One of them is a still-maturing player of limitless offensive potential, and the other is an underrated two-way veteran. One is headed to a rebuilt underachiever, the other to Stanley Cup contender. Which of them will have the greater impact this season?
Judging from events like the Joe Thornton trade years ago, the Boston Bruins take team chemistry quite seriously. On July 4, 2013, the Stanley Cup contender left the trade table with a player in his prime that was seen to be a better fit in Loui Eriksson, but in Tyler Seguin, the Dallas Stars walked away with a guy who is potentially a game-changing superstar.
It wasn't a one-for-one trade; it was actually a seven-player swap. The complete exchange saw Rich Peverley and Ryan Button join Seguin going to Dallas, and Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser going to Boston with Eriksson.
Not to dismiss the value of the other five players involved in the trade, nor Seguin's enormous value over Eriksson in the long run, but this article is focused more on which of the two cornerstones of this trade will have a greater impact right now in 2013-14.
Part of that impact is team-dependent. Dallas is in a much different position than a Stanley Cup contender like Boston, for example. Originally without even a plan to reach the postseason, the Stars have been in the process of completely re-engineering the entire franchise. This particular trade was just one of several integral moves, such as the hiring of a new general manager (Jim Nill) and head coach (Lindy Ruff).
That being said, Tyler Seguin is seen as an ideal center for Dallas' current superstar, Jamie Benn, one of the league’s most underrated top players. Seguin's success will be measured not only by his own contributions but his ability to help unleash Benn's, and to ultimately reach the postseason.
The Boston Bruins, on the other hand, stand shoulder to shoulder with Pittsburgh and Chicago as the league’s best team. They are so deep up front that Tyler Seguin was often used on the third line, whereas a two-way player in his prime like Loui Eriksson is seen as someone who can get immediate results alongside Patrice Bergeron, and in a wide variety of game situations.
Like Dallas, Boston did embark on some re-tooling of its own to address its surprisingly lackluster power play. In addition to the departure of Seguin and Peverley, unrestricted free agents Jaromir Jagr and Nathan Horton weren’t re-signed, being replaced instead by Jarome Iginla and the B's newest arrival in Eriksson. The measurement of Eriksson's success is therefore based in large part on his ability to improve Boston's special teams—and to make the critical difference in the Bruins' quest for the Stanley Cup.
Which player has the greater potential of achieving their respective goals? The answer requires a deeper analytic look at each of their histories.
Drafted second overall with one of the picks acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade (yes, this isn't the first season that their likely finish was overestimated), Seguin immediately signed and entry-level deal and won the Stanley Cup in his first NHL season. A center in his rookie season, and still commonly listed as a center, Seguin more commonly plays on the wing and has actually only taken 151 faceoffs in the past two seasons.
In terms of traditional statistics, Seguin has already had considerable success recently. He has missed only one game in the past two seasons, blasting 403 shots (17th in the NHL) and scoring 45 goals (33rd) and 99 points (41st) in those 129 games, and adding a plus-55 (second). Plus/minus may be one of the more contextual statistics, but that's impressive, even on a team like Boston. For instance, last year Boston scored 3.75 goals per 60 minutes when he was on the ice (at even strength) and allowed just 1.48.
One of the more non-traditional statistics out there is called Corsi, which is the same as plus/minus except that it uses attempted shots instead of goals, is even strength only and is worked out as a rate over 60 minutes. There's a variation called Relative Corsi, which is simply a player's Corsi relative to the team's Corsi without him.
If team effects were mostly responsible for Seguin's incredible plus/minus, we would expect his Relative Corsi to be far more modest. Instead, it has been 18.4 and 20.6 in the past two seasons, respectively, which is ridiculously good. For those not into these types of metrics, let's just say that Boston plays with the puck a lot more when Seguin's on the ice than when he's not. This is still a contextual statement, it's but a healthy endorsement of his play, nonetheless. As is his success rate in shootouts (13-for-27) over his three seasons.
The only (on-ice) knock against Seguin is that his defensive game hasn’t fully developed. In fairness, that could be because Boston already had so many formidable defensive weapons that his were simply not needed. There's no reason to pull wheels on your speedboat so that you can drive it on the highway, and Dallas, like Boston, needs a speedboat.
Swedish left winger Loui Eriksson was drafted 33rd overall by the Dallas Stars in 2003, and he played with them until the day of the trade. The 28-year-old is known for his consistency, missing just three games over the past five seasons and scoring 71, 73 and 71 points (2010-2012) going into last season.
Over that three-year period, Eriksson scored 82 goals (29th in the NHL) and 215 points (18th) while establishing a reputation as a strong defensive player.
Unfortunately, Eriksson is coming off a disappointing season, like much of his former team. He scored 29 points in 48 games, just 18 of which were at even strength. Eriksson hasn't been much better than Seguin on the power play, with the exception of a strong 25-point season in 2010-11.
The advantage Eriksson brings to the Bruins goes beyond scoring, however. He's more well-rounded defensively and is often used to kill penalties, where he consistently averages almost two minutes a game every year.
His highly disciplined, non-physical play still draws a fair share of penalties, leading to a few extra power plays for his team every year. And though not as gifted as Seguin in the shootout department, he has still gone 9-for-25 over the previous three seasons.
Eriksson's scoring could remain in the 50-point range and still be considered the more valuable player, provided he continues to provide these extra benefits.
Given Tyler Seguin's likely offensive output this year, the onus is really on Loui Eriksson to rival his likely contributions. To do that, Eriksson will either have to return to the 70-point level or, more realistically, at least reach 60 while contributing in his own end to a greater extent than Seguin.
Seguin will also have far more opportunities to contribute. Dallas is a team with a lot more room to improve than Boston, and even a prolonged slump won't knock him out the lineup. The same can't be said for Eriksson, who would really have to catch lightning in a bottle to have the same kind of impact on a team that's already among the very best.
There's also no guarantee that Seguin's defensive game won't develop in Dallas, especially alongside someone like Jamie Benn, which may do much to neutralize Eriksson's primary advantage over him. Seguin's enormous offensive upside, which could be upwards of 100 points, can also make the entire discussion about defense entirely moot.
Loui Eriksson is a highly effective and underrated two-way player, but Tyler Seguin's contributions should outstrip his even in the inaugural post-trade season.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.
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