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Teammates Endorse Modano's Return

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

Mike Modano has estimated his odds of returning for a 21st season with the Stars at "80-20''.

But the all-time leading U.S.-born scorer in NHL history wants to take some time off before submitting his final answer. A few weeks on a tropical beach with wife Willa Ford might recharge batteries that he admits were worn down by the close of a most trying season for Modano and for the Stars.

If he consults his teammates, he'll find overwhelming support for No. 9's return to the ice in 2009-2010.

"I don't think he's retiring,'' defenseman Trevor Daley says. "What's he got to retire for? He still looks good, can still fly, doesn't have any kids, so there's no point in retiring.''

Adds goaltender Marty Turco: "We'd relish the opportunity to have him come back. As well as he played and looked this year, we could use him. To have No. 9 on your side is a good thing.''

Last season ended in highly unsatisfactory fashion for Modano on both a team and a personal level,

The Stars missed the playoffs for the second time in the last 12 years, a forgettable  season ruined by almost 400 player-games lost to injuries.

Modano also had his ups and downs.

While younger teammates were crowding the trainer's room, the 38-year-old Modano played in 80 of 82 games. He finished with 15 goals and 31 assists, but he was a team-worst minus-13.

Expectations were elevated when Modano produced 11 goals in his first 25 games. But he faded down the stretch, managing one goal in his final 35 games and two assists in the last 11.

All the injuries forced coach Dave Tippett to do plenty of line juggling, and the unsettled nature of the team wore on Modano.

The original plan was for Modano to center the third line, with Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro serving as the pivot for the first two units.

But Richards' season-ending injury pushed Modano up a notch in the pecking order, and that was a lot to ask for a 38-year-old player, even one who's in Modano's shape.

This wouldn't be the proper way for the franchise's most honored player to hang up the skates.

"He brings leadership and his skill level is still up to top-notch as well,'' Stars forward Steve Ott says. "He'll use the next five months or so to recharge his batteries, retool and I'm sure we'll see him back ready to rock.''

Says defenseman Stephane Robidas: "He knows how his body's feeling, so it's up to him. But we want him back. A guy like that, he's the face of the franchise. I think he'll be back. He's got a year left on his contract so I don't know why he'd retire.''

Co-general manager Brett Hull is anticipating Modano's return. After Modano takes some time off, Hull and co-general manager Les Jackson will meet with the player to assess the future. Does Modano want to put himself through another season?

"Les and I will sit down with him in the next few weeks and give our feelings on how things went and get an idea of how he feels things went,'' Hull says. "Mike Modano is the Dallas Stars. Les and I say it all the time: he's our boss. He's been a part of this team for so long and is the face of the franchise. We want to do what's best for him and he wants what's best for us.''

Does Hull want him back?

"Always. He's too good a player not to want back,'' Hull says. "On his deathbed he'll be able to skate better than I did at the end or in my prime. He's still a very capable player with his ability to skate and his vision and intelligence on the ice.''

Hull says Modano contributes in ways that can't be calculated by statistics.

"In today's game, you have to have hockey sense, no matter how good you can shoot and skate,'' Hull says. "To have that ability at 38, 39, to have the ability to skate like he does plus have the intelligence he has, he can play as long as he wants. The thing is how long do you want to play, does he have the desire? He's got a new wife and maybe wants to start a family. It's all his idea of where he wants to take his life. That's where we're at right now.''

Captain Brenden Morrow says the idea of moving forward without Modano for at least one more season would be unthinkable.

"There's still gas left in the tank,'' Morrow says. "Hopefully he'll be a big part of our team next year. I think he can still compete.''

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