DALLAS – Tyler Seguin seems to be learning his lessons well in Dallas.
The 21-year-old had struggled more than a bit recently headed into Thursday’s game against the Bruins with just one assist and a minus rating during a six game slide for the Stars. While the mini-slump has a major impact on a Dallas team teetering on the precipice of realistic playoff chances in the brutal Western Conference, it’s more than allowable for a young player that’s already exploded for 21 goals and 44 points in 45 games this season.
It’s also palatable when Seguin is finally doing some of the “little things” he needs to master in order to be an effective NHL center.
His game on Thursday night against the Bruins flied in the face of a lot of the criticism heaped on him in Boston: Seguin won 10-of-14 face-offs including a big draw vs. Patrice Bergeron in the offensive zone during the final seconds of the third period, and assisted on a pair of goals while operating as a tangible offensive factor for Dallas throughout the game.
He wasn’t dominating physically or blowing guys off the puck, but he found a way to be effective while logging 19:58 of ice time. It was something Seguin spoke about during a chat with the Boston media prior to Thursday night’s game.
“I'm looked at in a different role here, and production is definitely one of them as well as finding a way to get that goal when games are tied, and you're losing a few games,” said Seguin. “I get to see those things in a different light, especially in a losing streak.
“I don't think I have to be a physical player to play the type of game I want to play, but you do have to compete. You do have to win puck battles. It's not always about hitting guys or anything like that, but about getting your body in the way of where their hand placement and where their stick is. It’s something I've been learning.”
It’s also something that is pretty much word-for-word what Claude Julien also tried to impress upon the talented youngster during his time in Boston. For whatever reason, the lessons seem to be sticking a little better in Dallas. Perhaps it’s the maturity of Seguin on his own after arriving in Boston four years ago as an extremely immature teenager fairly unready to handle the superstar spotlight in Boston.
More likely it’s the swift kick in the pants given to him by the Bruins organization after second, third, fourth and fifth chances by the team left many inside the Boston front office convinced that Seguin was never going to get it in Boston. Anybody that thinks the Bruins gave up on the talented young forward after one or two incidents doesn’t have a clue about how distracted Seguin became by outside influences off the ice during that final season in Boston.
Those close to the situation in Dallas say that Seguin has formed a tight bond with 24-year-old Stars captain Jamie Benn, and that he’s been a good influence on the center on and off the ice. Benn likes to go out and have a beer with the boys just as any single 24-year-old NHL star has every right to do, but he also holds the good judgment to know when it’s going to negatively impact his work on the ice.
That’s a balancing act Seguin struggled with in Boston on the road to growing up into more of a pro. His Boston and Dallas teammate Rich Peverley wasn’t about to dive deeply into the final Seguin chapters with the Bruins, but readily admitted he’s seen a much more grown up Tyler Seguin this season in Dallas.
“Whatever happened in Boston, you’re going to take the good and the bad from it,” said Peverley. “I think he’s done that, and it’s made him a better person.
“It’s not only the goals and the assists. I’ve seen a lot out of his game while watching him play, and I’ve seen a lot out of his defensive play down low. He’s really taken a big step in his development.”
The bottom line is this with the Seguin/Eriksson deal: Rich Peverley and Seguin have combined for 26 goals and 65 points this season in Dallas while Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith have combined for 18 goals and 48 points with the former Dallas All-Star having lost 21 games to two serious concussions this year. It isn’t quite as lopsided as some of the deal’s most vocal critics might have one believe, but it’s hard to argue the point that Seguin is the best player moved in the deal.
Seguin has ascended into a point-per-game player and a potential 40-goal scorer on a team that doesn’t appear to have the right stuff for the playoffs. He’s also a “work in progress” as Lindy Ruff called him while they continue to teach him technique in the face-off circle, and methods to win puck battles against players that still hold strength advantages over him.
Seguin is still at a 40-percent success rate in the face-off circle despite his stellar showing Thursday night against the Bruins.
Excelling in some of those “small detail” areas might end up costing Seguin a few points off the stat sheet, but it will make the Stars a team more suited for the playoffs in the long run. It’s along the lines of what Claude Julien said about David Krejci earlier this week when asked about his team’s willingness to play a hard, unpleasant style of hockey.
His quote perfectly verbalizes Krejci’s mindset, and perhaps some of the reasons why the misbehaving, hard-to-reach phase from Seguin stuck out from the group like a sore thumb.
“We’ve got the right people in place. That’s a big thing here,” said Julien, who was asked the question unrelated to Seguin and days before the game against the Stars. “We have a leadership group that believes in it, and helps convince the other guys coming in that this is the way we play. It’s been pretty simple now for a while because every player has been told that this is how we operate here.
“We don’t really look at anybody on our team that needs to be a top scorer here. We look at individuals to come in, and play a good team game. That’s how we’ve managed to have success. We’re certainly not going to change that approach since we’ve had success. Just look at a guy like David Krejci. He’s a highly skilled player that’s committed to playing a good two-way game. There’s no doubt that if he decided to play a one-way game then he’d be an 80 or 90 points guy. But he’d also probably be a minus-15 guy by the end of the year. He doesn’t want that. A lot of the guys on our team take pride in that part of the game, and I know that [a bad] plus/minus can bother them.”
This message has also always been clear from the Bruins: if you don’t play that team game, then you’ll be playing elsewhere sooner rather than later.
Let’s leave the last few words on the deal to Seguin, who handled things with a smile on Thursday despite some clear hard feelings about his treatment on the way out of Boston.
“I don't think you can label it on one season or one game. It's generally over time,” Seguin said Thursday. “I remember when I got drafted to the Bruins, everyone was asking me about the Phil Kessel comparison, and I was saying, 'I'm 18. It's going to take a while to compare.'
“I think it's the same with any trade. From what I've been hearing, it seems to be a win-win for both organizations, and I'm happy where I am.”
It’s good to hear that Seguin has found happiness in Dallas. The trade is win-win right now for both teams, but the book won’t be closed on this deal for a long, long time just as it was never fully closed on the Kessel deal during the early “Thank You, Kessel” days in Boston. Perhaps Seguin will put all of the little details in place and become the centerpiece of a Stanley Cup-winning team in Dallas, and ultimately prove himself to even the biggest doubters in Boston.
Only time will tell on all of these things.
DALLAS – Tyler Seguin seems to be learning his lessons well in Dallas.