It was another shorter than desired postseason in Dallas, but at least this time the Stars hung around long enough to get a few things accomplished. The Stars advanced to the Western Conference Finals, and in doing so, they not only left their past playoff frustration behind them, they also got a clear vision of the future.
After a first-round victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks, the Stars took care of San Jose, then rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to push the Red Wings to six games before succumbing.
Winning a playoff series was enough to have the interim tag removed for co-general managers Brett Hull
and Les Jackson. When Hull and Jackson took over for Doug Armstrong in November, the unorthodox move had the feel of desperation. But after orchestrating the Stars’ unlikely playoff run, the duo will continue to tag-team the club’s GM responsibilities through the 2010-11 season.
"It was obviously a bit of an experiment," owner Tom Hicks told the Dallas Morning News
. "I think we may have stumbled into an outstanding combination. They fit so well. Each has different skill sets."
No one has ever questioned Dave Tippett
’s skill set. The Dallas coach has posted a 235-127-48 regular season record while taking the Stars to five straight postseason appearances. For whatever reason, however, the Stars had been unable to find postseason success under Tippett. All that changed in 2008, and because it did, there won't be a change behind the bench.
With the Stars settled upstairs and behind the bench, the next changes will be on the ice. For once, however, there won’t be any concerns about goaltending — not after Marty Turco
’s masterful playoff performance removed a longstanding monkey from his back.
Prior to these playoffs, Turco carried a disappointing lifetime postseason record of 11-18, with a 2.21 goals-against average and a pedestrian .909 save percentage. Instead of collapsing under the glare of the postseason, however, Turco was the surprising winner goaltending duels with Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere
and San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov
in the first two rounds. Turco finished the 2008 postseason with a 10-8 record, 2.08 goals against average and .922 save percentage.
The Stars again were tough defensively during the regular season, finishing sixth in the NHL by allowing just 2.49 goals per game. Dallas picked things up offensively, finishing ninth by scoring 2.89 goals per game, up from 2.65 during 2006-07.
The deadline day deal for Brad Richards
effectively gave Dallas a head start on upgrading its offense. So did the signing of 23-year-old free agent forward Fabian Brunnstrom
to a two-year entry-level contract in May. Brunnstrom, who had been wooed by several teams, including Anaheim, Montreal, Detroit and Toronto, paced Farjestads of Swedish Elite League with 28 assists in 54 games last season. He also had nine goals and 37 points.
Defenseman Trevor Daley
has already signed a new three-year contract, and the Stars are awaiting a decision from Mike Modano
regarding his future with the team.
Modano, 38, has two years remaining on his contract but is undecided on his future. Modano says he contemplated retirement at times during the 2007-08 season, but felt rejuvenated during the playoffs. Whether that rebirth compels him to return for another season is something Modano says he won’t know until he begins his off-season workouts.
“It’s a year-at-a-time thing right now,’’ Modano said. “It’s been that way for a while. When I signed my five-year deal, I thought I’d finish my five years out and then really take a look at where I’m at.
“Once the fun’s gone and once the repetitive part of coming in every day to get that level up of competing, being motivated, gets old, that will have a lot to do with it. But this is a good bunch of guys, I’m having fun, I feel good health-wise. I feel that the game’s not passing me by, so I’ll hang around.”
While Modano contemplates his future, the Stars will need to make decisions on several unrestricted free agents, including Stu Barnes
, Niklas Hagman
and Antti Miettinen
. Veteran defenseman Mattias Norstrom
The status of Modano and the unrestricted free agents notwithstanding, the Stars enter the offseason feeling better about themselves and their future than they have in some time.