Five Questions with Mike Modano

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NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With…” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Mike Modano, a 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee whose 561 goals and 1,374 points are the most by a United States-born player in NHL history. An executive adviser with the Minnesota Wild, Modano discusses the roster changes the team has made as well as his playing days with the Minnesota North Stars.

Mike Modano returned to where his NHL career began when he was hired by the Minnesota Wild as executive adviser on May 24, 2019.

The former NHL forward, who was selected by the Minnesota North Stars with the No. 1 pick in the 1988 NHL Draft, entered his second season on the job with the Wild going through a roster shakeup. The Wild lost in five games to the Vancouver Canucks in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, their fifth straight season without winning a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Among the new players on the roster are goalie Cam Talbot, and forwards Marcus Johansson and Nick Bonino. But it will be the younger players tasked with making them competitive in the Central Division, where the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche each won a Western Conference-high 42 games last season and the Dallas Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, a six-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Modano said he’s looking at Kevin Fiala, a 24-year-old forward who scored a team-high 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) during his first full season in Minnesota after he was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, 2019. Kirill Kaprizov, a 23-year-old forward, is set for his NHL debut after scoring 33 goals for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League last season. Marco Rossi, a 19-year-old center who was the No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, led the Ontario Hockey League in assists (81) and points (120) in 56 games with Ottawa last season.

“I think Fiala is kind of that guy,” Modano said. “He’s not afraid to challenge guys. He’s not afraid to go at one guy, beat one and then go beat another guy with his skill and speed. I think Rossi will eventually be that as well, being a centerman, being a puck distributor. And then Kaprizov. There’s so much high hopes on this kid and there will be a little pressure on him to come in and meet some expectations. You have a little bit of a nucleus you can build with and then get a supporting cast around those guys.”

Before returning to Minnesota, Modano was executive adviser and alternate governor for the Stars the past two seasons. He’s yet to relocate to Minnesota, spending time in Utah before the coronavirus pandemic and returning to Phoenix. His wife, Allison, gave birth to the couple’s fifth child 11 weeks ago.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” Modano said. “(Wild owner) Craig (Leipold) asked me to help him find a GM. We got [Bill Guerin] and I played with (Wild coach) Dean Evason in Dallas a long time ago. My five years in [Minnesota] when I played there was the best five years I’ve had in my life.”

A Stanley Cup winner with the Stars in 1999, Modano played 22 seasons with the Stars and Detroit Red Wings and scored 1,374 points (561 goals, 813 assists) in 1,499 NHL games. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 and Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014. This season will mark the 30th anniversary of when Modano, helped the North Stars make an improbable run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final after a 27-39-4 finish to the regular season.

“You always have a fun part in your heart for where it started and for the people who were there at the beginning,” the 50-year-old said. “It still strongly resonates with me with those people.”

Here are Five Questions with … Mike Modano:

 

Guerin said a roster shakeup was necessary after last season. What do you think about the offseason moves to this point?

“I think it was inevitable. I think it was a scenario where anytime a new GM comes, I think it’s more a lot of time where you sit back and monitor and observe and kind of see how things are run, the attitude, the personalities of the players, the front office, the scouting staff, how things are run, how things are run where he came from in Pittsburgh. And then creating a scenario of his own personality where how he feels things should be run. There’s a little time of taking in all that and then making a decision to go in this direction. We’ve always discussed that these decisions were going to be coming down the gut pretty soon and quick. They’re hard decisions. Some of those guys were great guys, quality people. They meant a lot to the organization and the team. But like all of us, those times do come to an end and you have to prepare for what comes down and what’s the future and where you want to be. I think Billy was very adamant about changing the direction to get this team respectable in the League.”

 

What will it take for the Wild to get to the next level?

“They’re in desperate need of some offense. I think their power play has always been struggling, bottom five of the League. The game now is high-end skill and speed and making plays. You have the benefit of the doubt with the referee and you’re going to get some calls go your way, so you’re going to have space and time to make some plays, and a ton of power plays. You have to get some skill to do that, but you have to get some hard work and skill and guys who want to pay the price and who want to put a lot of effort into scoring and being as guilty.”

 

Do the Wild have enough to contend in the Central Division?

“That’s a tough question. Time will tell. I think you’re still dealing with a lot of young kids who are trying to get a feel for the game and the League and trying to gain some confidence in themselves and what they can and can’t do out there in the game. When they come out of junior and college, the game seems to change, and you get a little bit of knock down on your confidence level. So it does take time to get that back and get acclimated again and get back up to speed. With that said, could it happen? Yeah, I think they could jump out of the gates and have some excitement. The fans could be excited about the change and a lot of the players that they’ve been waiting a long time to come watch. I think with Minnesota, you never vote them out too much. They always seem to be hanging around long enough to make things interesting.”

 

Looking back at the 1991 North Stars, how did the switch suddenly turn on after a tumultuous regular season?

“We just had a horrible start to the season, just an abysmal start to October (2-8-3), even November (4-7-3), it really didn’t look too well for us at the start until we got through Thanksgiving. Then we had little bits and pieces of little runs here and there and it kept our interest a little bit. I think it was just a total confidence thing. Something magical at the Met Center started happening too. We started getting fans and the place was starting to get full and we just were so strong at home throughout that whole playoffs. People started getting excited. We as players started getting excited. We started believing in ourselves a little bit and we just thought this could be a chance to upset the (Chicago) Blackhawks (in the first round) and see what happens after that.”

 

How do you look back at the legacy of the ’91 North Stars?

“It was just one of those runs you don’t see. The parity [today isn’t] like it was back in the day. You had these high-level teams and then you had your bottom 10. They were struggling to get by. Nowadays it’s like anybody who gets in the playoffs, you feel like you’re only about a half a dozen points behind eighth place and first place in a conference. It’s hard to gauge and compare those two but getting in at 68 points and making the run that we did, I’m not sure they’ll ever be that type of scenario again.”

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