Mike Modano: “I think that was the swan song”

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It’s not the most surprising news of the offseason, but it looks like Mike Modano may have reached the end of his playing days. Even though it seemed like the perfect time for Modano to hang ‘em up at the end of the 2009-10 season with the Dallas Stars, he felt like he still had a little bit left in the tank. He put his chips in the pot for one more go-around with the Detroit Red Wings instead of retiring with the Stars in a scene straight out of Hollywood. Things couldn’t have gone worse.

In an injury-plagued season with the Red Wings, Modano had 4 goals and 11 assists in only 40 games last year. In November, he suffered a gruesome injury to his wrist that cost him the next three months of the season. Even in the games where he was available to head coach Mike Babcock, he still only averaged 12:26 minutes per game. For a point of reference, the former #1 overall pick played 15 seconds less per game than Patrick Eaves. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly Babcock’s “go to” guy.

In a radio interview on The Ticket 1310 in Dallas, Modano talked about the some of the difficulties he encountered with the Red Wings last season:

“When I came back in March, there’s the heated race for the playoffs, the lineup is almost solidified. [Wings coach Mike] Babcock is pretty hard-headed when he likes something and it works. It’s very hard to change his mind, so I knew I was going to be the odd-man out for the playoffs.”

Modano explained in the same interview playing near his hometown was something that he felt like he had to try before he retired:

“I would have really kicked myself if I didn’t take the chance to go there, play in Detroit, play with those players, and be around them daily. Kenny Holland was great, the coaches were great, the Ilitches. Playing in front of the family, being around them all winter long was great. I saw the parents twice a week. I thought if I didn’t do it, I could say I tried it, at least I could say I did it.”

I guess it’s true: you can never go home. Thomas Wolfe would be proud.

This time last season, there was a bit of a bidding war between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks for the 20-year veteran’s services. When Detroit acquired his services, it seemed like the quintessential Red Wings move: talented veteran accepts reduced role at a cheap price in Detroit for a chance to go out on top.

Fast-forward to this season and it’s a much different situation. There aren’t any teams knocking down his door clamoring for his services. In fact, there isn’t even an aura around his possible retirement. Whether he decides to give the NHL one last shot or take leap into retirement, the NHL community should give the man the respect that his career deserves. He’s scored more goals and points than any American-born player in the history of the NHL. His 813 assists and 1,499 games played rank second on the all-time American list. Statistically speaking, he’s easily the best American-born player in the history of the NHL (note: Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario).

Hopefully he gets the respect he deserves if this is the end of the line.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.