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Looking Back at 2007

Thursday, 01.03.2008 / 5:43 PM / Feature
By J. Douglas Foster
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Looking Back at 2007

Forward thinking. It’s a desirable quality among government officials, corporate leaders and coaches in any sport.

But for just a moment, we’re going to pass on the desire to predict the future, and instead, dwell briefly on the past.

The not so distant past. More specifically, the 2007 calendar year as it pertains to our Dallas Stars.

After all, isn’t that what you do around the new year? Other than getting drunk to the point of regurgitation, eating black-eyed peas and watching more football than anyone can stomach, what else is there to do but reflect on the year that was?

And in the world of Dallas Stars hockey, it was a year worth remembering.

While it wasn’t first on the calendar, the most notable moments of 2007 revolved around the player long regarded as Dallas’ brightest star. Yes, this was the year the rest of the NHL actually had a chance to sit back and reflect on what Dallas fans have known for some time – that Mike Modano truly is, and has been for years, a very special hockey player.

They took note this year because Modano reached two milestones, passing Joe Mullen for the most goals ever by a U.S. born player, and following that by surpassing Phil Housley in the points department for those born on U.S. soil. Proof of the level of respect Modano has earned league wide, both Mullen and Housley were present at a ceremony in Dallas honoring Modano – a ceremony that itself matched the dazzle and substance of Modano’s stellar career.

Those who put on that show should be proud. Those associated with Modano should be even more so for having been witness to each moment of his days with this organization. Let’s just hope all his friends and biggest fans can be there the day his No. 9 is lifted to the rafters at American Airlines Center.

While that was the biggest of highlights of 2007, it certainly wasn’t the only one.

Marty Turco, already carving his name into the Stars’ record books in several places, added the franchise shutouts record and the wins record to his resume during this calendar year.

But more importantly, he proved those doubting his playoff mettle wrong. Sure, they’ll argue that he and the Stars still lost in the first round of the 2007 postseason, falling to Vancouver in seven games.

But they can’t say Turco can’t stand up to playoff pressure any longer.

Just look back at those seven games. All three Dallas wins – that’s right, all three – came via Turco shutouts, making him just the second goaltender in NHL history to win three games in one series by shutout and still lose the series. Good news Marty – the other was Turk Broda, who went on to win two Vezina Trophies and five Stanley Cups before his career was done.

Now, if the Stars can just add a few more goals to an equally impressive playoff performance by Turco, we could be looking at multiple playoff rounds for this Dallas squad.

The 2007 calendar year also proved to be the one where Stars fans found a new offensive weapon, one who combines silky smooth hands, elusive skating ability and an unwavering confidence with a calm, cool on-ice persona in center Mike Ribeiro. He doesn’t possess the blistering speed or rifle-like slapshot of the team’s other center named Mike, but he’s certainly proved to be a riddle for just about any team trying to devise a game plan to stop him since his move to Dallas.

His pairing with Stars captain Brenden Morrow certainly hasn’t hurt, as odd a matchup as that might seem. Ribeiro, the shifty, sneaky one who somehow quietly finds his way through traffic to the front of the net, often meets up there with Morrow – who is anything but shifty and sneaky as he muscles his way there. Two different paths, one great result so far for the Stars.

And let’s not forget the last three months of 2007, where Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov – finally – started having his name mentioned in newspapers outside of Dallas as being “Norris Trophy worthy.” 

One has to wonder what they’ve all been watching the last 10 years. Ask any player whose faced Zubov, and they’ll tell you how uber-skilled, ridiculously-patient, positionally-sound, insanely-calm and ultra-intelligent he is on the ice, perhaps more so as any other defenseman in the league save for Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom.

Unfortunately, it took Zubov getting to the top of the league’s defenseman scoring list in December for people to finally start recognizing that. Here’s hoping that in 2008, even if he doesn’t lead all NHL defensemen in scoring, that he finally gets at least a shot at the league’s top honor for his position, one he has for so long deserved.

Of course, 2007 wasn’t all roses for the organization. Stars owner Tom Hicks had a tough decision to make in the fall, and in doing so released general manager Doug Armstrong from his contract. There’s no doubting Armstrong, who faithfully served this franchise for more than a dozen years in a multitude of capacities, will land on his feet and succeed somewhere else in the NHL.

As for the rest of us, we say goodbye to 2007 with hopes of another division title in 2008, followed by a long, prosperous run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

If so, we’ll be back to recap that quest for hockey’s holy grail in about 365 days.

See, there’s some forward thinking!

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