk by cutting loose several veteran members of a championship team. While great teams never stand still, they sometimes regret removing some ingredients from the stew.
  • RW Grant Marshall missed much of training camp with a groin injury.
  • The contract impasse with D Richard Matvichuk is getting uglier and uglier.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Bob Gainey
    Coach: Ken Hitchcock, 5th season (163-90-36); 5th overall
    Assistants: Doug Jarvis; Rick Wilson
    Captain: Derian Hatcher
    Last year: 59-19-12 (1st overall)
    Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup
    PP: 6th (18.8%)
    PK: 6th (86.5%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Fri., Oct. 1: Home opener vs. Pittsburgh
    Tue., Oct. 5: The defending champs visit Detroit, where the Cup had resided the last two seasons.
    Fri., Nov. 5: Think Jeremy Roenick will remember that it was Derian Hatcher who broke his jaw right before the playoffs last season? Find out tonight in Phoenix.
    Fri., Dec. 31: With an 8:30 p.m. ET home start against Anaheim, this is the last scheduled game of the 20th Century.

    Notable Number
    327: Points for the Stars over the last three seasons -- 104, 109 and 114

    Quoteworthy
    "It would be nice to have a run at the Hart [Trophy, as league MVP]. When you win, guys can have some nice personal success. But you get that winning feeling, and you want to keep it. I think the challenge for me is just playing up to the level I was at last spring and summer." -- Mike Modano



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