By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) — What were the biggest criticisms of Tyler Seguin when the Bruins shipped him to the Dallas Stars in 2013? He’s immature. He’s not a team player. He doesn’t commit to playing in his own end. He doesn’t care about winning. He’s not a true Bruin.
Ignoring that last ridiculous one, Seguin has subverted all of those notions in his time with the Dallas Stars, especially this season. And it’s making the Bruins’ trading of him look sillier by the day.
First, there has barely been a sniff of off-ice problems with Seguin, which was the chapter of the saga that generated the most salacious headlines here. And if there has been, they certainly haven’t affected his on-ice play. Second, he has earned praise from Stars coach Lindy Ruff and his teammates for working hard to play a more team-oriented game.
But the change that should make you the angriest about Seguin not wearing a spoked B is his play without the puck: he has become much less inept in his own end. In fact he may be quite ept.
Granted, neither Seguin nor NHL scoring leader Jamie Benn are going to be winning the Selke any time soon, but the offensively potent duo has clearly committed to playing more of a two-way game and it’s a major reason why the Stars sit atop the Western Conference at 9-3 to start the season.
“There’s a lot more stress defensively, but I want that,” Seguin told the Dallas Morning News shortly after the start of the season. “We have a different mind-set. We’ve been talking about it all summer, and I’ve been thinking about it all summer. I’m not going to be angry if I have no points but I play a good defensive game and we win. I’ve had that in my head for the past six months. We want to be out against the top lines, we want that challenge.”
Of course, the book isn’t closed on Seguin yet. The Stars could still fizzle out in this year’s playoffs with another disappearing act by Seguin, which would prompt a lot of Bruins supporters to cry “I told you so!” Seguin may indeed be a talented scorer who puts up numbers on mediocre teams. But he is still just 23 years old and is committed to becoming a better, smarter hockey player. And he knows what it takes to win…thanks to the Bruins.
I wrote about Seguin’s commitment to improving his two-way play in August, and again yesterday speculating that he may still have the same problems. A lot of Stars fans got mad at me, viewing the column as an attempt to justify the trade. I would never do such a thing – even with Loui Eriksson and Joe Morrow making meaningful contributions to the lineup, there’s no question that the Bruins lost that trade.
Stars fans also chastised me for putting too much blame on Seguin for his teams losing. Some of the same fans also argued that Joe Thornton had nothing to do with his teams’ storied history of playoff choking. That there’s not much difference between Thornton and Jonathan Toews. Which made me pop an extra Advil that day. If you can’t understand the difference between those players, if you think the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all randomness…then why do we play the games? Let’s just pick the Cup winner out of a hat. Or a wheel, we could spin a wheel!
Yes, hockey is a team game and one guy can’t do it all by himself – but the top guys need to at least do their part, if not play even better when the games get bigger. Toews gets better while guys like Thornton shrink. It’s unclear which side of the fence Seguin calls home, but again he’s only 23 and has plenty of time to get even better.
My whole point through all of this was that even Seguin himself knew that he needed to get better in his own end – and that he needed to do it to give his team a better chance at winning – and now he’s doing it and the Stars are winning more. It’s not a coincidence. He’s proving all of his skeptics wrong, myself included, and it’s permeating throughout the team as the Stars themselves have said.
So if you’re a Stars fan reading this, please please please don’t yell at me for justifying the trade or saying Seguin sucks. I really can’t deal with that nonsense again. And I don’t want to hear about dead horses either; we’re talking about a big-name former Bruin who won a Cup with the team then got unceremoniously shipped out, and is now returning to Boston as an offensive superstar and improved two-way player. Sorry, but Seguin is going to be written about in this scenario. I’m not losing sleep over this, I’m just offering my take on a relevant topic.
Perhaps the Bruins could have never kept Seguin in the first place, considering their long-term commitments to David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron at the center position. And Krejci in particular is proving this year that he is a world-class centerman – in all three zones – and worth every penny. But the Bruins certainly could have gotten a better return on the Seguin trade, or at least given the kid a few more years to improve.
He’s doing it now, and unfortunately for Boston it’s in a different uniform.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.