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02-14-2011, 09:52 PM
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Mike Modano, C

For a few years, Modano was a great all around player, one of the best in the world. Very good at offence and defence, and he excelled in transition. He was the star on a Cup winner and perennial contender, and matched up against the other teams stars every night, usually coming out ahead.

Michael Farber, SI, 1997
Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock—who took over the team in January 1996 after general manager Bob Gainey gave up the coaching reins—invited Modano to a local coffee shop last May and gave it to him black, no sugar: Hitchcock wanted Modano, the team's leading scorer four out of the past five seasons, to center a high-powered checking line. "I'd watched him play enough," Hitchcock says, "and it was obvious he was our best offensive player. But he could be a great defensive forward too. Not only could he check, he could also check with speed. I was thinking, Who can I compare Mo with? Finally I came up with [the Pittsburgh Penguins'] Ron Francis, a No. 2 center who is a strong defensive player. I told Mo that I wanted to play him with wings Jere Lehtinen and Greg Adams and that he was going to be our go-to guy on defense."
"I knew going into the game that when [the Detroit Red Wings"] Sergei Fedorov or [the St. Louis Blues'] Brett Hull or [the Vancouver Canucks'] Pavel Bure or other players like that were going out on the ice, my line was going out there too," Modano says of this season's change in responsibilities. "It was a little frightening at first because the weight of the game was on my shoulders. If we shut those guys down, we have a great opportunity to win because of our depth."
Austin Murphy, SI, 2000
"What he's able to do with the puck at a high speed might be the most amazing part of Mike's game," says Stars captain Derian Hatcher. "I've played with him for nine years, and this is the best he's been."
After a shaky start, Dallas finished with the second-best record in the West. Leading the charge was Modano, who retained his offensive potency while embracing Hitchcock's defense-first system. "He's one of the best two-way players in the world," says Hitchcock. "He's a threat from anywhere on the ice."
Kostya Kennedy, SI, 2001

Whom would you rather have for a seven game series?
A shoo-in for league MVP this season, the 31-year-old continued his dazzling play with a team-high seven points as Colorado swept the Canucks in the first round.


Dallas's most dynamic player, the 30-year-old had a team-high three goals and displayed a rugged style in the Stars' six-game win over the Oilers in the first round.

The Verdict: "The Stars' defensive system is only possible because they know Modano can create offense when they need it, says Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. That's why Modano's our man.
Kevin Allen, USA Today, 2003
"I think he's one of the best all-around players in the world," Dallas general manager Doug Armstrong says. "And you hear that more and more from people inside the game."

NHL fans understand Modano is a superstar. The confusion centers on what kind of superstar he has become. The New York Rangers' Pavel Bure and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Teemu Selanne are viewed as dynamic, fast-skating stars, but they aren't revered like Colorado's Peter Forsberg, who arguably is the NHL's best all-around player. For a variety of reasons, the hockey world now is just grasping the notion of Modano's status being closer to Forsberg's than Selanne's.

"I think people focus on the flash of Mike Modano, but he's a real gritty performer," Dallas coach Dave Tippett says.
Modano says it probably took him six years to start understanding his role as a two-way center. Over the last three or four years, he probably has mastered it to the point that he has become one of the league's top defensive forwards — although he also finished 10th in the league in scoring during the regular season with 85 points. "He plays against the top players on every team," teammate Kirk Muller says. "And he always gives up a bit of his offense to be a strong defensive player."

Modano presents his evolution this way: "Early in your career, you are looking for space instead of making your own. That's where that 'perimeter player' perception comes in, and it was a hard label to shake until I got down here in Dallas." The team moved from Minnesota in 1993.

He says Gainey and, Gainey's successor, Ken Hitchcock, changed his thinking.
Stephen Cannella, SI, 2004
"When Mo is at his best he does so many little things—face-offs, penalty killing, playing against other teams' top players,"says Dallas coach Dave Tippett.

Michael Farber, SI, 2006

The Best We've Ever Had - No U.S.-born forward can match the career of Dallas center Mike Modano, who is doggedly leading the Stars even after being stripped of his captaincy.
"Mo's got the most skill of [any U.S. forward]," says former linemate Brett Hull, a 741-goal scorer who played for Team USA but was born and mostly raised in Canada. "It's to his credit that he's been able to do what he's done, given that 90 percent of his career has been in a s--- system--all defensive-minded coaches. Can you imagine if he had been drafted by Detroit or Pittsburgh? You can't guess at the ridiculous numbers he would've put up."

Modano, of course, only burnished his career by metamorphosing into a two-way center, molded by the mentoring of former Stars coach and general manager Bob Gainey and by the hectoring of Gainey's bench successor, Ken Hitchcock. The roundly praised career of retired Red Wings great Steve Yzerman bifurcates neatly into Scoring Steve and Two-Way Steve, but Modano's transformation from pretty-boy scorer to offensive and defensive standout was neither as dramatic nor as widely celebrated. Even after scoring 23 points in 23 games in the 1999 postseason while playing the last four matches with a broken left wrist--"He could barely shoot or stickhandle but played through it," former teammate Mike Keane says--and another 23 in 23 in 2000 when Dallas returned to the finals, he still was seen as not having the requisite playoff grit. "He was on an IV in a couple of those games [in 1999]," says Dave Reid, another former teammate. "Maybe people around the league thought Mike was soft, but he wasn't. He was the first guy behind our net to get the puck out, and he was so fast he'd [get in position to] take the first pass up ice. He didn't initiate contact so some people said he didn't pay the price, but he was going through the neutral zone at Mach 1."

There must be a rapidly aging portrait in the attic of his downtown Dallas home because Modano looks the same as he did a decade ago. He still swoops over the ice at warp speed and backs off defensemen with his skating as effectively as anyone since Buffalo's Gilbert Perreault in the 1970s. He still has the quick hands that allowed him to set up the king of the one-timer, Hull, the only elite scorer to ride shotgun for Modano.
"When I had Mike," says Hitchcock, now the Columbus coach, "he didn't even have to have a point to be the best player on the ice most nights."

How did Modano perform playing these tough minutes?

From 1997 to 2003, Modano led all NHL forwards with a +171.

He was also a major part of Dallas's excellent penalty kill and power play.

Adjusted Stats (regular season)

Even Strength
Player Years GP $ESGF/S $ESGA/S R-ON R-OFF $AEV+/-/S
Mike Modano 90-96 501 66 61 1.08 0.94 10
Mike Modano 97-03 524 85 52 1.65 1.04 30
Mike Modano 04-10 434 54 55 0.98 1.08 -6
$ESGF/S: On-ice even strength goals for per season, adjusted for scoring level.
$ESGA/S: On-ice even strength goals for per season, adjusted for scoring level.
R-ON: Even strength goal ratio with the player on the ice.
R-OFF: Even strength goal ratio with the player off the ice.
AEV+/-/S: Adjusted even strength plus-minus per season. Note that this and R-ON/OFF are affected by the role the player is used in, it's harder to do well in this when used in a defensive role.

Power Play
Player Years GP PP% TmPP+ $PPG/S $PPA/S $PPA/S
Mike Modano 90-96 501 64% 0.87 10 19 29
Mike Modano 97-03 524 67% 1.12 10 23 33
Mike Modano 04-10 434 54% 0.97 8 17 25
PP%: Percentage of team's power play goals that the player was on the ice for.
TmPP+: Success of team's power play. 1.00 is average, higher is better. Includes shorthanded goals against.
$PPG/S: Power play goals per season, adjusted for scoring level and team PP opportunities.
$PPA/S: Power play assists per season, adjusted for scoring level and team PP opportunities.
$PPP/S: Power play points per season, adjusted for scoring level and team PP opportunities.

Penalty Kill
Player Years GP PK% TmPK+
Mike Modano 90-96 501 11% 1.06
Mike Modano 97-03 524 45% 0.85
Mike Modano 04-10 434 23% 0.94
PK%: Percentage of team's power play goals against that the player was on the ice for.
TmPK+: Success of team's penalty kill. 1.00 is average, lower is better. Includes shorthanded goals for.

In the stats above, I've broken down Modano's career into three parts.

From 1990 to 1996, Modano was a highly skilled scoring centre, but was a bit of an underachiever, and wasn't among the top forwards in the league. In his defence, he didn't have great linemates during this time.

From 1997 to 2003, he was as good as any forward in the league. Modano's coach gave him the responsibility of playing a more defensive role. He was able to apply his size and skating ability to his new role, and he excelled defensively while still scoring at a high rate. His even strength numbers from this period are incredible, considering that he was usually playing power vs power. He did have better linemates during this time as well. Modano was also a major part of Dallas's excellent penalty kill and power play.

Modano's game really dropped off in 2004, and he never returned to his former level of play. Since then, he's been a good centre who can still play well in a checking role and score points, but doesn't outscore like he used to.

I think that if you read the excerpts from Sports Illustrated that I've posted above, you'll find that the adjusted stats agree with what hockey people thought of Modano in his prime.

Why didn't Modano always play like he did from 1996-97 to 2002-03? My amateur psychoanalysis says that he's a guy who needed the right coaching and leadership environment to push him to excel. And that's why he didn't have the career of a Joe Sakic or a Steve Yzerman, despite having the talent. But for a few years, he was as good a hockey player as anyone, and he had a long and successful career in the league.

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