It is said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This can’t be said for a lot of things since 1999, but for the Dallas Stars it seems to be very true.
In 1999, gas in the United States cost about $1.50 (today it is over $2 more), there was no war in the Middle East, and the War on Terror was not even a thought. I was 12 years old. That age seems long ago now, but at this age, I began playing hockey and had my first experience with Stanley Cup fever.
My own memories of the 1999 battle between the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars are quite small—they mostly consist of reading newspaper articles I ordered my father to pick up every morning at our hotel in northern Arizona while visiting the Grand Canyon.
I remember reading the article the morning after the Stars won the Cup. Of everyone in North America who had witnessed my team win the Cup, I was not one of them.
My luck changed though, thanks to my sister having stayed up until 3am Dallas time to record the game for her baby brother (Thanks Sis!). I have the video of my team lifting its first franchise Stanley Cup still to this day.
1999 was also the first year I'd begun to personally learn the team. I knew every player by name and number. I knew a lot of their playing styles and statistics along with the players' decision making abilities on the ice. I came to grow to a point in fandom I did not know existed; it was to a degree that possibly bordered obsession.
The Stars's slogan that year was “Nothing Else Matters”—and for a twelve year old in his first organized hockey season, with a father who was a diehard Stars fan, nothing else mattered but seeing the our boys win the Cup.
I remember the day, long before the playoffs, that my father printed off an article from work about Brett Hull coming to the Stars.
Hull had long since been a favorite player of my dad's; I think it made him really happy to know our favorite players (Mine being Mike Modano) would not only be team mates but line mates.
With the addition of Hull, the final piece was in place for the 1999 Dallas Stars Cup run.
In the present day, many of those Dallas Stars are no longer with the team. Some have retired from the sport and have seemingly disappeared, while others have found a place off-ice such as Guy Carbonneau, Brett Hull, and Brent Severyn.
It only seems fitting that Brett Hull has again led the Stars back to this point of Post season success.
I am not writing this article to proclaim how the Stars will win the Cup this year, will sweep anyone, or will even get past this round. My analysis is merely ending at how this team is strikingly a look alike of the 1999 Stanley Cup champion squad.
Goaltending: In 1999 Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour was an unstoppable force in net. He faced the likes of Patrick Roy, Chris Osgood, and Dominick Hasek. He was a clutch goaltender and his fiery passion and temper—much like that of Roy—helped to make the Stars an even more passion filled team. In 2008, Marty Turco has begun to take shape as a goaltender ready to fill the Eagle’s shoes. His regular season success has now found a way to seep into the playoffs and he seems to make back breaking saves whenever the game is on the line. In round 1 against the Anaheim Ducks, Turco came from his crease to the top of the circles to literally check Teemu Selanne of the Ducks. My first thought was that maybe he’d been studying from Eddie a little too much. For the Stars to move on, Turco must continue to be the type of game changing goalie his predecessor was.
Defense: The same smothering Defense the Stars grew to be famous for in the 90’s has returned. The odd thing is the veterans who made it work in 1999 now see it working with some of the youngest Defensemen in the NHL. The only piece still in place is the ageless Sergei Zubov, who has not lost a step in all these years. Derian Hatcher has been replaced with Mattias Norstrom, the hard hitting blue liner who was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings. Craig Ludwig, the veteran leader of the Big D in Big D still resides in Dallas. I suppose his role would now be replaced by Zubov, but I don’t know that even someone as talented as Zubov can fill those shoes. The Stars 2008 Defense is young, fast, and eager to taste victory: a far cry from the experienced veterans of 1999. The numbers and names on the backs of the jerseys have changed, but the playing style and the suffocating control the puck's defense seems to be a rebirth in Dallas in 2008.
Forwards: The Stars of 1999 had as much veteran leadership as the 2008 team. I once joked with my father that the Stars might as well change the name to the Canadiens. All the former Cup winners from Montreal found their way to Dallas thanks to then-Stars GM Bob Gainey. Guy Carbonneau (now coach of the Habs), Mike Keane, and Brian Skrudland all were former Habs like Gainey. Today however, the Stars have a lot more “home grown” talent who have developed through the system. The late season addition in 2008 of Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro remind me of that time when the Habs were coming to Texas for one more chance to kiss the Cup. Leaders like Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen are still in a Stars Uniform, with new faces and names added to this list of leaders on the forward lines. The likes of Brett Hull and Carbo have been replaced by Brendan Morrow. It has been long noted Morrow learned a lot in his early years from Hull. His defense first style is much like that of his father in law, Guy Carbonneau. Scrappy fighters like Brent Severyn and Pat Verbeek have been replaced with young mean grinders and enforcers like Steve Ott. The Stars like that of old hit, and score without worry.
Only time will tell as to whether or not the 2008 squad will find their name written on hockey’s holy grail like their 1999 counterparts, but to a few former Stars trying to find their way into the next round, I would remind them of these 1999 memories.
To Brett Hull: Remind the current Stars what it is like to have an opponent's back against the wall, and when the enemy is down it is more than polite to step on their throat and put them out of misery. Such as was accomplished in 1999 to the Buffalo Sabres thanks to your own goal.
To Coach Carbonneau in Montreal: You made a career of being a grinding fourth liner for the Stars. It breaks my heart to see Philadelphia out-work the team you coach. You were the hardest working man on the ice and always the first to scrap for the puck in the corners. Maybe you should remind them that your style of play is what wins Stanley Cups…
Although my current allegiance normally falls to the Anaheim Ducks, my team will forever be the Dallas Stars. To my fellow Stars Fans: I may be a Ducks fan, but I am fully a “Believer”. Go Stars!