I’m finished with the semantics. No more qualifiers, no asterisks, no crosses with two lines through them.
When Mike Modano retires, he will do so as the best American player ever. Bam, I said it. There it is. That. Just. Happened.
In passing Joe Mullen in career goals by an American last season and Phil Housley in career points on Wednesday, Modano cemented his legacy and won’t be challenged for quite a while.
Now I can already feel your comeback. I know the name you’re itching to throw out.
And this is what I’m saying about qualifiers. Flip over the back of one of Hull’s hockey cards and you’ll see my rebuttal: “Born Aug. 9, 1964 in Belleville, Ontario.” Case closed. Forget that he played for Team USA for all those years; the rules of international hockey are silly and allow anyone who has worked at Olive Garden to play for Team Italy.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can look at some other worthy candidates, namely Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios. Both fine players and certainly integral personalities in the game. Roenick has never won a Cup and his numbers are ever so slightly behind Modano’s, but you could certainly have a good argument at a bar over that one.
Ditto for Chelios. The Immortal One out-Cups Modano two to one and has seven all-star team selections to Modano’s one (a second team nod in 1999-2000), so this is where the intangibles come in: While Chelios is an esteemed leader with the Red Wings after great years in Chicago and Montreal, Modano has been the face of the same franchise practically since he was drafted first overall in 1988 by the then-Minnesota North Stars.
Do you realize what rare company he’s in? Joe Sakic can make a similar claim, but it pretty much ends there. Trevor Linden comes close, but don’t forget those years he played for the Isles, Habs and Caps. Rod Brind’Amour may be the face of the Canes now, but he spent more years in Philadelphia and was drafted by St. Louis.
Modano has been a consistent plus player in his career, bookending a poor 2003-04 showing of minus-21 with a plus-34 in ’02-03 and a plus-21 after the lockout. And, of course, he’s now the top American goal-scorer and point leader of all-time.
And unless Roenick usurps Modano in points or goals (a remote possibility, depending on the health and longevity of both players at this point), Dallas’ favorite son on ice is going to be ahead of the pack for quite a while.
So don’t call him the highest scoring American-born player ever, just call him the best American yet.