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Seguin relishing opportunity under Hitchcock

Stars coach wants Seguin to be all-around No. 1 center

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

When the Dallas Stars traded for Tyler Seguin almost four years ago they saw him as the team's No. 1 center. Well, it hasn't always worked out that way. Seguin has been the top center at times, but not consistently.

This past season, for example, Seguin started out as the No. 1 center for the first 13 games and centered the top line about 67 percent of the time leading up to the All-Star break. But after that, not so much. He played some on the wing and some down the lineup.

Now, incoming head coach Ken Hitchcock wants to change that. Hitchcock sees Seguin as a center and a number one center. And in Hitchcock's eyes that will entail more than just penciling in Seguin's name in that top center slot when putting together line combinations. It will entail a lot more responsibility for Seguin. More than just being a points producer.

"I've got to work hard in the summer to get Tyler to start thinking like a [number one center]," Hitchcock said. "That means he's got to be out there in critical spaces all the time. That means he's got to kill penalties, he's got to play against the other team's top players, he's got to be out there at the start of games, and he's got to be out there at the end of games. He's got to take key faceoffs. He's got to do everything to become a [number one center]. That's what a [number one] does."

Seguin, when asked about Hitchcock's plans, said he is relishing the opportunity.

"It gets me giddy. It gets me giddy," Seguin said. "Since I've come to Dallas I've wanted to be a number one centerman. I still want to be. I want to be a number one centerman and a two-way guy."

While Seguin will take on more responsibility in becoming that two-way guy, he'll likely give up a little as well. Namely, some offense. Seguin says he is on board with that as well, noting that he gave up some points late this season as the Stars played a more defensive game.

"I am a goal scorer, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I know when I have a goal or a couple of assists. That's human nature," Seguin said. "But ultimately I am big into if we are winning or losing and I know I need to improve the two-way side."

Hitchcock has been through this before with an offensively talented center. During his first coaching stint with Dallas, he and Bob Gainey, who was GM at the time, helped turn Mike Modano into an excellent two-way center, and that was key in the Stars turning into a powerhouse in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And it's not like Modano's offense dried up in the process.

"Mike Modano gave up the points. He stopped focusing on the points, and it was all about the wins, and then the points ended up being the same," Hitchcock said. "That's where Tyler and I have to partner up. If you are a [number one center], you've got to be a winner in every aspect. You've got to win the day with him."

Seguin knows that Hitchcock will lean hard on him. He's familiar with Modano's tales of being pushed hard and challenged by Hitchcock to become a more well-rounded player and how it paid team dividends as the Stars won a Stanley Cup in 1999 and made it back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000.

"I know Hitch is hard on players and I know we are going to have a good relationship built here," Seguin said. "He's going to be hard on me, but I do want to say what Mo did, that it works out in the end. That's exciting. I want to be that number one guy."

Hitchcock is already beating the drum on how important it will be for Seguin to be that number one guy, and it has to be more than just a title.

"I need him to act, think and behave like a number one. That means he is going to have to set the competitive direction, not the skill direction. There's a big difference," Hitchcock said. "His skill level and his talent get us to the floor, but it's going to be his compete and his character that's going to take us to the ceiling."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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