Where exactly did all of this time go?
When the Stars won the Stanley Cup on a late night in Buffalo, everything that Dirk went through before winning his title in 2011, Stars star Mike Modano experienced the same life-altering cleanse. All of the weight, baggage and excess immediately vanishes to heaven.
A certain Dallas Stars player currently carries all of it, and it’s not the Captain, Jamie Benn.
Tyler Seguin, it’s your turn.
“Tyler is a tremendous talent, a magnificent talent,” NHL NBC analyst Mike Milbury said when I asked him about the need for Seguin to establish himself in the playoffs. “He needs to do this for himself and establish himself as a great player in the playoffs. That’s where you strut yourself and get credit for. This is not the time to slack off.”
For only the third time in the last 11 years, the Stars are in the playoffs, and will face top seed Nashville on Wednesday night. Disregard the respective No. 7 vs. No. 2 seedings; the Stars are good enough, and play the right style, to win this series.
THE DIRK MODANO CHALLENGE
The only way the Stars advance, of course, is if their best players are actually their best players. It’s the playoffs, so the goalie is a must, and Seguin is a 1B.
“It applies to every great player,” Milbury said. “It was all of the same stuff that hovered over (Washington Capitals forward) Alex Ovechkin; can he get it done in the postseason? He did and he’s a new player now.”
About Ovechkin, the No. 1 overall pick of the Washington Capitals in the 2004 NHL Draft who for more than 10 years carried more weight than a pack of traveling mules. Ovi’ was one of the NHL’s top scorers and players for more than a decade, but the Capitals never won the Stanley Cup.
When they finally won the Cup last year, Ovi’ went on a bender like few ever do and live to tell about it.
Seguin is not Ovechkin, but he’s stuck in a similar narrative. Seguin is a brilliant regular-season player, who, in the playoffs, has seven goals, 21 assists in 49 postseason games.
This is a similar narrative that dogged Dirk, and Modano, for years.
The narrative that both Dirk and Modano were tremendous talents who could dominate and score a lot in the regular season, but were unwilling to go to the hard places on the floor, or the ice, to do the same in a postseason game.
Once they did, their titles came.
WAITING FOR THE OPPORTUNITY
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins, Seguin was a member of the team that won the Cup in 2011.
“That was backseat membership, I guess,” Milbury said.
Milbury is not taking a shot at Seguin. Seguin was a kid on a talented team and his role was way down.
When the Stars traded for Seguin after the 2013 season ended, he matured into a player worthy of being selected No. 2 overall.
The Stars simply have not made the playoffs enough for Seguin to build the resume, and establish himself beyond what he is: A talented player and an All-Star.
The last time the Stars made the playoffs, in 2016, Seguin was limited to one game because of a fluke Achilles injury.
Although the Stars’ hiring of coach Ken Hitchcock last season was a dud, no player benefited more than Seguin. He is a more balanced player today who can be counted on to backcheck, and play a more two-way game. Hitch did the same thing with Modano.
At 27, Seguin is the prime of his career. He has been an All-Star. He is no longer the party kid who was a headache in Boston. The Stars gave him an eight-year, $78 million contract in the off-season.
This team is not perfect, but they are good enough to beat Nashville.
“Seguin is a tremendous offensive player but the numbers need to be in the postseason,” Milbury said. “Can he do it? He’s going to have to show up.”
The same thing was once said of Dirk, Modano and Ovechkin.