One player in particular who helped provide that rugged toughness club management was seeking is 27-year-old winger Brandon Segal, who, despite a money-influenced mid-season assignment to AHL Texas, established himself as a valuable contributor.
In 46 games with the big club, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound native of Richmond, BC produced five goals and 10 points, while totaling 41 penalty minutes. He believed his performance, which included 91 hits, good for fifth among Stars forwards, was particularly effective after his recall from the farm squad for the final 12 games of the season.
“I feel great,” Segal said of his play down the stretch. “Things have been going well, it’s just unfortunate circumstances this year beyond my control that happened. Other than that, this season up here in Dallas has been going great for me, I feel, so whenever I get my chance on the ice, I just got to make the best of it.”
In addition to his sandpaper quotient, Segal brings impressive versatility to the Stars, possessing the ability to grind it out on the checking line and kill penalties or to move up and skate alongside offensive catalysts Mike Ribeiro
and Brenden Morrow
“I’m a power forward player, I’m just going to do what I can for my teammates, I’m going to go in the corners, separate myself from the defensemen and try to create space for my linemates,” said Segal, who averaged 8:17 of ice time per game. “Obviously, that’s what I’m supposed to do and whatever line I play with, I’m going to make sure I go out there and put a lot of pressure on the D-men, try to create as many turnovers as I can and obviously play good, defensively-sound hockey. That’s really important for us, that’s one thing we’ve been really focusing on here.”
Along with his defensive responsibility, as his even plus/minus rating demonstrates, Segal has enjoyed flashes of offense as well. In fact, after the Stars first claimed him off waivers from Los Angeles back on Feb. 11, 2010, Segal logged plenty of ice time on Ribeiro’s line and chipped in with five goals and 10 points in his first 11 games. Since goal-scoring isn’t too high up on Segal’s job description, whenever he does help out on the scoresheet, it’s an added bonus.
“I play the same way whoever I’m with,” said Segal, who actually scored the game-winning goal in his Stars debut Feb. 13, 2010 against Phoenix. “Obviously, when you’re playing with Ribby, you got to try to get open a little bit more, because you know he’s going to find you, he’s pretty crafty with the puck. And wherever they need me, a lot of times I’ll play a few shifts here and there during a game, so whenever I’m called upon, I just got to be ready. Whether I play eight minutes a game or 15 minutes a game, I’m going to be doing whatever I can for the team to win. You never know when that’s going to happen. ”
That was the prevailing sentiment back on Jan. 11, when seemingly out of nowhere, Segal was assigned to the Stars’ top minor league affiliate, based a three-hour drive south in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park. Four days after the Stars acquired veteran forward Jamie Langenbrunner and his $2.8 million contract from New Jersey, they faced budgetary constraints and the most efficient way for them to save money was to send Segal down to the AHL, where his salary dropped from $550,000 to $130,000.
For a guy hoping to complete his first full year in the NHL following parts of seven in the minors, Segal wasn’t all that thrilled to be heading back down again. And although he knew he would get the chance to return at some point, he didn’t know when that would be.
“I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating, because it was beyond my control,” Segal admitted. “Obviously it was not because of my play, it had nothing to do with it. My season was going really well up here, it was just the financial or the business part of things, which suck. The indication was that when the rules changed, they were going to bring me back, but whether it was right away or for playoffs, I didn’t know, but I knew it was eventually going to happen, because that’s what we had been talking about.”
And as the NHL club suffered a string of injuries and were forced to call up replacements from the AHL squad, Segal had to stay put and watch it all unfold. He also admitted he worried about the possibility of an injury with the Texas Stars might cost him a chance to return to the NHL.
“You never know in this game, that’s the frustrating part, there’s no guarantees,” acknowledged Segal, who helped AHL Milwaukee win the 2004 Calder Cup and then make it back to the Finals in 2006. “In this sport, you just don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, right? So that definitely plays a part in your focus, because you don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to get injured or whatever, but the main thing is, when you go down, to stay positive and work hard, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Playing a more offensive role in the AHL than he had in Dallas, Segal compiled seven goals and 17 points in 30 games with Texas, while also going 0-for-2 in shootouts. He knew he needed to have an impact there in order to be summoned back to Dallas and his efforts paid off when he was finally recalled, passing through re-entry waivers and re-joining the Stars on March 17.
“I went down there and kept it positive and just played hard and just wanted to make sure I was ready to come back up,” said Segal, who was originally selected in the fourth round (102nd overall) by Nashville in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. “That’s what it was. It’s obviously a little tough to stay focused when you know you belong up here, but I thought I did a really good job of taking it day-by-day and trying not to worry about stuff beyond your control and just try to enjoy hockey.”
He utilized the same positive attitude during the first five years of his pro career, as his NHL rights were traded twice and he skated in over 450 minor league games (regular season and playoffs) before making his big league debut with Tampa Bay on March 3, 2009. Through it all, Segal continued to battle, work hard, and never gave up, earning a chance with the Kings last season before arriving in Dallas and fitting in well with the Stars.
“You just keep on going, I had the ‘no quit’ attitude, I knew that eventually my time was going to come,” Segal said of his time in the minors, including a 26-goal, 52-point performance in 69 games for AHL Norfolk in 2008-09 that led to an appearance in the AHL All-Star Game. “Onwards and upwards for me, I just got to keep on going.”
That sums up his approach and why he’s been such a valuable foot soldier for the Stars.