Tyler Seguin will always consider Boston as something more than just another NHL city, but the question is: How will his first NHL city come to think of him?
As the prodigal party boy the Bruins were better off cutting ties with while the cutting was good? Or as the latest elite NHL talent the Bruins cut adrift only to watch star in another market?
Tuesday Seguin and the Dallas Stars roll into TD Bank Garden for the first time since the controversial off-season trade. He doesn’t know what to expect.
“I’m not sure if I’ll get booed or if I’ll get a little applause my first time out there or whatnot,” Seguin says. “But I’m definitely excited about going back home.”
And not just because he gets to see what he describes as “a ton” of friends he made in Boston over three seasons there. It’s his first chance to stick it to an organization that drafted him, signed him to a six-year, $34.5-million contract extension and then smeared him on his way out the door.
“One hundred percent,” says Seguin.
Prior to the deal there were whispers about Seguin partying more than the Bruins preferred, whispers that gained momentum when Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took a broad swipe at his character leading up to the deal:
“He’s got to commit his mind and focus to the one task at hand,” Chiarelli told the Boston Globe this past summer. “He’s got to become more of a professional. You know what? I can say that about a lot of 21-year-olds… he’s got to commit to being a professional and focusing on the game. Simple as that.” Following the trade came another report that Seguin’s lifestyle was so over the top during the playoffs—during which he scored one goal in 22 games and was dropped to the third line—that the Bruins had him live in a hotel with a security guard to keep watch.
Seguin admits that he’s not beyond enjoying life as a young multi-millionaire when the time and place calls for it, but says the reports of his party-filled demise are greatly exaggerated.
“When it all came out I was a little disappointed… but I can’t pay too much attention to that,” he says. “I’m a pro, I go to the rink every day and work my hardest and then go home. As an 18-year-old in Boston it was a hockey market that I got recognized so much it got overanalyzed or overplayed, me being the only single guy and whatnot.”
Throw in a few ill-conceived tweets—Seguin apologized for one and claims his account was hacked for the other, subsequently shutting down his social-media presence—and it’s easy to paint him as a player on course to waste his talent.
Except there’s little evidence he’s on course to waste anything.
He comes into Boston leading the Stars in scoring with 15 points (five goals and nine assists) in 14 games. He also leads all Dallas forwards in ice time in his first season playing centre in the NHL after playing the wing in Boston.
He’s not without flaws —Stars coach Lindy Ruff criticized Seguin’s work in the faceoff circle Sunday after his No.1 centre lost 13 of 14 draws in Dallas’s 4–3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators—but he’s shown enough spark to make Ruff a fan.
“There’s no limit I could put on him,” says Ruff, who has been pleased overall with Seguin’s work in his own zone. “He’s as dynamic and explosive a skater as there is in the game.”
In addition to his faceoff work Ruff wants Seguin to focus on better play in tight, but allows that developing the habits that will help him realize his full potential will take time. “They aren’t things that happen in five or 10 games—it takes seasons,” says Ruff.
In the meantime Seguin has quickly fit in on a roster full of younger players trying to grow together as a group. He lives in the same downtown condominium building as Stars captain and linemate Jamie Benn and his older brother, defenceman Jordie. He endeared himself early on by cooking dinner at their place every day for a week, and is now a fixture on their couch for Sunday-afternoon football.
“I’ve heard so much stuff. Everyone hears it: Tyler Seguin this, Tyler Seguin that… But from when I first met him until now he’s been the exact opposite of what some people say about him. He’s pretty low-key, he’s a nice, happy-go-lucky kid,” says 26-year-old Jordie, the elder statemen of the trio. “To make it to the NHL is one thing, but to make it at 18, 19 or 20—that’s another. You have to embrace and have some fun with it.”
Adds Jordie, “He could have done whatever he did here and gotten away with it because no one would have known him; he’s just a young kid having fun.” So let’s get this straight: Do members of the Dallas Stars sometimes go out, too?
“Sometimes,” jokes Jordie. “[But] usually we’re in bed by 10. Just like junior.”
In Seguin’s defence, the Bruins track record for moving young talent early in their careers isn’t the greatest.
Seguin arrived in Boston thanks to their decision to trade Phil Kessel to Toronto after his third season with the Bruins. Like Seguin, Kessel was a high-skill speedster who played too much on the perimeter for their liking. Kessel is on his way to leading the Leafs in scoring for his fifth straight season with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 15 games, good for fifth in the NHL.
And then there’ s Joe Thornton, who lasted seven seasons in Boston before being traded at age 26 and scoring 678 points in 607 games—and counting—in San Jose.
Seguin won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins but the experience that sticks with him more now that’s he’s in Dallas is losing one.
“When I won the Stanley Cup [as a rookie in 2011] I didn’t feel the complete worth of the Cup. I felt it more last year, getting so close and losing it on home ice and seeing the other team hoist it,” he says. “At the time I didn’t take it for granted—it felt awesome and it was a dream come true… But now I know how it feels to lose after coming so close.”
Now he’s in Dallas as one of the centerpieces of a rebuild that has featured new ownership, new management, a new coaching staff and a new logo as the Stars try to shake off a five-year playoff drought and all kinds of off-ice challenges to return the franchise to its late 1990s Stanley Cup heyday. If they get there Seguin will have to be one of the leaders, and he’s up for it.
How does he want the hockey world to think about him five years from now, when he’ll be a grizzled 26-year-old with eight years in the NHL?
“Hopefully a player that grew up, learned from his mistakes and became a heck of a hockey player,” he says. “I want to be the ultimate pro and with the guidance that I’ve gotten, the experiences that I’ve gained so far in my young, long, three-year career, it’s going to be good.”