Let’s start with a story about Tyler Seguin out on the town with his buddies. It’s not what you think.
Seguin was chosen to represent his new team, the Dallas Stars, at an NHL media event last week in New York. He sat down to dinner with a couple of friends at Catch, a seafood restaurant in the meatpacking district. He looked over and saw some fellow players – including some Chicago Blackhawks, who had beaten his old team, the Boston Bruins, in the Stanley Cup Final – and figured he’d say hello later.
Then the Cup came in. It might as well have been full of spoiled sushi.
“I left,” he said.
“Well,” he said, “I finished my meal.”
Who brought the Cup?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just saw the Cup, and I left.”
[Watch: Bruins execs make decision to trade Tyler Seguin to Stars]
Seguin has experienced a lot for a 21-year-old, as a player and as a person. He has won the Cup, and he has lost it. He has excelled as a top-six forward, and he has been demoted to a bottom-six role. He has been drafted second overall, and he has been traded. He has partied too hard and tweeted insensitive things, and he insists he has been victimized by rumor-mongers and hackers spreading falsehoods.
Now he’s going from a supporting role on a veteran team to a leading role on a young team. The Stars have a new owner, a new general manager, a new coach, new players, even new uniforms. They gave up a lot for Seguin (including Loui Eriksson), and they are paying a lot to Seguin ($5.75 million per year on average). They expect him to be their No. 1 centerman and a franchise centerpiece.
The past matters in how it applies to the future. What has Seguin learned? What will he take from Boston to Dallas? Will he live down to his suddenly spotty reputation, or will he live up to his enormous potential?
Why did he walk out of that restaurant?
“I feel like I know the worth of the Stanley Cup, which is hard to find, especially when you’re young,” Seguin said. “My first year when we won …”
“I didn’t really realize how much it took, how it felt, what it was worth, why it was so special until this year,” he continued. “Seeing the Cup with them at dinner, it gives you a sour taste in your mouth. I know what it is to celebrate something with a group of guys. I know what it is to come together with 30 guys and fight for something. I think that drives me and gives me motivation. That makes me ready for a bigger role than I’m used to.”
* * * * *
Is Seguin ready? We’ll see.
“I think so,” said the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, who skated with Seguin for much of his time in Boston. “I guess he’s the only one that knows that. From what I’ve seen, he’s matured a lot over the past years. Hopefully he’s learned from some of his …”
“I don’t know if you can call them mistakes, but sometimes immature things that he’s done,” Bergeron continued. “I think he’s ready for a bigger role, and hopefully he’s excited about it.”
Only Seguin knows how much he really partied, how much it really affected his preparation and performance. Only the Bruins know how much it played into their decision. Only Seguin knows what he really did or did not tweet.
It’s up to Seguin what he does next.
“I didn’t see the trade coming, but it happened,” Seguin said. “I’ve moved on. I’m looking forward to Dallas and ready to get this thing going.”
Though it is a red flag when a Cup-winning executive like Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli moves a 21-year-old as talented as Seguin is, it is a good sign when a Cup-winning executive like Stars GM Jim Nill decides Seguin is worth the risk. And these are two teams in different situations. The Bruins are in win-now mode and needed help on the wing, so Eriksson, a 28-year-old winger, was a better fit. The Stars are in up-and-coming mode and needed a No. 1 centerman, so Seguin, miscast on the wing in Boston, is a better fit in Dallas.
Nill knew Seguin well from his days as the Red Wings’ assistant GM, when he watched Seguin star in junior for the Plymouth Whalers in the Detroit suburbs. Nill also had two in-house resources: advisor to hockey operations Mark Recchi and TV analyst Marty Turco. Both had played with Seguin in Boston.
The Stars did their homework before the trade. They knew Seguin’s on-ice ability – 45 goals and 99 points in 129 games over the past two seasons. They knew a lot of players who had partied and played pretty well, and they knew how social media had changed the game for today’s generation.
They determined much of what had been reported about Seguin off the ice was untrue or exaggerated. Later, they confirmed his Twitter feed had been hacked – even during his introductory press conference in Dallas. They helped him get a new phone number, get a new email account and close his Twitter account.
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When the NHL asked for Seguin to come to its media event last week in New York, the Stars sent him. Why not? The Stars are well aware that some are skeptical. Seguin is well aware of it, too, and a little guarded. But they feel he has nothing from which to run, and if he’s going to be in the spotlight, he’s got to deal with it, fair or unfair.
“We know what we have there,” Nill said. “We gave up a great player to get him, and we’re excited what he brings to our team. We think he’s going to grow with the core of our team. We have a group of players now that are all under the age of 25 that are going to be the core of our team moving forward, and he’s a big part of that and we’re excited about how he can grow with those guys.”
Seguin will have a support network, however.
One concern is that Seguin went wild in Boston even though the Bruins were a tight, professional group. But he broke in as an 18-year-old on a team full of older, married men. He was on his own away from the rink. After the trade, Chiarelli emphasized that Seguin was still only 21. Last week, Bergeron said: “I think maybe part of it was that he was a young guy. He didn’t know any better.”
In Dallas, Seguin will be around guys in his age group – most notably 24-year-old Jamie Benn, his new linemate – and surrounded by mentors. Nill has also acquired veterans Sergei Gonchar, Shawn Horcoff and Rich Peverley. Erik Cole, Stephane Robidas and Ray Whitney already were in the room.
Seguin said he has met and talked to Nill “countless times.” Former Star Mike Modano, who once had his share of fun while winning a Cup and serving as the face of the franchise, is back with the organization as an executive advisor. Recchi and Turco will be hands-on.
“We just kind of remind him of our expectations, the way we act even now as a Dallas Star, what we expect moving forward,” Turco said. “I think that will be an ongoing educational process, and most of it will be first person and not just rhetoric. It will be through action.
“Now’s the time. I’m super excited for his opportunity.”
Turco has talked to Seguin about what he and his teammates could accomplish in Dallas – the city of the NFL’s Cowboys, NBA’s Mavericks and MLB’s Rangers, a city that loves winning athletes and teams, a city that once loved the Stars.
“These kids have a chance to be rock stars in a rock-star sports town, but it comes with a lot of responsibility,” Turco said. “He knows the kind of player he wants to be, and he’s got to work at it. You’ve got to set goals on and off the ice. He’s just kind of coming into his own.”
* * * * *
Let’s end with a story about Tyler Seguin on his computer. It’s not what you think.
Instead of tweeting, Seguin spent the summer logging on to NHL.com and studying video clips of Benn. He said he watched virtually every goal Benn scored the past four years – how he uses his size and speed, how quickly he gets from blue line to blue line, whether he shoots first or passes first.
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Seguin might be going back from the wing to his natural position at center, and Benn might be going from center to his natural position on the wing. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to just click. Seguin hasn’t played center much in the NHL, and because he was mostly on the wing in Boston, he became a shoot-first guy.
He’s going to have to pass first now. He’s also going to have to win faceoffs and handle more defensively, and he’s going to have to do it all with increased minutes against top competition – Jonathan Toews, Matt Duchene, David Backes, Mike Fisher, Mikko Koivu in his division alone.
“I think there’s going to be some chemistry to build,” Seguin said. “I think it’s going to be a massive challenge to play center in this league. But yeah, I am more comfortable at center. Once I get situated, I think that I’m going to be a better player playing that position.”
Don’t be surprised if Eriksson excels immediately in Boston, fitting in on the wing, doing his two-way thing on an established team. Don’t be surprised if Seguin needs more time to grow. Don’t be surprised if he figures it out eventually, either.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Bergeron said. “You need to play that position to get better. But you know, I think he’s learned from the best team, I guess, talking about our coaches. Our coaches are really good with their defensive zone system. He learned from that. He’s taking a lot of things from Boston, and he’s the type of player that wants to learn. I think he’s going to be fine.”
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