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For Seguin, only one stat matters right now: 'It's about wins'

Preparing for his sixth All-Star Game, the center is still trying to find the right balance between production and victories

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

This is not Tyler Seguin's best year, statistically speaking.

The man who ranks eighth overall in NHL scoring since joining the Stars in 2013 with 500 points in 517 games, currently ranks 77th in the league with 36 points in 48 games. That said, his team is winning and he's a big part of that, so he understands the compromise.

"It's about wins, it really is," Seguin said as he prepared to go to St. Louis to participate in his sixth NHL All-Star Weekend. "You'd like to produce more, but it is what it is. If I had an answer, I'd certainly change things, but we're all working hard and we're all playing hard, and we're winning games. We definitely want to score more, and we're trying to do that, but we're focused on winning first."

It's been an interesting journey for Seguin. He was first asked to commit to more of a two-way game under Ken Hitchcock in 2017 and he made that work. He saw his minutes go up almost two per game and also posted a career-best 40 goals, so it made sense to him.

But the Stars missed the playoffs and new coach Jim Montgomery came in. Seguin's minutes stayed about the same last season, and while Seguin started slowly, he still finished with 33 goals among 80 points in 82 games. This season, he was moved around and played more right wing under Montgomery, and he struggled to score goals. After Montgomery was fired in December, Seguin has since seen his role become more consistent, and he has five goals among 12 points in 18 games under interim coach Rick Bowness.

That's quite a roller-coaster ride for any player, but Stars general manager Jim Nill said he likes what he has seen from Seguin.

Video: DAL@TBL: Seguin rifles wrister home for overtime win

"I definitely think he has taken on the challenge and become a more mature player," Nill said. "First of all, taking on the leadership role, he's really embraced that. He understands what that entails on the ice and off the ice, and I really think what he is doing on the ice sets an example for the rest of his teammates.

"You take that Colorado game, I thought that was one of his best games of the year. He did all of the little things right. He was in all of the battles, he was winning battles, it was the (style) of game we needed to win that night. I know he's disappointed in his production, but if he keeps playing like that, the points will come."

In the Colorado game, Seguin played 20:53 (three minutes more than any other Stars forward), had three shots on goal and went 9-of-15 in the faceoff circle. He had no points, but finished plus-1 while getting plenty of ice time against Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon.

Seguin said he knows changes are hard, but that they also help the team win. He said after a slow start last season, he was determined to start faster this year. That didn't happen, but he said having a strong finish last season gives him hope he can replicate that this season.

"I didn't think I was going to start out slow this year. I had high expectations, but you get into games and you start seeing what you have to do to play good defense, and you use your minutes wisely, and it plays out how it plays out," he said. "I definitely can look back and see several chances where I could have scored. Then, I'd be sitting here with 17 or 18 goals and nobody would be asking these questions. But the same thing happened early last year and then it picked up at the end and it all worked out OK, so that's what I'm hoping for."

Part of the reason for that is his usage under Bowness. Seguin has stayed at center and played a great deal with Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Just as importantly, he has been moved back to the circle on the power play where he can unleash one-timers. Seguin has one power-play goal this season. He had nine last year.


"I feel good on the power play. I haven't been in this spot for much of the year, so I really feel this is a great opportunity," Seguin said. "I think last year and the beginning of this year, I was used more as the distraction if you want to call it that, but I'm definitely happy to be doing what I'm doing now. It's about getting this (alignment) to work, and I think it will."

Seguin believes in the one-timer as a significant part of the power-play attack. Many teams like Washington and Tampa Bay rely on the shot because they have players like Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos. Opponents know they are going to be shooting, but the players still find a way to get pucks past goalies with the man advantage. Seguin would like to believe he can do the same thing.

"I have had that argument with coaches in the past: Why change it? You can know it's happening, and it's still going to happen," Seguin said. "Other teams are the same way, they keep going back to it because it works a lot of the time. I agree, there is accountability for the players and we each need to find different ways to score, but if the one-timer is working, I think I need to use it as much as I can."

The shot can either result in a goal or in a rebound, and that can help the Stars' improve their overall scoring. While Dallas ranks 27th in scoring at 2.56 goals per game, the power play has hit on 11-of-37 attempts (29.7 percent) in their past 13 games, and that could help the Stars continue to win close games.

That said, the real challenge after the break is to get even strength scoring up, and Seguin can also be a part of that. Bowness said that while the Stars have a strong identity as a defensive team, he wants players to stress puck possession and he would love it if everyone had better offensive statistics.

"The team comes first no matter what, and if you have to bite the bullet and sacrifice, you do. But we're not asking anyone to make a whole lot of sacrifices offensively, we're not doing that," Bowness said. "I realize the numbers are down, but we are trying to become a better puck possession team with more time in the offensive zone, and hopefully those numbers can rebound."

Video: DAL@EDM: Seguin ties it late, gets 600th NHL point

They have for Seguin in the past, and going to the All-Star Game is a nice reminder of what he has accomplished in his career. He is fast approaching Jere Lehtinen (10th place at 514 points) and Brenden Morrow (ninth at 528) on the Stars' all-time scoring list, and has been the team's regular All-Star since moving to Dallas.

"It's always an honor," Seguin said. "The first couple were great experiences, and now just seeing older teammates, meeting new faces, it's great. Seeing the younger players -- it's hard to say that because I'm calling other people young -- but younger players that I haven't met, getting to know them. It's just little things. I'm a hockey fan, too, so looking at other player's sticks and talking to players about things like that, it's always fun."

And getting rewarded after changing your playing style isn't the worst thing for a team that wants to be known for good defense.

"It's important. He's an elite athlete, and he wants to be considered among the elite athletes, so I think an experience like this is always good for him," Nill said. "He's a very competitive person, and we need that from him. To get here, you don't do that without a fire in your belly. Now, every player looks different when he's out there, but I know how much he wants to win. I know he's dying inside because of his point production because that bothers an elite athlete, but I also know at the end of the day, he wants us to win above everything else."

And if he can both win and tally a few more points, then that might be the best answer of all. After getting just seven playoff games in his first five seasons with the Stars, battling through 13 last spring and getting to within inches of the Western Conference final set a pretty high bar.

"I will say this: Winning hockey is awesome," Seguin said. "So if this is what it takes, I am all bought in."

 

2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game

Saturday, 7 p.m. CT

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis

TV: NBC, Ch. 5

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Tampa Bay Lightning when they return home to American Airlines Center on Monday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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