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Benn, Seguin called out by CEO for Stars' struggles

'We are getting terrible play from our top two players,' Lites says

by NHL.com

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were called out for their play by Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites on Friday.

"But for me, it's [upset me], what nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players," Lites told the Dallas News, referencing Benn, the captain, and Seguin, who had 40 goals last season.

"If 14 (Benn) and 91 (Seguin) don't lead we will not be successful," Lites said. "I think this is the most talented and deep team we've had in years here. Certainly this is the best team that we've put together from a talent perspective since Tom Gaglardi's owned the franchise.

"Tom has allowed us to do everything we needed to do to be successful. Whatever it's taken, he's done. And I am tired of getting emails from him saying 'What the hell is going on with our best players?'"

Seguin, a center, has a team-leading 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 38 games this season after scoring 78 points last season. Benn, a left wing, has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 38 games. He had a team-high 79 points last season.

Seguin's point total is tied for 57th in the NHL; Benn is tied for 67th entering play on Friday.

Dallas, which defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 on Thursday, is 19-16-3 and holds the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Seguin, 26, has been with the Stars since a trade from the Boston Bruins prior to the 2013-14 season. He scored 173 goals in his first five seasons with the Stars and is under contract through the 2026-27 season.

Benn, 29, has been with the Stars his entire NHL career, which began in the 2009-10 season. He has 626 points (269 goals, 357 assists) in 705 NHL games and is under contract through 2024-25.

"I don't think our guys perform poorly because they have contracts," Lites said. "I think they're comfortable. And I don't know if they see it. What's upsetting to me is that we live it every day. We change coaches. What, we have to change the general manager because these guys won't perform?

"This team shouldn't even be thinking about missing the playoffs. It shouldn't even be an issue. We are too talented, too good, too strong to be performing this poorly."

Jim Montgomery was hired during the offseason, the third Stars coach in three seasons. Thursday, he ripped the team for a lackadaisical morning skate, calling the preparation for the game against Nashville embarrassing.

The Stars have won with defense this season but were expected to be a better offensive team with Benn, Seguin and Alexander Radulov up front and offensive defenseman John Klingberg, who missed 18 games with a broken hand before returning Dec. 20. The Stars average 2.66 goals per game, the fifth lowest in the NHL. 

"The frustration I have is there were times where I think 'Geez, we're not getting any secondary scoring,'" Lites said. "But we're not getting any primary scoring."

From the start of the 2013-14 season through the end of the 2017-18 season, Benn was No. 3 in the NHL with 403 points and Seguin was tied for No. 6 with 384 points. 

Seguin and Benn each took responsibility for below-average play this season when asked after practice on Friday.

"Not good enough," Seguin told The Athletic. "I've got to play better. I'm trying to do a job and I haven't had the right results."

Benn told The Athletic: "I think it's pretty self-explanatory; if this team wants to get to the next level, that starts with myself," he said. "And that's exactly what needs to happen, we need to get better.

"It starts with the compete in our game, and when we are possessing the puck I think that's when we are at our best. I think we can definitely get our possession time up in the offensive zone, and [when] we take care of our own end first we are a lot better."

The Stars host the Detroit Red Wings at American Airlines Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-D, NHL.TV).

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