Late Friday afternoon Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites ripped his team’s two best players, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, for not playing well enough this season and for being the reason the team is struggling.
Just 24 hours later everyone had to deal with the fallout.
On the ice, things couldn’t have possibly gone better for the Stars as they rolled to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Seguin and Benn both had quiet nights on the scoresheet (Seguin had an assist) but the secondary players came through to help drive the win, something that has not happened anywhere near enough this season for the Stars.
[Related: Stars’ CEO’s ire should be directed at GM, not Seguin, Benn]
It is not hard to see the direction this story is going to take after a win like this. If the Stars start to put things together and win a few games, Lites’ rant is going to be looked at as some sort of a turning point that sparked the team and got their attention. The more likely explanation on Saturday is that the Stars caught a sub-par rebuilding team in the middle of a miserable streak that has now seen them lose 10 out of their past 14 games, including four in a row, and the Stars were able to pounce.
Before the game Benn and Seguin were given a chance to respond to the criticism, with both of them saying they had not heard from Lites personally since the end of last season. That of course indicates that management decided to publicly blast its two best players over their play without actually addressing their concerns with them face-to-face.
Part of Lites’ criticism regarding Seguin was him being “wah-wah” over hitting so many posts this season, a factor that has no doubt played a role in his decreased goal production.
“I mean, my phone is out there, my number is out there. I’m not complaining about posts, I’m not ‘wah-wah.’ I’m not whining about it,” Seguin said, via Sean Shapiro of The Athletic. “If anyone asks how many posts I’ve hit, I say, ‘Yes, of course, I do. I’m a hockey player. I’m a goal scorer.’ But I’m going to continue to grind, continue to shoot, and continue to get to those areas and try to score goals.”
“Yeah. I don’t play for him,” Benn said. “I play for every player in this room, the coaching staff. I come to the rink and, like I said, I am proud to be a Dallas Star and I am proud to go out every night and battle with these guys in games. I really put my teammates first.”
During Saturday’s game, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman reached out to Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who was reportedly supportive of Lites’ decision to go public with his criticism, and asked if the message from the front office was a sign that they wanted Seguin and Benn to accept trades, or if it meant general manager Jim Nill’s job was in jeopardy.
As I wrote on Friday, the biggest issue with the Stars hasn’t been the performance of Seguin and Benn. Even though their production has slipped a bit this season they still are the Stars’ best players, which is what makes the insistence from the front office that they need to do more so odd and misguided, especially when the Stars still play so well when they are on the ice, especially when compared to what they do when they are not on the ice (those numbers are included in Friday’s initial analysis).
But now it is all out on the table and everyone is going to have to deal with it going forward.
Even if Seguin and Benn continue on their current paces they will still be the team’s leading scorers and finish with numbers that the majority of the NHL won’t match. It would obviously help the Stars if they returned to their previous scoring levels. What would help even more is if they get more production from the secondary players like they did on Saturday.
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.