Comparing Today’s Stars to 1999 Team

The Dallas Stars pose for a team photo with the Stanley Cup trophy
The Dallas Stars pose for a team photo with the Stanley Cup trophy as they celebrate the win over the Buffalo Sabres at the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, New York, on June 19, 1999. | Image by Elsa Hasch/Getty Images

The Dallas Stars won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the NHL’s regular season and their one and only Stanley Cup championship in 1999.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of that team, and while the current squad fell just short of claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, it has established itself as a legitimate championship contender.

“It was a great season — a point away from the Presidents’ Trophy,” former Stars goalie and current President of the Dallas Stars Foundation, Marty Turco, said at the Invited Celebrity Classic golf tournament last week. “They can say they want to win it, but I’d assume they want to be healthy and humming while getting ready for the playoffs.”

The Stars have certainly been humming late in the season, winning 12 of their last 14 games heading into the playoffs and bringing high expectations into the postseason with one of their best chances to win the Stanley Cup since 1999. But the current team isn’t letting the franchise’s past define it.

“I think you have to do your own thing,” forward Jason Robertson told The Dallas Express. “Hockey’s a lot different than back then. Obviously, it’s a great inspiration for the city and for this organization, but it’s 25 years ago. Everyone’s really antsy here, and I think we have the best team I’ve ever been on in this locker room.”

While that approach is certainly expected at this point, the comparisons due to the season’s success are inevitable, which begs the question: How do the 2023-24 Dallas Stars compare to the 1998-99 championship squad?

“When I look back to those Dallas Stars teams, they were hard to play against,” former NHL player and current analyst Anson Carter told The Dallas Express. “They had depth up and down the lineup. The one thing that really stood out to me was that first line of [Brett] Hull, [Mike] Modano, and [Jere] Lehtinen. That line was creative. They could create something out of nothing.”

In 1999, Hull, Modano, and Lehtinen combined for 191 points (86 goals and 105 assists) during the regular season, and the team also relied on second-line center Joe Niewendyuk for scoring. Interestingly enough, this season’s first line of Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski scored 86 goals but added 126 combined assists to eclipse the 200-point mark as a line.

“I don’t think they (the 1998-99 Stars) were as potent offensively,” Hockey Hall of Famer and fellow TNT hockey analyst Eddie Olczyk added. “I think they were more of a grinding-type team, a heavy team.”

To Olczyk’s point, the 2023-24 Stars have twice as many players with at least 25 goals than the 1998-99 team and several more players with at least 60 points.

Still, both teams prided themselves on depth across the board, with the current squad striving to improve its depth throughout the offseason and at the trade deadline.

“If a line goes cold, you’ve got a pretty good chance that you’ve got two other ‘go-to’s that do have the ability to put the puck in the net,” Olczyk remarked.

One trade deadline in particular reminds Carter of the 1999 Stars.

“There’s a lot of similarities there,” he said. “I still have nightmares about going up against Craig Ludwig. He had those big goalie pads. I think this generation’s version of that could be Chris Tanev. He’s a similar kind of player who’s just like Pac-Man: just eats everything up.”

Ludwig was a mainstay on the Stars defense in the 1990s and won the Cup in his final season in the NHL. Tanev’s similar physicality has brought stability to the Stars’ second defense pairing, and his playoff experience should prove helpful.

Elsewhere on the defense, Miro Heiskanen’s numbers (54 points: nine goals and 45 assists) look eerily similar to Sergei Zubov’s 1998-99 campaign, where he led the team’s defenders with 51 points (10 goals and 41 assists), and Thomas Harley has provided an extra gear.

In goal, Jake Oettinger has been on fire the past couple of weeks and is coming off one of his best performances of the season. While it would be quite the jump to compare him to Hall of Famer Ed Belfour, many across the league seem confident in his abilities.

“He’s as good as any. He gives us a great chance to do it,” Turco said of Oettinger. “The guys and I think the organization and the city all believe in him, and it’s going to be fun to watch him play.”

While the similarities between the two squads are evident, challenges remain. The games have to be played on the ice, not on paper. Still, many believe this is Dallas’ best chance to win its elusive second Stanley Cup.

“It doesn’t seem like they have many weaknesses, and they’re peaking at the right time,” ex-player and current TNT analyst Paul Bissonnette told The Dallas Express. “… It’s very impressive what Jim Nill and the staff have done, and they’re my frontrunner in the West right now just with what they have.”

The Stars will begin their playoff run against the Vegas Golden Knights at 8:30 p.m. CT at the American Airlines Center.

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