Mount Puckmore: The four faces of the Dallas Stars

(Ed. Note: Welcome to Puck Daddy's August series, "Mount Puckmore" which will feature fans, bloggers and various media personalities of all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. These four people are who you remember most when you think of these teams -- whether they be players, coaches or executives. We'll be running these daily for the rest of the month. Today, representing the Dallas Stars, it's Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News and Dallas Stars Blog.)

By Mike Heika

As much as the Stars are not in the NHL spotlight right now, they do have a strong history in their time in Dallas. Since 1996, their .619 points percentage (583-329-154) is third best in the NHL (behind Detroit and New Jersey). They have seven division championships, four appearances in the Western Conference finals and the 1999 Stanley Cup.

So there are some pretty good choices for the Mt. Puckmore of Dallas.

We'll start with an apology to Neal Broten. He played in Dallas, scored the first goal in Dallas Stars history, and his association with the Miracle on Ice helped build the sport in Texas. But, the instructions were to pick the top four for the Dallas Stars, so Broten just didn't fit.

So, with that in mind, here are the four faces that define this franchise (at least as far as one guy says).

Mike Modano(notes), C

A slam dunk, no matter that he will play in Detroit this season. Modano holds pretty much every offensive record in franchise history, and pretty much sold the state on hockey. Maybe somebody would have eventually come to Texas and spread the good word of the sport, but it's difficult to imagine anyone doing it better than Modano.

He's exciting to watch, affable, handsome and accessible. What's more, he was smart enough to adjust his game to the desires of Bob Gainey and Ken Hitchcock, and that allowed those two to forge the record, the division championships _ and eventually the Stanley Cup.

Modano's decision to play defense meant that every player on the team had to play defense, and that was key to the team coming together.

Modano played 1,142 of his 1,459 games wearing the sweater of the Dallas Stars, and that in itself makes him the face of the franchise. The fact he did it with the style he did makes him an icon and a one-man Mt. Puckmore if that was possible.

It also make his departure all the more painful.

Bob Gainey, Coach/GM

Like Modano, he brought plenty of success from his time in Minnesota, and expanded upon that in Dallas. He also helped sell the game (and teach the game) in his own special way. Gainey was a product of the Montreal system, and he built the Stars in his image: as a defensively-responsible, tough-to-play-against, do-it-the-right-way organization.

Gainey swung what can only be called tremendous steals in trading for Sergei Zubov(notes) (for Kevin Hatcher), Darryl Sydor(notes) (for Shane Churla and Doug Zmolek), Guy Carbonneau (for Paul Broten), and Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland (for Todd Harvey and Bob Errey). He also had the guts to trade a very young Jarome Iginla(notes) for Joe Nieuwendyk.

But just as important, Gainey had the strength to stand up to a very veteran team and demand that they toe the line for Ken Hitchcock. While he left in 2002, the truth is, Gainey's vision defined the organization for the first 15 years it was in Dallas.

Sergei Zubov, D

It is only in his absence that the Stars see just how lucky they were to have Sergei Zubov for 12 seasons. All he did was quietly log 25 minutes a game for 839 games and toss in some dynamic playoff performances in 114 post-season contests. He made everyone around him a better player, and he made the Stars' stifling defensive system bearable for players like Mike Modano and Brett Hull.

Zubov was so valued, so intelligent and so good that he was the only person former defensive assistant Rick Wilson trusted to freelance. He led a power play that was ranked top eight in the league five times in a six-year span and he was plus-107 in his career with the Stars.

His trade from Pittsburgh for Kevin Hatcher in 1996 might be one of the most lopsided in NHL history.

Jere Lehtinen(notes), RW

This was probably the toughest choice. You could have put Broten in here, or Derian Hatcher(notes) or Ken Hitchcock or even Ed Belfour. But Lehtinen has been so quietly consistent for his entire career that he deserves a spot.

Lehtinen has played 875 games in 14 injury-plagued seasons. In that span, he was won three Selke Trophies as best defensive forward in the league and also has led the Stars in goal-scoring on three different occasions. He is plus-176 for his career.

Lehtinen has worn down over the years and has played 48, 48 and 58 games in his last three seasons. He is contemplating retirement, and at this stage, I think he will probably hang up the skates. But he also helped define an organization's defensive play for more than a decade, and he established a work ethic in the training room that rubbed off on his teammates.

He's not a sexy pick, but he has earned his spot on the rock.

Regrets ...

Derian Hatcher: This is the one guy I would have really liked to get in. Hatcher has his critics, and even many Stars fans didn't always appreciate his slow-footed style of play, but I loved the big guy. He led on the ice, he led in the locker room and he followed nicely in the footsteps of Mark Tinordi. Many Stars insiders believe that the team took a huge step forward when Hatcher's hit broke Jeremy Roenick's(notes) jaw in 1999 as an answer to a skirmish the Stars and Coyotes had in a previous game. It sent a message not only to the league, but to his teammates, that it was time to get serious. His 2002-03 season (when he was a second team All-Star and Norris finalist) showed just how complete a player he could be.

Ken Hitchcock: As much as anyone, Hitchcock was aggressive in spreading the word of hockey in Texas. He loved the fans, he drew in the media, and he simply made the game fun. He's a great coach, but he's an even better salesman.

Ed Belfour: He played just five seasons for the Stars, but he is second all-time in franchise history in career regular season victories (160-95-44) and he holds pretty much every playoff goaltending record for the franchise, going 44-29 in the post-season. It's not only that he could have realistically been the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in both 1999 and 2000, it's that he went head-to-head with Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy (twice) and Dominik Hasek(notes), and was the better goalie. That was some high drama.

Neal Broten: He sort of falls between the cracks, but Broten meant a lot more to Minnesota than he did Dallas. Still, he was a very popular player in the first two seasons, and the trade that sent him to New Jersey in 1995 (where he won a Stanley Cup) was maybe the first time Stars fans started to really get serious about hockey talk.

Main Mt. Puckmore photo created by B.D. Gallof of Hockey Independent

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