The first 2023 entry for our second NHL Saturday miniseries has us examining the storied history of the Dallas Stars, a team that entered the league in the original expansion season of 1968 as the Minnesota North Stars. After 26 seasons and two Stanley Cup Finals appearances, the team relocated to Dallas and won its only Cup in 1999 (controversially). Overall, though, in 55 seasons, this organization has made the playoffs 34 times, showing as one of the better expansion teams ever. Enjoy!
No. 5: 2000-2001 Dallas Stars
Two years after winning the Stanley Cup, the Stars had another great season, posting a 48-24-10 record to place first in the Pacific Division with 106 points. The team was tenth in goal scoring and second in goal prevention, but after dropping the Edmonton Oilers in six games to kick off the postseason, Dallas was swept in the second round by the St. Louis Blues—a team that finished with 103 points itself. It was an abrupt end to a promising playoff opportunity.
Center Mike Modano (33G, 51A, 52 PIMs) and right wing Brett Hull (39G, 40A) topped the scoring corps, augmented by two goaltenders playing very well: Ed Belfour (35-20-7) and Marty Turco (13-6-1) combined for 11 shutouts on the year. Against the Blues, the Stars just ran into a hot goalie, as they could only score 6 goals in the 4 games, losing two one-goal contests along the way. Sometimes, the puck just does not bounce your way … and other times it does, obviously.
This is the only entry in the Top 5 from the early franchise days in near the border. With a 36-28-16 record for 88 points in the standings, the North Stars finished third in the Adams Division—but they were a Top 5 team with the No. 4 scoring offense and the No. 6 scoring defense. They had some good playoff success, too, beating Toronto with a first-round sweep (best of five) and escaping Montréal in the next round over a grueling 7-game series. But Philadelphia beat Minnesota in five games to end the year.
Three skaters topped the point-per-game plateau: left wing Al McAdam (42G, 51A), LW Steve Payne (42G, 43A), and C Bobby Smith (27G, 56A). We understand if you’ve never heard of them. In net, Minnesota’s two main guys, Gilles Meloche and Gary Edwards, combined for a 36-27-15 mark. But the team posted a combined minus-50 rating in the Flyers series, with Edwards losing three times and Meloche going winless himself. Philly was the top team in the regular season with 116 points, though.
No. 3: 1998-99 Dallas Stars
The only Cup champion in organizational history, these Stars posted the best record in the league: 51-19-12 (114 points). In winning the Pacific Division, Dallas also finished eighth in goal scoring and first overall in goal prevention, thanks to Belfour. In order, the Stars knocked off Edmonton in four games, St. Louis in six games, Colorado in seven games, and Buffalo in six games to win Lord Stanley’s trophy, becoming one of only 8 teams to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same year.
Who were the top scorers? Modano (34G, 47A, 77 games) and Hull (32G, 26A, 60 games), of course. Overall, the team had 7 skaters with at least 45 points, which provided great balance and depth. Belfour (35-15-9, 1.99 GAA, 5 SOs) was ably backed up by Roman Turek (16-3-3), giving Crazy Eddie a chance to be rested and ready for the playoff run (1.67 GAA, .930 S%) and the Conn Smythe. Ironically, Turek was the St. Louis goalie that shut down the Stars in the 2001 postseason (as noted above).
No. 2: 1997-98 Dallas Stars
A year before winning the Cup, the Stars actually had a better team. Go figure. With a 49-22-11 record for 109 points, Dallas finished first in the Midwest Division—and won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best regular-season team in the league. The Stars were No. 3 in scoring offense and No. 2 in scoring defense. Dallas beat San Jose in the first round over six games, and then the Stars beat Edmonton in five games. However, the defending champion Detroit Red Wings then beat Dallas in six games.
Seven skaters posted at least 42 points for the Stars, led by C Joe Nieuwendyk (39G, 30A, 73 games) and Modano (21G, 38A, 52 games), again. Defenseman Sergei Zubov (10G, 47A, 73 games) also was a big offensive contributor. Crazy Eddie (37-12-10, 1.88 GAA, 9 SOs) was outstanding as the top goalie on the team, without a lot of help from backups who combined for a 12-10-1 record. But the Stars scored just 11 times (including one empty netter) in the series against Detroit, and that was all she wrote.
No. 1: 2002-03 Dallas Stars
The best team, sabermetrically, in team history came four years after the lone Cup triumph, and this group put up a 46-17-19 record for 111 points and another Pacific Division title—not to mention the top record in the Western Conference. The Stars finished sixth in scoring and third in defense, and that level of talent helped them to a first-round series win over Edmonton in six games. But the upstart Mighty Ducks of Anaheim upset Dallas in the second round, knocking them out in a six-game series.
At age 32, Modano (28G, 57A) again led the club in scoring, while Zubov (11G, 44A) was second in points, oddly. Balance was key again, with eight skaters putting up at least 42 points for the year. Turco (31-10-10, 1.73 GAA, .932 S%, 7 SOs) had taken over in net by this time, but the Stars lost four one-goal games to the Ducks in the playoffs. Both teams scored 14 times each in the matchup, but it’s always about the close ones: Dallas dropped a 5-OT contest in Game 1 at home and never really recovered.