Let's start out the summer player profiles with the star of Stars, Mike Modano
Not surprisingly, this year's entry is going to read a lot like last year's entry. The key to getting the most out of Mike Modano is controlling his mental energy level and finding ways to tweak his motivation level. I know a lot of you don't like to hear that, but it's really been the case throughout his career. And, as I said last year, that's just a part of who he is.
You can get frustrated with it and say he should be able to motivate himself, but as I said last summer, I just think that's not his strength. Some people are physically stronger than others. Some people are mentally stronger than others. Modano is a wonderful athlete who simply needs someone to help him keep him focus.
As a reminder of the athlete part of Modano, just look at last week's Lake Tahoe Celebrity Golf Tournament. Modano finished seventh overall (Brett Hull tied for 11th, by the way). Even at 39, Modano stuns trainers and teammates with his skill and the fact he has not broken down as much as other athlete's have at his age. He has missed just two games the past two seasons, and the bottom line is he is a guy who can pretty much get you 50 points as a third line center.
There aren't a whole lot of third line centers out there who can do that.
But as much as Modano still is the face of the franchise and can help sell tickets, he can't be the driving force of the franchise. So if you are going to ask him to play on a checking line, you can't also demand that he be one of the better offensive players.
But I think new coach Marc Crawford is walking into a good situation with Modano. My guess is this is the final year for him, so there is that motivating factor. I believe he will be a part of Team USA at the Olympics in February (he is a favorite of coach Ron Wilson), so you have that motivation. And, I believe Modano is one of the players who really feeds off of the energy provided by captain Brenden Morrow, so the healthy return of Morrow should have a positive effect on Modano.
So what should our expectations be? A lot will depend on how the chemistry falls. If Modano plays with kids like James Neal and Fabian Brunnstrom, I think we'll see him play with jump and excitement. If he plays on a line with Steve Ott and someone like Ray Sawada, he will be more reserved.
I think what the Stars would like to see from Modano is a season like Neal Broten had in his first year in Dallas (1993-94). Broten was younger at the time (34), but he was an offensive star who had been pushed down the lineup by Modano and Dave Gagner. Broten played 79 games, had 17 goals and 35 assists, and provided a nice steadying force for a team that was still in development.
My guess is Modano will see his power play time decrease this season. He still can work the half wall pretty well and is always a candidate to play the point, but the No. 1 unit will probably feature Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow at its core, and probably needs Jere Lehtinen to hunt the puck. That would leave Brad Richards at the point running the show and either Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley or Matt Niskanen at the other point. Modano would probably be used on the second unit, depending on what the vision is for Crawford and how the power play will attack the net.
Remember, with that first unit, you're still leaving Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Steve Ott and Fabian Brunnstrom out of the picture, and those players need to slip in there somewhere. If Eriksson supplants Lehtinen on the first unit, then maybe Modano and Lehtinen could try to strike some old chemistry on the second unit. Either that, or Modano will play the point on the second unit.
Personally, I prefer to see him on the half wall, but he has to be out there with some guys who will go to the net (Ott, Lehtinen or Neal?)
The bottom line is Modano needs to play fewer minutes, and his energy needs to be monitored closely. If he indeed plays in the Olympics, he will probably need a break afterward. As I have said before, I think just scratching him for a few games here and there would help. If the injury situation is like last season, that won't be possible, but I can't stress enough that they need to be able to keep Modano hungry throughout a long season.
So what's your take on Modano and what he can add to the team next season? While many will say he needs to be pushed, Ken Hitchcock used to subtly ``pull'' him into competitive situations. That may be something Marc Crawford will be able to do, as well.