Elite talent is the hardest thing to find in the NHL. That’s why the Dallas Stars were willing to pay an extremely dear price to land a player who might bring exactly that to the position of first-line centre.
At least superficially, it’s a gamble that looks to be paying off for Dallas general manager Jim Nill.
Nill placed a heavy emphasis on addressing the Stars’ problems at centre ice this summer. Including Seguin, three of the team’s five principal pivots were acquired by Nill in the offseason. Rich Peverley came over in the same trade that brought Seguin and Shawn Horcoff was added thanks to a salary dump by Edmonton.
The results posted by those other additions have been somewhat mixed, but the addition of Seguin at the cost of a quartet of players—headlined by longtime Stars winger Loui Eriksson—was always going to be the move that mattered the most.
Offensively, there can be no doubt that Seguin has delivered as hoped.
The 21-year-old currently leads the Stars in scoring with 15 goals and 27 points in 26 games, one point ahead of regular linemate Jamie Benn.
A hat trick against Philadelphia over the weekend underscored that Seguin is capable of being an elite-level scorer, the kind of offensive difference-maker that every contending team wants up the middle.
There is also no doubt that Seguin’s line has been driving results overall. While his two-way game—like that of many young players—is still a work in progress, the Stars have outshot the opposition 213-180 with Seguin on the ice in five-on-five situations.
There remain concerns, however.
One of the key concerns is that voiced by many prominent members of the Bruins organization after Seguin’s trade: his off-ice maturity.
While Seguin’s talent remains indisputable, Boston president Cam Neely revealed to The Sports Hub (h/t CBS Boston) that perceptions of Seguin’s character played heavily into the decision to trade the player:
There were a couple factors that have been mentioned out there, both on and off the ice. Personally, I think Tyler is a good kid that has a lot of skill. He needs to understand what he needs to do to be successful on the ice and understand what he has to do off the ice to have a long career.
Rumours and innuendo shouldn’t be fair game in assessing a player, but the stated positions of multiple NHL executives with firsthand knowledge—the same CBS Boston article references a similar statement made by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to CSNNE.com—go well beyond that and deserve consideration.
In this case, maturity is part of the risk/reward calculation inherent in the acquisition of Seguin.
Even ignoring that part of the equation, it’s fair to wonder if Seguin’s apparent step forward is as substantial as it seems.
To begin with, Seguin’s shot generation is actually down somewhat compared to last season and his goal scoring is a result of a likely inflated 18.5 shooting percentage. In three prior seasons, Seguin had never topped 12.0 percent. Even including this year’s spike, his career average is just 11.5 percent.
Adjusting down to his career levels, he’d be on pace for 29 goals over 82 games—certainly a respectable total, but also a pace he’s achieved before.
Additionally, Seguin’s strong on-ice results come with the caveat that head coach Lindy Ruff has tilted the ice for his top centre, starting him primarily in the offensive zone. In fairness, Seguin’s also facing top opposition, so it isn’t like Ruff’s sheltered him, but he has been placed in an environment where offence is expected.
Risk remains, and that can’t be ignored. Seguin’s had some breaks this season too, which have helped him post the impressive results.
Even so, at this point Nill’s bet on Seguin still looks like a good one. He’s a 21-year-old playing against the best available opposition and he’s both scoring and creating more than he gives up.
There is no reason to believe the second overall pick in 2010 has finished developing either, and if he makes further progress in the next few seasons, Stars fans are going to be extremely happy that Nill took the chance he did.