"A lot of the tension...or the pressure, maybe, that's gone now," Modano admitted earlier in the season. "Hitch liked to air things out right away sometimes. But the big difference, I guess, what I've been saying is, the big difference is that Hitch was a big X and O guy. He did a lot of work on the board, but hockey isn't like that. It almost never works out the way you planned. Tip understands the game and lets it come to us. Obviously, on defense, we have more structure with set plays, but, offensively, we have more freedom."
Whatever's changed, there's no denying that the Stars are the better for it. So, too, is Modano. He's back where he should be, hearing his name whispered among the elite and listed among the top point scorers.
Still, he swears that's nothing but a peripheral issue, or at best an added benefit to this season. What he wants, he maintains, is what he's always wanted: another shot at a championship.
"We've had a lot of lucky things happen to us, fortunate breaks during the course of games, and, like I said, timely things have happened throughout the year to give us points or wins," he says. "We feel like we have some momentum building; no one can really put a finger on it.
"This team, I think, is pretty similar [to the Cup winner]. We're deep, four lines, great defense, a couple of great goalies, special teams, it's all very comparable. Goals against, goals for, we're right there. It just depends. We had a lot of urgency that year, the Cup year; it was Cup or bust. We had that attitude all year, and we kinda have it this year, too.
"To me, that's what matters. You know, if I play well enough to win the MVP, and that helps us get to where we want to go, then I'm all for it. But I'm not going to focus on it."