Modano goes home
But may find weight of Hockeytown heavy
MICHAEL RUSHTON, Sports Network
|Mike Modano may find it hard to live up to expectations with the Red Wings. (REUTERS/Andy King)
PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps Mike Modano is finishing his career where he always intended.
It is certainly going to be odd for any long-time hockey fan to see Modano skate during an NHL season with nothing other than the symbolic star on his chest, first that of the Minnesota variety and later representing Dallas. But when the Stars decided this past offseason to part ways with Modano for the first time since the franchise drafted him first overall in 1988, there seemed to be only one destination in the cards for the centre.
Modano was going home. Everybody knew it.
"I thought I was emotionally and mentally finished with the game after last year," said Modano at a press conference on Friday. "I think the last little while in Dallas has taken a toll on him in those aspects. But coming here to visit these guys and talking with them certainly does get you excited about the opportunity that is here."
The Michigan-born skater seems ready to bring his Hall of Fame worthy career to Detroit where it all began, but might not find Detroit so tranquil amid the pressure of bringing home another title.
Make no mistake, the Red Wings aren't bringing in Modano, who was born approximately 13 miles from downtown Detroit in nearby Livonia, with the thinking he will return to his 30-goal days. That time has passed as Modano has scored more than 22 goals just once in his last six seasons.
Instead, Detroit is offering the 40-year-old a comfortable place to conclude a career that is entering its 21st season, one that has seen the veteran post 557 goals and 1,359 goals, both most among U.S.-born skaters in NHL history. His 145 playoff posts also lead all American-born players.
Goals for the Red Wings will come off the stick of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom. Modano will only be counted on to lend veteran leadership to a third line that is expected to feature Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler on the wings.
"The game looks easy when you watch these guys and you play against them," said Modano. "It just looks real simple and effortless and you don't waste a lot of energy. At 40, I don't really want to waste a lot of energy."
While Modano certainly sounds like a guy who realizes his best days are behind him, Detroit must get something from him offensively. The club is coming off a 2009-10 season that saw it go from tops in the NHL the previous year with 289 goals to 14th last season with 223 tallies. That drop was attributed to the free agent losses of Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, Mikael Samuelsson and Hudler, who returns after a one-year stint in the KHL, as well as injuries to Valtteri Filppula and Franzen among others.
But other than bringing back Hudler, the Red Wings haven't added any scorer other than Modano, so to say they aren't expecting much out of the seven-time All-Star would be facetious.
Should Modano fail to contribute on offence, especially if the injury bug hits Motown again, he runs the risk of ending his career not with a bang, or better yet a title, but amongst a collective sigh of what used to be; just another veteran who stuck around one year too long.
"A lot of high expectations so I think that will drive us and really give me some excitement leading into camp to get ready for the season and hopefully live up to the hype and play a little more youthful than a 40 year old," said Modano.
This type of move has worked for Detroit before, as recent as eight seasons ago when the Red Wings added a 37-year-old Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, 36, to a club that won it all in 2002. Both Hull and Robitaille scored 30 goals that regular season, while Hull finished fourth on the team with 18 playoff points.
A 30-goal season for Modano would exceed even the most wild expectations, but a punchless campaign out of the seasoned skater would sour his homecoming really quick.