By Brandon Worley, Defending Big D
At first, it seemed as if this exercise would be an easy one. The Dallas Stars only have so many great players that have hailed from separate countries from around the globe and those players appeared to be fairly obvious. Then we opened up debate as to whether North Stars players should be included, and all hell broke loose.
For us, it came down to which players enjoyed the most success while with the Stars rather than the players that had the best careers no matter how long they spent in Minnesota or Dallas. Joe Nieuwendyk, for example, was a major part of the 1999 Stanley Cup team, yet enjoyed the bulk of the success during his career elsewhere.
This project also shed light on just how bare the cupboard has been for the Stars the last half-decade, with only a few truly great players having passed through Dallas in that span. It was also made clear, once again, just how incredible those teams from the late 1990's truly were and just how high this franchise will need to reach in order to bust out from the weight and expectations of the past.
At first it seemed that Brenden Morrow or Nieuwendyk were the clear favorites here, until we remembered just how incredible Dino Ciccarelli during his nine seasons with the Minnesota North Stars. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Ciccarelli exploded for 55 goals and 106 points in his first full season in the NHL and remained a dynamic offensive threat for Minnesota until his trade in 1989. He hit the 50-goal mark just once more, yet was a proven and prolific producer in the postseason -- which includes 21 points in 19 playoff games his rookie season. Dino never played for the Stars in Dallas, yet his impact on the franchise cannot be overlooked when determining the best Canadian players to ever play for the Stars.
Just like Modano, this was a no-brainer pick. Jere Lehtinen was everything you could possibly want in a hockey player and the only player on this list to spend his entire career with Dallas. Never the most prolific scorer, Lehtinen made his presence known everywhere else on the ice -- and embodied the exactly style of hockey that the Stars were known for over the years. Hard working and the best defensive forward to ever step on the ice for the franchise, Lehtinen remains one of the most popular players to ever suit up for the Stars. Like Zubov, Stars fans truly didn't realize what was missing once Lehtinen was forced to retire and it's still tough to think about a Dallas Stars team without him on the ice.
This one is about as easy as it gets. The highest-scoring American player in NHL history and the catalyst for popularizing the sport in North Texas. For those in Dallas, Mike Modano is the embodiment of the sport itself and for many the only reason they became interested in the first place. His speed and grace on the ice combined with an incredibly wicked shot turned Modano into one of the more easily recognizable and popular players in the league and he alone can be attributed to fans from all over the globe become Dallas Stars devotees.
What endeared Modano to the fans the most, perhaps above all else, is how is molded his game to become of the best two-way centers in the game while still holding onto the top offensive skill that landed him at the top of the draft. Mike Modano stands atop the hockey mountain for the Stars, and there will never be another that reaches his level of impact and popularity with this fanbase.
It's a shame that Eriksson's time with Dallas didn't come during a more successful period for the team. One of the classiest players and nicest guys you'll ever meet off the ice, Eriksson was an dynamic offensive weapon for the Stars while also providing some of the more best two-way play in the NHL. There's a reason he was long considered the most-underrated player in the NHL and if he had played on more high-profile teams there's no doubt he would have been considered for the Selke more than he was. One of only four player in the NHL to have more than 70 points in each season from 2009 to 2012, Eriksson's presence will be sorely missed in Dallas. It's tough to think of the Stars without him, especially as we appear headed to an upswing in the overall quality of hockey in Dallas.
Cast aside by the New York Rangers and then the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Stars picked up Sergei Zubov in the summer of 1996 for the low price of Kevin Hatcher and never looked back. Zubov became the staple of the Dallas Stars defense, a graceful and elegant compliment to the brutality of Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk. Zubov was catalyst for any success of the Dallas Stars throughout the 2000's and there's no coincidence that his departure in 2009 began a steady decline in the overall defense of the Stars franchise.
Like Modano, there will never be another player like Zubov -- a smooth skating and reserved defenseman capable of absurd plays with the puck. His skill with the puck is grossly underrated around the NHL and some feel that even Dallas Stars fans didn't appreciate what he brought to the team until he was gone.
Nagy wins this title by default. In Perhaps the worst trade in Stars history, Nagy was acquired for Mathias Tjarnqvist and a first-round pick at the trade deadline in 2007 and promptly fell flat on his face in Dallas. After disappearing the playoffs, the Stars decided to not re-sign Nagy (smart) and just bite the bullet of a needed first rounder being lost for absolutely no reason.
Not many Czech players have appeared for the Stars over the years, and certainly none were as good or had the impact as Jaromir Jagr. While his time in Dallas was brief his impact was immediately felt, a hockey legend coming to the Stars at a time when the franchise needed such a boost the most. He was the best player on the ice most nights for Dallas and certainly the hardest-working; his off-ice routine and famous training schedule was also a great example of the multitude of young players on the ice.
Latvia: Karlis Skrastins
Skrastins spent just two seasons with the Stars but his impact was undeniable. One of the most genuine hockey players you could ever hope to meet, he was a favorite among fans and highly respected by those that had the privilege of playing with him. He wasn't the flashiest or most skilled defenseman to ever come through Dallas, or the NHL, but he was certainly one of the toughest and hardest-working and that came through with his connection to teammates and fans.
Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Sidney Crosby bypasses line at DMV, because he can
• Gordie Howe at top of Red Wings' career list
• Blue Jackets' Rick Nash rises to the top
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Dallas Stars
- North Stars