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Dallas isn't looking for new face to replace Modano

by Mike G. Morreale
DALLAS -- While the return of Mike Modano in a Detroit Red Wings jersey certainly provided local writers and historians an opportunity to reflect on the past, the other question being asked is, "Who is the future face of the Dallas Stars?"
Many feel that's a role best suited for current captain Brenden Morrow. Morrow, however, begs to differ.
"I don't know if I'm really that guy to step in and take that role," Morrow told reporters following his team's morning skate at American Airlines Center on Thursday in preparation for their showdown against the Red Wings (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
"Right now, we're pushing team first," he said. "We like to have a group of guys fill in and have that face. No one guy is expected to take on that role. Also, there's no guy in this room as good looking as Mike Modano, so there's no other face of the franchise."
The "good looking" line certainly got a hearty laugh from the media contingent on hand, but really, Morrow is steadfast in that approach as he enters his fifth season as captain.
"We're moving forward with a fresh start and young faces, but losing those veteran guys who had a lot to do with the core of the locker room in the past is a big switch," Morrow said. "If you put too much pressure on yourself, it could be huge, but I have a lot of help in here. Some new guys are champing at the bit to be part of that leadership group. We also got Brad Richards, who has a ton of experience and is a Conn Smythe Trophy winner. I think if I worry about taking it all on by myself, I'd be pulling my hair out."
Morrow, now in his 11th NHL season, is skating for the first time without the assistance of Modano, the face of the North Stars/Stars franchise for 20 seasons. While it has been a little strange, Morrow also realizes the responsibility that comes with being captain. It's a role he doesn't take for granted despite the fact he considers himself just one of the guys.
"We can't have the attitude that making the playoffs is just going to happen … we have to work and hope it pays off," Morrow said. "We know we need to work. We can't expect the law of averages after two years of not making the playoffs to kick in … that we're bound to get there this year. We need to put the work in and what's exciting is this team is willing to do that."
In addition to losing Modano to Detroit via free agency, the Stars also saw the departure of goalie Marty Turco (to Chicago in free agency) and Jere Lehtinen (possible retirement).
"Brenden has been terrific since Day 1 in training camp, and I think it's all a credit to him," Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk told The Dallas Morning News. "He understands that with those guys going out he has a bigger responsibility of making sure that this becomes more of a team. I give him a lot of credit. He's taking this by the horns, and his play indicates it. He's playing with passion, he's playing with energy, all of the things you love about him."
While Morrow admits it was an uncomfortable situation replacing Modano as captain prior to the 2006-07 season, he was grateful in the way the veteran center dealt with the situation.
"He was the first one to congratulate me," Morrow said. "We were close all summer long, we trained together and had breakfasts, golfed. We were really close friends. I know it was not the way he wanted it to go down and it certainly wasn't the way I wanted it to go down, but he was the first one to congratulate me. He handled it with a lot of class, and even though it was an awkward transition, Mike was a class act all the way."
Basically, the Stars asked Modano to step down from his position as captain in order to pass that responsibility to a younger member of the team -- Morrow, 27 at the time, fit that bill.
"The transition was great," Stars alternate captain Stephane Robidas told "Brenden fits the personality for this team and what we're looking for. He really leads by example. If he says something, he'll say it, and when he talks people listen, and that's a great quality to have as captain."

Stars forward Fabian Brunnstrom is inspired watching Morrow on the ice. In addition to finishing fifth on the team in scoring with 46 points last season, Morrow ranked third in hits (230) and was tied for first among Dallas forwards in blocked shots (48).
"He's quiet but knows when to say something; I have a lot of respect for him," Brunnstrom said. "Just by the way he plays, you can see the fire in his eyes. I like when he's mean and mad. He's crazy out there, and when he's like that, it pumps everyone else up. When I see him play like that, that helps me, too."

"Right now, we're pushing team first. We like to have a group of guys fill in and have that face. No one guy is expected to take on that role. Also, there's no guy in this room as good looking as Mike Modano, so there's no other face of the franchise."
-- Brenden Morrow

Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who coached Morrow for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, has a great appreciation for the 31-year-old left wing.
"When I watch him, he's skating better than he ever has," Babcock said. "He's recovered from his injury (a torn knee ligament that limited him to 18 games in 2008-09), which usually takes a year anyway. He's a good skater and has those intangibles. He knows how to play and was a huge part of our success for Canada. He got things started up for (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry -- he really got them going. He did whatever we needed him to do, even if it meant sacrificing some offense. He's a fantastic pro."
Morrow, who leads the team with 3 goals through two victories to open the season, recovered from the knee injury to post 20 goals and 46 points in 76 games last season and appears raring to go in 2010-11.
"It's always been a collective bunch of players to lead but Morrow and a lot of those young guys like (James) Neal, (Loui) Eriksson and (Jaime) Benn are players you can sell the game around," Modano said.
"I think we have a right mix of vets and younger guys," Robidas said. "Everybody is learning together and we're trying to get better as a team. Our whole concept of this group is team. There's no one guy bigger than the other -- that's the mentality we have and need to be successful."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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