Here we are, mired in another offseason, wondering if an aging player past his prime can save us. We worry about him signing somewhere else, wanting Minnesota to be the destination, if only because we don't want him in another jersey. Only this time, it's not Brett Favre, and the player we so covet is not a savior, but more of a nostalgic walk down the river.
This time, the rumors, the reporting, the constant wondering revolve around Mike Modano.
When the Mighty Mo came to town in what should have been his last NHL game, the crowd gave him a send-off like no other. He returned the favor by famously sporting the North Stars jersey and taking a victory lap and tearing up as the crowd at the X lavished him with a loud, extended ovation.
Yes, Modano was the talk of the town, and for all the right reasons. His storied career has brought him from Minnesota as a first overall pick, to a star center playing for a franchise ripped from its rightful home and shipped to Dallas, Texas, the bane of Minnesota sports history. He has become the all time highest scoring American born player of all time in the NHL, passing Minnesota's own Phil Housley. He scored over 90 points twice, over 80 another six, and over seventy another four seasons on top of that. Twelve seasons of over 70 point production earns a guy some respect.
He has that respect. He is a shoe-in for a first ballot entrance into the Hall of Fame. He is guaranteed a spot in the front office of any team he wants to work for, in whatever role he wants it to be. He has a fast track to a GM position, a coaching position, scouting, community relations, anything he wants. He has the respect, he doesn't need to earn it anymore.
Even with his career, his stats, his aura, Modano's days are done. He is beginning to reflect his age, costing him 22 games in two of his past four seasons. His highest point total in those same four seasons is 57. Not bad for an NHL-level player, but not worthy of Modano. His totals have declined the past three seasons, going from the high of 57, to 46, to 30. Thirty points puts him in the company of defensemen and such dominating forwards as Matt Cooke and Marcel Goc. Danny Briere scored 30 points... in the playoffs.
I have nothing, absolutely nothing against Mike Modano. The last remaining former North Star to skate on an NHL team. That holds a special place in the heart of any Minnesota hockey fan. The nostalgia of the whole thing screams "DO IT! DO IT!" The reality of the situation begs Chuck Fletcher not to.
Where would Modano play? He isn't going to be the first line center. The Wild just signed Matt Cullen to fill the second line role. Kyle Brodziak played very well with the third line, creating chances with Cal Clutterbuck, and the left wing du jour on that line. The fourth line role is one generally reserved for a solid checker, which Modano would not be with his limited speed and mobility as his age.
Sure, Brodziak could move to the fourth line. That has been his role for most of his career, he would fill that role nicely. However, even moving Brodziak out of the third line role does not solve the problem. Would the third line position not make a better place to develop one of the young centers such as Casey Wellman or Cody Almond?
This is an interesting proposition for Wild fans, and not one that should be over shadowed by teary eyed dreams of seeing the mighty Mo skating one last time for Minnesota. To put it in perspective, he only played four seasons here. He played 16 in Dallas. The strong connection that most people feel is not a real one. It is contrived, and built up by the fact that he wore an "N" on his jersey at the beginning of his career. It is one final chance to get a piece of what Norm Green stole from us.
It is not worth the price, my fellow hockey fans. So many "what-ifs" come to mind that it causes a log jam in the logic processes. What if he can't play up to the level fans think he can? Do they boo him? Do they regret signing him? What if he is injured and taking up a roster spot? What if Todd Richards sees fit to bench him? What if, at the trade deadline some team comes calling with a shiny second-round pick for him?
The big question is: Is this a hockey move, or a nostalgia move? With the Wild having little chance of being a Stanley Cup contender next season, it is purely a nostalgia move. One I don't like the idea of, due to the easily imagined consequences of an ill advised move. Everyone wants one more taste of their ex. We all know it's not a good idea though, right?
Mo should retire. He should retire a Star, go into the Hall a Star. No one should ever see Modano in another franchise's sweater. It just isn't right, and we all know that deep inside. He played in Dallas, he "belongs" to Dallas. It's time to let the North Stars go, and it's time to let Mo go, too.
Oh, and all of this stuff about Modano helping to sell tickets? The Wild have never, not once, had less than a sell out crowd at the X. Ever. While there is a difference between capacity and a sell out, the Wild do not need Modano to sell tickets, and the games people aren't going to attend are not going to suddenly sell out just because Modano slips on Iron Range Red.
It's a nice thought, folks, but it's not one you want to be a reality.