A look at the Dallas Stars’ & Minnesota North Stars’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Dallas Stars (1993-94 to 1999-00) & Minnesota North Stars (1990-91 to 1992-93)
371-309-106, .539 WIN PCT, 2,364 GF vs. 2,234 GA, +130 Diff, 8/10 Playoff Appearances, 1 Stanley Cup
The Minnesota North Stars always seemed to be fighting for their playoff lives in the Norris division. But they were in a hockey-mad market, and had (to my knowledge) a loyal fan base. Clearly the market is viable, or the NHL wouldn’t have gone back there (with the Wild in 2000)… although the same could be said about Atlanta, and the Thrashers lasted just over a decade there. I won’t get into the ownership troubles that cost Minnesotans nearly ten years of NHL hockey, but suffice to say former owner Norm Green is far from beloved in Minnesota for taking the Stars to Dallas. Minnesota had three seasons of the North Stars in the 1990s, and the team had a 45.1% win percentage along with a -63 goal differential. They came out of nowhere on a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1991, upsetting Chicago and St. Louis (who had the two best regular seasons) and the Edmonton Oilers (who still had most of the core from their 1990 Stanley Cup-winning team) before losing to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. The North Stars were knocked out in the first round in 1992, and missed the 1993 playoffs. The move to Dallas went well: the team had a 58.5% win percentage and a +193 goal differential. They missed the playoffs just once, and had a phenomenal three-year run: they lost in the Conference Finals in 1998, won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000. And they had a run of four-straight 100+ point seasons from ’96-97 to ’99-00, including a high of 114 in their Cup-winning season of ’98-99.
Overall, Dallas/Minnesota’s win percentage of 43.9% ranked 6th out of 26 teams that played at least four seasons during the 1990s. They had trouble putting the puck in the net: they scored 3.01 goals per game, which ranked them 17th. But their defense was quite strong, allowing 2.84 goals against per game (ranked 4th in the league during the decade). Looking just at their time in Dallas, their defense allowed just 2.58 goals per game. Their strong defense led them to a positive goal differential of +130, ranked a modest 12th. The move to Dallas (and ownership change) worked out well for the franchise, and Minnesota has the Minnesota Wild to cheer on. While I would never say a franchise leaving a city is a good thing, at least Minnesota got closure, and the Stars paid their respects to Minnesota when they won the 1999 Stanley Cup.
Left Wing: Greg Adams (177 GP, 60-57-117, +13, 59 PIM, 6 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Brent Gilchrist
Regardless of whether they were in Minnesota or Dallas, the Stars were never very deep on the left wing. Greg Adams was competent, but not the player he was in Vancouver. He had durability issues, playing 66 games in ’95-96, 50 in ’96-97 and 49 in ’97-98. He still managed a pair of 20-goal seasons, and he scored 32-43 points per season (which is a 50-60 point pace over an 82-game schedule). His only other challenge was Brent Gilchrist, who joined the Stars late in the ’92-93 season. He played four full seasons in Minnesota/Dallas, scoring 20 goals once (and 17 on another occasions), and posting 30+ points three times (including a high of 42 in ’95-96). But Gilchrist’s +/- was weak (it was positive only once in four seasons), whereas Adams recovered from a -25 rating in his first 78 games to go +38 over his final 99. Adams also scored 24 powerplay goals in three full seasons, with a high of 11 in ’95-96. Decent, but not what you want to see from the best LW the franchise had to offer during the 1990s.
Centre: Mike Modano (707 GP, 320-421-741, +70, 481 PIM, 51 GWG)
As if this was going to be anybody else. Mike Modano is unquestionably the greatest player in the history of the Stars/North Stars franchise. He spent the entire decade in Minnesota/Dallas, and was incredibly durable: he played 76+ games eight times, and only missed time due to injury in ’94-95 (30 GP) and ’97-98 (52 GP). He scored 30+ goals seven times (with a high of 50 in ’93-94), and scored 28 in ’90-91. He hit the 80-point mark six times, including a pair of 93-point seasons in ’92-93 and ’93-94. His +/- was weak in the first half of the decade, which is understandable as the franchise was not overly competitive. He was -27 from ’90-91 to ’95-96, but then +97 from ’96-97 to ’99-00. He wasn’t a physical player, but he had an edge: he had 40+ PIM eight times, with a high-water mark of 83 PIM in ’92-93. He was solid on the powerplay, typically scoring 6-9 PPG goals a season (with a high of 18 in ’93-94). He was also clutch: he had five seasons in the 7-9 game-winning goal range. In total, his 51 game-winning goals accounted for 16% of his total goals during the decade. He had 300+ shots on goal twice, and 200+six times (with two others in the 188-191 range).
Modano represented Minnesota in the 1993 All-Star game, and Dallas at three straight All-Star games (1998-2000). He was also a Second Team All-Star in 2000. He was (and still is) class act, and he was one of the greatest American-born players in league history.
Right Wing: Russ Courtnall (200 GP, 66-110-176, -1, 121 PIM, 8 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Jere Lehtinen
Russ Courtnall joined the North Stars in ’92-93, and performed well on Modano’s wing: he scored 36 goals and 79 points in ’92-93, and followed that up with 23 goals and 80 points in ’93-94. He also had a +7 rating during this time despite the team’s struggles. Courtnall slumped in ’94-95, scoring 7 goals and 17 points (with a -8 rating) in 32 games before being traded to Vancouver (in a deal which, coincidentally, brought Greg Adams to Dallas). Courtnall also represented the Stars in the 1994 All-Star game. While his tenure was short, he was a talented and popular forward who helped take some of the pressure and focus off of Modano. Honourable Mention goes to Jere Lehtinen, one of the finest two-way forwards in the league during his career. He had three seasons of 40+ points (with a high of 52 in ’98-99), and during that time had a +/- in the +19 to +29 range. But Courtnall’s explosive offense, combined with his positive +/- for some fairly weak Stars’ teams, gives him the edge.
Defense: Sergei Zubov (309 GP, 42-151-193, +42, 78 PIM, 11 GWG)
Sergei Zubov joined the Stars just as the team was taking off and becoming a contender. He was a fantastic two-way force for the Stars on the blueline, scoring 10+ goals three straight seasons (and 9 goals in ’99-00). He had 40+ points and played 73+ games in each of his four seasons, including twice finishing in the 51-57 points range. His +/- was positive three of four years, and he played a clean game: he never exceeded 24 PIM per season. He chipped in 14 powerplay goals, and scored 2-3 game-winning goals each year. In total, an impressive 26% of his goals (11 out of 42) were game winners. He also represented the Stars in three straight All-Star games from 1998 to 2000.
Defense: Darryl Sydor (335 GP, 43-141-184, +58, 225 PIM, 6 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk
Derian Hatcher might be a more sentimental favourite, as he played in part of nine seasons for the Stars during the decade. He was a beast, posting 100+ PIM six times and scoring 30++ points four times. He was also the team captain. Richard Matvichuk was also a long-time Stars defenseman, playing in parts of eight seasons and chipping in 12-25 points five straight seasons (typically with a positive +/-). But Darryl Sydor was a rock. He had a better offensive game (three seasons of 46-48 points, four seasons in the 8-14 goals range), had a positive +/- three times in five seasons (including +37 in ’96-97), and a clean but physical game (50-51 PIM three years in a row. He also played on the special teams, scoring 18 powerplay goals between ’97-98 and ’99-00. In the end there isn’t a “wrong” pick, and I went back and forth between Hatcher and Sydor. But Sydor had more All-Star game appearances (1998 and 1999 vs. just 1997 for Hatcher), and a more consistent +/- rating. Either would be a worthy selection for this spot though.
Goalie: Ed Belfour (184 GP, 104-48-26, 18 SO, 1.99 GAA, 0.917 PCT)
Honourable Mention to Andy Moog
Jon Casey was a fan favourite in Minnesota, so I can imagine that the acquisition of Andy Moog for Casey (combined with the team’s move to Dallas) was shocking. Moog played well, posting decent numbers and a near-.500 record from ’93-94 to ’95-96 (47-51-21, 2.98 GAA, .900 PCT). He then had a fantastic season in ’96-97, going 28-13-5 with a 2.15 GAA and .913 PCT. But he became expendable when Ed Belfour became available, and it is no slight to Moog at ALL to make that statement. Belfour was one of the best goalies of the 1990s, and he had sickening stats during his three years in Dallas (even considering he played at the height of the Dead Puck Era). Belfour had three seasons of 61-62 games, 32-37 wins and 4-9 shut-outs. His GAA was UNDER 2.00 twice, and his save percentage was in the .915 to .919 range. Those are incredible numbers. In addition to helping the team win the Stanley Cup in 1999, Belfour represented the Stars at the 1998 and 1999 All-Star games, and won the Jennings trophy in 1999 (with Roman Turek) when the Stars allowed the fewest goals in the league that year. And I’m sure he would have won a Vezina had his time in Dallas not coincided with Dominik Hasek having one of the greatest goaltending runs in modern NHL history.