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After Trade from Bruins, Seguin Loves Role with Stars

by Dan Rosen / Dallas Stars

The cowboy hat fit, so Tyler Seguin put it on and embraced the look.

"A hundred percent," Seguin told NHL.com.

This was Oct. 11, 2013, after Seguin, the Dallas Stars center, put the finishing touches on a four-point night at the Winnipeg Jets. He was talking to the media about his new start, his fresh start with a new team, when someone off-camera handed him a cowboy hat with a Stars logo on it.

The hat is the pseudo-trophy the Stars give out to their player of the game after wins. Vernon Fiddler started the tradition last season. Seguin was an easy choice that night in Winnipeg after Dallas' third game of the season, but it was his reaction that left an indelible mark that Stars general manager Jim Nill vividly recalls.

Seguin grabbed the hat and plucked it right down on his head. He smiled. He chuckled. He continued answering questions, but he could hardly get through the three-minute session with reporters without cracking up.

This was one of the first public signs of Seguin, Toronto-born and NHL Boston-bred, wrapping his arms around playing for the Stars.

"It was a crazy feeling getting traded," said Seguin, who was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Stars on July 4, 2013. "It was wrestling with emotions of being sad, angry, and figuring out if I had anything that I regret. Coming to Dallas, Jim Nill sat me down and pretty much said this is a brand-new opportunity. I have a bigger role in Dallas and I have embraced that. I think it helped me mature a lot, and here we are."

Many people wondered whether Seguin would ever get to this point in his hockey career after watching him in his first three seasons in Boston.

Seguin won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins as a rookie, scored 29 goals in his second season and returned to the Stanley Cup Final in his third season, but what looked good on paper wasn't in reality. Seguin left Boston with the reputation of a wild partyer who didn't know right from wrong and who didn't care.

His original Twitter account featured compromising pictures and a series of uncomfortable tweets, including one that appeared a few days after he was traded that led him to delete the account. Seguin was criticized for his play in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he had eight points in 22 games. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli openly criticized Seguin's professionalism days before trading him.

Seguin insists much of what was said and written about him in his final days with the Bruins was either fabricated or blown out of proportion, but there is no denying his reputation and the rumors that followed him played a role in his departure out of Boston.

"Obviously I won a Stanley Cup and gained experience, but yeah, sometimes I think everything is overshadowed by those rumors and stories that came out once I got traded," Seguin said.

"I don't know if it was too much too soon, but I dealt with it how I was going to deal with it. I can't change the person that I am. I think there were decisions that I wish I could have changed, but that's all about growing as a person and an athlete in the NHL."

Seguin has become a young leader for the Stars, a role model and a superstar since arriving in Dallas and putting on that cowboy hat.

He is tied for first in the NHL with 28 goals and second in the League with 52 points this season. He will face his former team Tuesday before traveling to Columbus to participate in his second NHL All-Star Game on Sunday at Nationwide Arena. He is the Stars' lone representative. Seguin was also an All-Star in 2012.

"When you're younger and coming into the League, you're still trying to figure out the in-between part of how to deal with everything," Seguin said. "It's all a learning process, especially when you're 18 coming [into the League]. Now I feel I've adapted to it, my surroundings, and being a professional."

Rumors, the trade, becoming a Star

Nill didn't hesitate to make the trade for Seguin because he already knew the type of player he was acquiring. Nill knew Seguin before the latter was anybody worth knowing in the hockey world.

When Nill was the assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, he lived five minutes from Compuware Arena, the home of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Seguin played two seasons, 124 games in total, with the Whalers from 2008-10. Nill saw plenty of him and heard even more.

"I knew him really well as a player," Nill said. "I knew what he was as a player, and I knew there was some growth there and some really good skill. I knew him a little as a person, but then you do hear the rumblings of what's going on."

The rumblings were coming out of Boston, but Nill saw an opportunity to acquire a young player with a Stanley Cup championship ring and three seasons under his belt playing out of position on the right wing for the Bruins.

Nill didn't care that Seguin was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft or that his reputation in Boston was questionable; he cared that Seguin scored 29 goals in the 2011-12 season, that he had playoff experience and that he had a promising future.

"What I liked is he had been groomed by the Boston Bruins … they do things the right way," Nill said. "I knew he had kind of gone to university. I knew the seeds had been planted. He was in the mode of being taught how to do it. I knew I wasn't getting a raw 21-year-old who had no idea how to play the game; I knew he had already gone to school and it had to kind of come together.

"I heard the rumblings about off-ice stuff, but once again you've gotta keep it in perspective; he was 21, there's things that are going to happen."

Dallas captain Jamie Benn also heard the rumors that followed Seguin out of Boston; it made him even more intrigued.

"I wanted to help him out, guide him, figure out what he was like," Benn said. "Half the stuff wasn't even true. We're all going to have fun while we're young. I went through it too, but I was down here in Dallas and I just don't think it got magnified as much as it did for him."

Stars coach Lindy Ruff couldn't care less about the rumors he had heard about Seguin's off-ice transgressions. He was ready to give Seguin a fresh start. He also spoke to Bruins coach Claude Julien and heard only good things.

"Claude liked him," Ruff said. "He just said he's a young player, but he liked Tyler and he had a lot of good things to say. He said he just needs to mature. All the things that Claude said about him were right. He's a good person; he's just young.

"When I had a discussion with Jim after we got him, we looked at it as we would wipe the slate clean and move forward with him."

Seguin had to be ready for the ride, even though the trade shook him up and forced him to re-assess everything he had done in Boston. He realized there was so much to gain from his time there.

"I have no regrets because I saw so much in Boston," Seguin said. "I don't tell him a lot, but I really looked up to (Patrice) Bergeron a lot; the way he carried himself made you think he was 10 years older than his actual age. That's the feeling I've tried to bring to Dallas. I'm still one of the youngest players on the team, but I try to be a younger leader on the team."

A new dynamic duo

The first assignment Seguin gave himself upon arriving in Dallas was to learn about Benn.

To help make happen what Seguin thought could happen -- that he and Benn would become to Dallas what Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are to the Chicago Blackhawks -- he had to learn about his new teammate.

"When we made the trade, I brought him down here right away because I wanted to talk to him, see where his head was at, get things on the right path right away," Nill said. "I knew right away he was very competitive, very committed because one of the first things he talked about was he wanted to get a bunch of video on how Jamie Benn played because he said, 'If I'm going to play with him, I'm going to understand him.' He's very intellectual in that way.

"A lot of people see Tyler Seguin and say he's a fun-loving guy, he's got a great personality, he's just a bubbly guy, but he is very committed and he is all about winning."

In learning about Benn, Seguin found a new best friend. The two became inseparable off the ice and dynamic on it.

Benn, who was a center before Seguin arrived, has moved back to his natural position at left wing and become one of the best forwards in the NHL. He had 79 points in 81 games last season and has 40 points in 45 games this season.

"He's allowed me to become the best player I can be," Benn said.

Seguin, a right wing in Boston because of Bergeron and David Krejci, was able to move to the middle to play with Benn. He had 84 points last season and is on pace for 51 goals and 94 points this season.

"I think we both help each other," Seguin said. "We push each other."

Benn and Seguin lived in the same building last season. Prior to this season, they bought homes in the same neighborhood.

"He's opened me up a bit," Benn said. "We've got a pretty good relationship. He's obviously not shy and likes to talk a lot, and I'm just the laid-back, laugh-it-out kind of guy, so he brings out my personality a bit, and we have a good time together."

Not too good, though.

"We like to have fun, but we're doing it in the right way and at the right times," Benn said.

Becoming elite

Seguin offers two reasons for why he has become a star in the NHL:

1) Experience.

2) Versatility.

He had three seasons in Boston before arriving in Dallas, so even though he won't turn 23 until Jan. 31 and is still the sixth youngest player on the Stars, Seguin is in his fifth season and has already played 328 regular-season games and 48 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Patrick Eaves, Jason Spezza, Rich Peverley and Travis Moen are the only Stars with more playoff experience than Seguin.

"I don't know if I can say I feel like a veteran, because I think you have to play 400 or 500 games, some type of hidden mark there to call yourself a veteran, but I have seen a lot," Seguin said. "I've been to the Stanley Cup Final twice, lost one and won one. I've seen both sides of it. I know the taste of it. I've tried to bring that to Dallas, and especially (with) the guys who haven't been close to it yet, you try to remind them of how great it is to win and how tough it is to lose."

Seguin's versatility is an underlying part of his success. He was primarily a center last season, but the skills he gained as a right wing in Boston have come in handy this season.

When Ruff wants to load up for offense, he puts Seguin on the right side of Spezza and Benn. Seguin plays center when Ruff is looking for balance.

"That versatility has been great," Ruff said, "and what it does for him is it gives him a few more minutes."

Seguin's extra minutes at right wing have given him more freedom to use his speed up and down the wall and mix in more shots too. He scored 37 goals on 294 shots last season; he's on pace for 51 goals on 333 shots this season.

"You know what, it's gotta be up there for one of the best shots in the League," Benn said. "I think he just puts himself in the right areas to score these goals. It takes a good set of hands to score in this League, and he definitely has that. We try to take advantage of his shot on the power play, but usually he's around the net, finding small areas, small holes to find his goals."

Seguin has also focused on his defensive game so he can become a well-rounded player.

"I want to be looked at as one of the best two-way forwards in the League," Seguin said. "I don't think I'm there. I have more work to do, but I've got more time."

Ruff said he has seen improvements, particularly on faceoffs. Seguin won 41.5 percent last season (281-for-677) and took 8.4 faceoffs per game. He is taking 7.7 faceoffs per game this season, but has won 50.9 percent (177-for-348).

"We're making him accountable much like Steve Yzerman was in Detroit," Nill said. "It's a process. He's gotta go through it. We want him to understand that when he does things right the rest of the team is watching, and that's why he's gotta do things the right way."


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