Inside Tyler Seguin's Image Makeover with the Dallas Stars

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Inside Tyler Seguin's Image Makeover with the Dallas Stars
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DENVER—Inside the visitors’ dressing room at the Pepsi Center Monday morning, Tyler Seguin perused a post-morning-skate spread of fruit and the makings for peanut butter and jelly (and honey) sandwiches, before plucking a banana.

Peanut butter, jelly and bananas—this is the former bad boy of Boston?

Anyway, the 1982 Heaven 17 hit “Let Me Go” played on the team CD player, and Seguin—not born for another nine years when the single was released—seemed to be grooving to the beat and lyrics of Glenn Gregory, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware.

“Once there was a day

We were together all the way

An endless path unbroken”

This is the former bad boy of Boston? Where’s the Metallica t-shirt? Where are the Beavis and Butthead references to his behavior?

Anyway, if Stars first-year general manager Jim Nill were to dedicate any song to Seguin at the company karaoke night, it might be this one. Together, all the way, is something Nill can only hope how the song ends in his relationship with Seguin. In his first big trade as GM, Nill shocked the hockey world with the blockbuster that brought Seguin to Dallas from Boston, where one would have thought it would have been that same song and dance from Bruins management to Seguin.

Until they let him go.

Now, Seguin is out to prove Bruins management made a very big mistake in letting him go, and so far he’s doing a pretty nice job of it.

Following Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Avs in the second half of a barn-to-barn series, Seguin’s statistics after 31 games stood at 18 goals, 15 assists and a plus-nine for a 16-12-5 team. Yeah, the Bruins stood at 23-9-2 after Tuesday’s games, but Eriksson remains sidelined with his second concussion of the year, and there are skeptics who think Boston gave up far too much offense in Seguin and veteran Rich Peverley as part of the blockbuster, seven-player trade. Seguin, 21, is on pace for 47 goals.

He has proven the best player in the trade so far, and if Sam Pollock’s old definition of a trade holdsthat whoever gets the best player, wins, well…

“I knew he was fast, but I didn’t think he was that fast,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told Bleacher Report. “I knew he had a quick shot. I didn’t realize how quick and accurate it is.”

There is a theme here perhaps; maybe those who thought they knew Seguin…well, maybe they didn’t know him that well. It was Bruins management, after all, who led the way in character assassinating him out of town last summer, helped along by a compliant Boston media.

Bruins president Cam Neely told a Boston radio station (h/t Mike Cole, NESN.com), “He needs to understand what he needs to do to be successful on the ice and also needs a little understanding of what he has to do off the ice to have a long career. There’s always some concern of will he really understand what it takes to be the player or the professional that you’d like to see.”

Neely wouldn’t “get into specifics,” however, which left a vacuum that many in the media were only too happy to fill with innuendo about Seguin’s character. He was too much of a party boy. He didn’t take the team concept seriously enoughi.e., missing the occasional wake-up call off the ice or hogging the puck too much on the ice.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This, despite a first three seasons in Boston—starting at age 18—in which he helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup and to another conference final, which convinced Bruins management to give him a multiyear, $35 million contract. That contract formally kicked in this October, except with the Stars.

It remains one of the more baffling trades of recent NHL history. The Bruins gave up on a 21-year-old kid with special offensive abilities seemingly in a fit of pique. Now, they must stare at Seguin’s numbers in Dallas. Perhaps even more galling for Bruins fans and perhaps those in management: Seguin has chosen to take the high road regarding the things said about him since he left.

“I was disappointed with some things that were said, but I moved on a long time ago,” Seguin told Bleacher Report. “I’m happy where I am.”

Seguin has become like the third fraternal twin of Jamie and Jordie Benn with the Stars. While he lives on his own, he resides in the same luxury apartment complex with the Benns and hangs out with them most of the time. Yet, there have been no reports of illicit off-ice behavior by Seguin in Dallas, no stories of him going off the deep end in Deep Ellum or any of the city’s other party districts. Mostly, Seguin and the Benns like to hang out, watch hockey and play videos games.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Exactly what the big deal of Seguin’s alleged bad behavior in Boston remains to be figured out, anyway. What, an 18- to 21-year-old young man with money and fame can’t have a little fun away from the rink once in a while? What, are the Bruins now supposed to be known as the Boston Puritans?

“I think it was overblown,” Peverley told Bleacher Report, of Seguin’s alleged off-ice issues. “There’s a lot of media in Boston. It’s unfortunate the way it was, but I think he’s taken it in stride here and put it behind him. I think he’s done a good job that way. He’s been excellent with us so far here. He’s stayed focused, and I think he’s been playing a good, overall rounded game.”

The Stars have had the good sense to play Seguin where he’s supposed to play, his natural center position. In Boston, the team tried to put the square peg in the round hole too much, playing Seguin on the wing, trying to make him a checker on a depth line. Seguin isn’t big enough for that, and his natural skating stride isn’t suited for the wing. As a centerman, he can skate with a wider stance and be more of a surveyor of the landscape; as a winger, he had to skate with too much of a hippety-hop stride with a narrow vision.

It didn’t play to his strengths, yet Boston seemed flummoxed when Seguin didn’t turn into Terry O’Reilly or something.

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Seguin now is centering Jamie Benn and 18-year-old Russian Valeri Nichushkin, the 10th player selected in the 2013 NHL draft. The line has quickly become one of the most feared by opponents in the league.

“That’s a real tough line,” Avalanche defender Jan Hejda said. “That’s a lot of skill on one line.”

Despite getting an extra point against the Bruins so far this year with a shootout goal in Boston, despite the big point production overall for his new team, Seguin refuses to gloat at all at his former team.

Maybe the word for that is: maturity.

“I mean, I still check the box scores of their games,” Seguin said. “But I also check the box scores of the Plymouth Whalers too. I’ve got friends from both those places. But I’ve got new friends here now too.”

 Adrian Dater has covered the NHL for the Denver Post since 1995. Follow him on Twitter at Adater.

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