After the most successful regular season in franchise history, the Dallas Stars entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed and a Stanley Cup contender when they met the Colorado Avalanche in a Western Conference quarterfinal matchup.
Five games later, the Stars were left wondering what went wrong.
The memory of that bitter playoff exit is still fresh as Dallas opens its season Wednesday against Colorado at the Pepsi Center.
Dallas won three of four from Colorado during the regular season en route to a franchise-record 53 wins. But Mike Modano said last year's playoff disappointment was tough to take.
"I'd forget everything we accomplished in the regular season and trade it for winning in the playoffs," the future Hall of Famer said after the series. "People remember how you finished."
Modano, the Stars' all-time scoring leader with 485 goals and 1,183 points, has a pair of milestones within reach entering his 17th season. He needs 18 goals to surpass Joe Mullen and 50 points to top Phil Housley as the all-time leading American scorer in both categories.
Since his rookie year in 2000-01, goaltender Marty Turco is fifth in regular-season wins with 137 and also is coming off his finest season when he was 41-19-5, during which he was rewarded with a four-year, $22.8 million extension.
But he faltered again in the playoffs, losing to Colorado in five games for the second straight season.
"This wasn't the plan. We weren't ready for (elimination)," Turco said after the loss. In 22 career playoff games, Turco is 8-14 despite a respectable 2.54 goals-against average.
Dallas suffered a key loss when leading goal scorer Jason Arnott signed as a free agent with Nashville. He was replaced with oft-injured Eric Lindros, limited to 33 games in his only season with Toronto by a wrist injury.
A former No. 1 overall pick, Lindros has averaged 59 games in 12 seasons and missed all of 2000-01 with a concussion - one of at least eight in his career. But Lindros says playing with the Stars is ideal as long as he remains healthy.
"It's a great situation," said Lindros, the 1995 Hart Trophy winner. "I want to get through a full year. I know if I get on a roll and my health is out of the equation, I know I can play and contribute."
The Stars on Sunday also added depth by acquiring center Mike Ribeiro from Montreal for defenseman Janne Niinimaa. Ribeiro, a Montreal native, was fourth on the Canadiens with 51 points a year ago.
Like Modano in Dallas, Colorado also has its face of the franchise returning as Joe Sakic starts his 18th season needing 11 points to become the 11th player in NHL history with 1,500 for his career.
Aside from that, Colorado is a team in transition starting at the top. In May, Francois Giguere took over for longtime general manager Pierre Lacroix.
Throughout his tenure after the team moved from Quebec in 1995, Lacroix was known for making major trades that brought players like Patrick Roy to Denver. One month after taking over, Giguere - a former assistant GM with the Stars - made his first major deal, acquiring offensive defenseman Jordan Leopold from Calgary for forward Alex Tanguay.
The Avs, though, will need to wait for Leopold to make his debut. He underwent hernia surgery in August and is expected to miss up to three months.
Leopold was expected to step in for Rob Blake after he returned to Los Angeles, where he spent his first 12 years and won his only Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman in 1998.
One of Lacroix's final deals in March brought former Hart and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Jose Theodore from Montreal. A heel injury limited Theodore to just five regular-season games with the Avs, during which he struggled to a 1-3-1 record with a 3.04 GAA and .887 save percentage.
In the series against Dallas, though, Theodore recorded a 2.64 GAA and .910 save percentage before losing four straight starts to Anaheim in the second round - the first sweep suffered by Colorado in 26 playoff series since the franchise moved.