Tyler Seguin was 18 years old when he made the NHL. As the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, he went straight from playing junior hockey and living with a family in a Detroit suburb to playing for the Bruins, making millions of dollars and living in his own apartment in downtown Boston. He drove a brand-new black Range Rover instead of walking the two minutes to TD Garden, because otherwise he would be recognized on the street.
“We know he’s got skill,” said Mark Recchi, then his veteran linemate and mentor, in January 2011. “It’s learning to be a pro every day. That’s a hard process.”
Tyler Seguin was 21 years old when he was traded Thursday. Keep that in mind as you digest the deal that sent Seguin, Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and prospects Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser – just days after Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said Seguin needs to “focus all his mind and energy on hockey” and “be a better pro.” Keep that in mind as reports suddenly surface detailing Seguin’s off-ice shenanigans.
It’s an important issue. What should be a good trade for both teams will hinge on Seguin’s development, and Seguin is about to start the six-year, $34.5 million extension he signed last fall. But it can be a hard process, and it’s early in the process for Seguin. The Stars are moving him from the wing to his natural position of center, and they know him well. Dallas GM Jim Nill came from the Detroit Red Wings, where he was the assistant GM and often watched Seguin play junior. Guess who is the Stars’ advisor to hockey operations? Seguin’s linemate and mentor in his rookie year, Mark Recchi.
“We know there’s great potential there,” Nill said, “and we look forward to him kind of continuing to grow here in Dallas.”
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Seguin needs to grow up. So do a lot of 21-year-olds. So do a lot of talented kids who achieve fame and fortune at a young age. It doesn’t excuse everything, but it’s not uncommon. Patrick Kane was drafted first overall in 2007. He has had ups and downs on the ice and off. After some downs both ways last year, he recommitted himself, played with Seguin in Switzerland during the lockout and excelled this season. He helped the Chicago Blackhawks beat Seguin’s Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. The point is not that Kane and Seguin are the same or will turn out the same. The point is this stuff does not necessarily define a young person or player, and it’s up to Seguin to write the rest of the story.
“You know, I come to the rink every day, I’m always professional and work my hardest,” Seguin said. “Obviously I think the first three years of my career so far have been a big learning curve. I look forward to getting better every day, and I’m definitely more motivated coming into a great city like Dallas.”
Don’t forget how Seguin entered the NHL. The debate was Taylor vs. Tyler – Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin for the first overall pick. Hall went No. 1 to Edmonton, Seguin No. 2 to Boston. In some ways, it was easier for Seguin, because he didn’t have to play a leading role on a young team like Hall did with the Oilers. He could play a depth role on a veteran team and learn. But in other ways, it was harder. He was under the spotlight – in Boston and his hometown of Toronto – because the Bruins got that No. 2 pick from the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade. He moved from center to wing. He was on a team with high standards, high expectations and low tolerance for young mistakes.
Seguin struggled offensively in the playoffs this year. He had one goal and eight points in 22 games. Comcast Sports Network New England reported Seguin was out late in Toronto during the first round, showing up at Air Canada Centre in the same clothes for three straight days and playing poorly. The report said the team sat him down to discuss his “commitment to the team.” After the trade, a Boston bar, the Cask ’N Flagon, tweeted about Seguin demanding entry. It later tweeted that it was a joke and that it “never denied him entry.”
That said, Seguin had 16 goals and 32 points in 48 regular-season games – four more goals and three more points than Eriksson did in the same number of games – and it wasn’t supposed to be a good year for him. He had 29 goals and 67 points last season, his second in the NHL, which he started at 19 years old and finished at 20. Eriksson is 27, and outside of one 36-goal season, his career high in goals is 29. His career high in points is 73. Seguin has work to do defensively, but he did buy in during the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who scored only two goals in four games against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final, noted how even Seguin was backchecking.
“I think Tyler’s under quite the microscope here in Boston,” Peverley said. “I’ve heard a lot of things in the past 24 hours about Tyler that I don’t think are true, and it’s unfortunate that it’s come to people talking like that. He works very hard. He’s gotten a lot more mature the three years I’ve been with him. He commits himself to the game and getting better. I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to improve all the time.”
This is a good deal for Boston because Eriksson is a low-key, consistent player who can play right wing – which works well for the Bruins with Seguin, Nathan Horton and perhaps Jaromir Jagr departing. Boston also opens cap space and picks up prospects. The Bruins are in win-now mode. This is a good deal for the Stars because Seguin slots as their No. 1 center, moving Jamie Benn back to his natural position on the wing, and Peverley fills a hole as their No. 3 center. They are in up-and-coming mode with a new GM in Nill, a new coach in Lindy Ruff, even new jerseys. If Seguin reaches his potential, he can be a centerpiece.
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“We just look forward to him taking a leadership role down here in Dallas,” Nill said. “He’s going to be growing up with the Jamie Benns and these guys. We’ve got a core group of players that are all under the age of 25, 26 and younger. I think that’s going to be great for him to kind of grow in with the rest of these players and help create a great environment down here for us.”
One concern: Is Seguin ready for a leadership role? He needed guidance when he was surrounded by veterans in Boston, and Nill has been working on adding experience in Dallas. He signed defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a two-year, $10-million deal. He also traded for center Shawn Horcoff on Thursday, giving him Seguin, Peverley and Horcoff down the middle. The Stars are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and needed veteran presence beyond Ray Whitney, Erik Cole and Stephane Robidas.
But at least Seguin will be able to use his skill and speed in the middle of the ice as a centerman, and maybe this will be a humbling experience. Maybe this will be a step in the process. Like Recchi in 2011, Chiarelli said learning to be a pro means competing on the ice more than anything off the ice.
“No player is perfect, either as a player or an individual,” Chiarelli said. “All this stuff mushrooms into a proliferation of items on social media. I get overwhelmed by the number of stuff that comes out. Maybe some of it’s true, but I know not all of it’s true. Tyler’s a 21-year-old. He’s a good kid. He’s got a good heart. He’s going to continue to grow up.”
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