THE BOTTOM LINE
By Jim Kelley, Special to ESPN.com
It was no coincidence that the Stars had one of their worst seasons in Dallas in the same year that Mike Modano had the worst year of his NHL career. The Stars are a team in transition, and if Modano can't play well and lead at the same time, they could be in trouble again.
Offense: Dallas was 20th in scoring last time out and Modano, usually one of the game's great players, managed just 14 goals. Off-ice problems were a part of that (bad investment management), but with Bill Guerin and Jason Arnott pushing him, and some young faces taking more responsibility, Modano should rebound.
Defense: Not nearly as good as the Ken Hitchcock-coached unit that was awarded the Stanley cup in 1999, but still pretty solid with All-Star Sergei Zubov and the steady Philippe Boucher in the top two spots. It's steady enough in creating offense though not quite physical enough in its own end.
Goaltending: Marty Turco is as good as any goalie in the league during the regular season (it's not quite the same in the playoffs), and that's where this team will need him. He's an outstanding athlete with one of the best glove hands in the league and he knows how to make the game-saving stop.
WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
YES They have a core of very skilled veteran players and a coach who is innovative and has new rules to play to his strengths.
BUT This is a team with a payroll that went from the high $60 million range down to $39 million. That means a loss of depth. If injuries come into play, the margin might have been shaved too close.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Vojtech Polack has been making some waves in training camp, but the Stars are rooting for Antti Miettinen (left) to make the leap as a contributor on one of the two top lines. He was a standout in the AHL last season.
Dave Tippett had a rough go in his early days with the Stars, but he is an innovator, a power-play expert and has a good rapport with players having been one himself. If he gets the moody Modano to play his best, he should be able to get this team into playoff contention.
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> THIN LINE
Picking up Martin Skoula from the Ducks will bolster a defense that has become thin in the absence of Derian Hatcher and Teppo Numminen.
WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> OH, THE DRAMA!
We don't know about you, but we could have done without the back-and-forth draw surrounding the Modano contract talks.
Bill Guerin, RW
Guerin had 34 goals and 35 assists in 82 games.
Marty Turco, G
Turco posted 37-21-13 record, the second-best wins total in the league. He was also third overall in goals-against average (1.98) and shutouts (nine).
“The numbers might not match up with the other deals, but I think in the long run, this will be better for me.”
— Mike Modano on his new deal with the Stars