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Modano moves on for the right reasons

by Dan Rosen
The Original Six factor, playing in his home city, for a Cup contender, for over a million bucks and for a coach and GM that he respects were all part of Mike Modano's ultimate decision to sign a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

The fit, though, was first and foremost on his mind. If the Red Wings were a grind-it-out, defensive team, Modano would have been holding a retirement press conference instead of an introductory press conference. It would not have been in Detroit.

Detroit's philosophy of skill over size and speed over power is why a 40-year-old Modano is a Red Wing today. The rest is just a bonus.

"That was probably the biggest (reason), and that was Mike (Babcock) and Ken (Holland) sold the deal on," Modano said. "They said, 'You're coming to a veteran-type team, an older group with a lot of established players, but there is not a lot of grunt work that needs to be done," Modano told in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "Every time we played these guys it seems like their game was so easy. It was up and down. They simplify the game and it looks effortless. They don't waste a lot of energy and the last few years I felt there was a lot of wasted energy and not getting much accomplished."

Modano, who had 30 points in 59 games last season, his 20th in the Dallas Stars' organization, views himself as "just another puzzle piece" in Detroit. He was trying to be that in Dallas over the past couple seasons, but the team was in too much flux for him to flourish in that role.

Since the end of the 2008-09 season, the Stars have changed general managers and coaches, and now their ownership situation is up in the air. By injecting younger players like James Neal, Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn into the lineup, a veteran like Modano was pushed out.

It didn't help Modano's psyche that he has had to watch the playoffs from the sidelines since 2008. Dallas has finished 12th in the Western Conference in back-to-back seasons.

"Mentally and emotionally I was drained," said Modano, who had 46 points in 80 games two seasons ago. "I didn't have any purpose to play anymore, nothing to strive after or obtain in my career for it to be complete, but ultimately I didn't want to leave on the note I had the last two years. It's been draining and you want to have fun and go out enjoying the game."

He talked about rejuvenation Friday.

Modano is excited to start camp as the Wings' third line center between Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler. He knows Hudler as being a shifty, sharp skating playmaker and Cleary as being a straight up and down player who is strong on the puck and down low.

"I have always felt comfortable with players like that," Modano said. "Everybody seems interchangeable, but that's how it's slotted now and it's exciting. Hopefully we get off to a good start and we'll see where it goes."

Babcock probably won't have enough of a sample to know if Modano, Cleary and Hudler are off to a good start by the time the Red Wings visit Dallas for the first time. Modano will be wearing a Wings' sweater for the Stars' home opener on Oct. 14.

"It's kind of ironic that that has to happen so quickly, the first game back is Dallas' home opener," Modano said.

Ironic, yes, but Modano is pleased that he doesn't have to spend too much time thinking about it.

"I'm glad it's over early to get it out of the way and move on, so it's not something you circle your calendar and wait for a month or two for that moment to come," he said. "You get to move on real quick and I'm happy with that."

He's hopeful for a positive reaction, though the Stars' faithful already gave him a hero's sendoff in his final home game at America Airlines Arena last season when he gave them a virtuoso performance in a 3-2 shootout victory over Anaheim on April 8.

Modano scored the tying goal with 1:47 remaining in regulation, added an assist and then scored the shootout winner. Before all of that he was feted with a standing ovation that delayed the game several minutes. Players on both benches stood up and applauded as well.

Modano cried. He might again Oct. 14.

"I think if it was my decision to leave rather than play there … because I was shown the door it might have an impact on the reception I get," Modano said. "The fans have always been good to me there and really supportive over the years.

"That's been the toughest part," he added. "You make sacrifices to be with one team and do whatever it takes to help it be successful. At this time things have changed, the direction changed, and I needed to go elsewhere to do that."

He chose a new home, which just happens to be minutes away from his old home, for the right reason.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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