Over the Boards: Seguin Finds Home With Stars
The notable differences between Tyler Seguin's game with the Boston Bruins the past few seasons and his game with the Dallas Stars this season are attitude, position and production. Ask anyone around the Stars organization and they'll sing Seguin's praises for how good he's been in the dressing room, in the community and on the ice.
"He's been outstanding for us," Dallas general manager Jim Nill told NHL.com.
Seguin feels two of the biggest differences are the makeup of the Stars' roster and the stage the team finds itself in its development, and that those may be the reasons everything else has fallen in line for him this season.
Nill is building around a core of young players that includes Seguin, captain Jamie Benn, rookie Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon. Benn, at 24, is the oldest player in that group. Nichushkin, 18, is the youngest.
Seguin, 21, came from an organization in Boston that had already built most of its core by the time he arrived as the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara were already in their prime. Milan Lucic was three seasons into his career. Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, Tim Thomas, Nathan Horton, Marc Savard and Michael Ryder were veterans.
"I feel like I'm a part of something here," Seguin said. "It's a growing process rather than stepping into a locker room where the guys have already grown together and I just have to play a role."
Seguin said he used to hear stories from the guys in Boston about what home games at TD Garden were like before the Bruins built themselves into a Stanley Cup championship team.
"It's just different, night and day," he said. "I stepped into a team [in Boston] that was at the result portion of the process. Some of the guys were telling me that when they first started, no one was in the stands, but when I stepped in, it was boom -- it's there. Now it's the reverse. We're trying to build this thing up."
He's certainly doing his part with a team-high 21 goals and 41 points in 40 games. Seguin and Benn have formed a chemistry on the ice that extends to a friendship off the ice. Nill likes to say the two are basically inseparable. It's the type of off-ice friendship that Seguin lacked in Boston because of how much younger he was than everybody else.
"We have similar personalities," Seguin said of him and Benn. "We like to go to work and work hard, have a lot of confidence, but we get along. We're two funny guys, pretty social. It's something that clicked."
It works on the ice for the Stars because they're versatile players. Seguin, a natural center, spent the past few seasons playing on the wing. Benn, a natural left wing, used to play center for the Stars. They're interchangeable in the offensive zone and even alternate on faceoffs, with Benn taking the majority of the draws in the left circle and Seguin taking them in the right circle.
Sharing faceoff duties is working particularly well for Benn, who is winning 57.9 percent of his draws this season, up from 46.1 percent in 2012-13. Benn took 709 faceoffs in 41 games last season; he has taken 337 in 42 games this season.
Seguin has struggled, winning 40.8 percent of his faceoffs (155-for-380).
"And they're both shooters, so if one is taking the draw, the other guy is ready to shoot," Nill said. "They're a pretty dangerous combination."
Seguin was nervous about moving back to center after playing the majority of his first three NHL seasons on the wing.
"I still had lots to learn," he said.
Nill didn't have any concerns, not after seeing so many of Seguin's games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League when he was working for the Detroit Red Wings. Nill said starting his career on the wing in Boston aided Seguin's development and has made him a better center.
"It made him learn the other parts of the game," Nill said. "Boston is built to win the Cup, and with a young player, that's what happens. It's no different in Detroit for [Henrik Zetterberg] and [Pavel Datsyuk]; during our Cup years, they were on the third or fourth line. That's the way it is. Now we're fortunate we were able to reap the benefits of acquiring him and he's going to be a guy we're building the team around."