When Tyler Seguin steps onto the ice at TD Garden Tuesday night in Boston, it will be not only as an opponent, but as the once future face of the Bruins.
Though he played only three seasons in Boston, the current Dallas Stars center will forever be linked to the Bruins probably one of two ways. It could either be as the underachiever the Bruins were right about or the superstar Boston gave up on too soon.
It will take years for the results of the Seguin trade that also sent Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button to Dallas in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and prospects Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser. Seguin is playing in Dallas on the first season of the six-year, $34.5 million deal the Bruins signed him to just before the lockout last season and at just 21 years old, he may still be figuring out what kind of player he is supposed to be in the league.
For the Dallas Stars, presently, Seguin is a first-line center who is supposed to generate offense and lead the scoring charge alongside Jamie Benn. So far, despite struggles at the faceoff dot, Seguin is producing.
He has 15 points in 14 games heading into Tuesday's action and has been a consistent threat with his speed and skill level, just as you'd expect a former second-overall pick to look.
Now he returns to Boston, where he set the bar so high in his second NHL season with 67 points in 81 games. It was also there where he was much criticized for a sub-par postseason performance in which he scored only one goal during the team's run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. It is also the city that seemed to turn on him rather quickly when allegations of late-night partying and a lack of professionalism started creeping into local columns and even out of the mouth of his own general manager.
Seguin may have been traded fair and square, but from the outside it almost seems like he was run out of town. Even as he was out the door, more and more kept coming out about why the Bruins traded him.
The Bruins' decision to trade Seguin has probably been oversimplified in the months since it happened. The alleged out-of-control partying, or the subpar season, or perceived lack of professionalism, or the one goal in the playoffs, or his style of play have all been labeled culprits for why he was dealt. In reality, it's probably a combination of those many factors that led to Seguin's end as a Bruin.
One thing that really hasn't changed since the Bruins made Seguin the second-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft is the vast potential Seguin possesses. Even after last year's dip in production, it's hard to label Seguin a bust. It might not even be fair to judge Seguin on last season with the lockout-shortened campaign.
Development is not always linear. A player is not always going to be better the next year than he was the last, even though it's only natural for a team to hope he would be.
In the NESN series “Behind the B,” cameras were in the room with Boston's management team as it discussed the possibility of trading Seguin.
After the team was informed that Nathan Horton would not re-sign this summer, the Bruins came to the decision that Seguin was worth moving for the right pieces to help the team's cap situation, but that wasn't the only reason the club wanted to move the budding star.
Scott Bradley, Boston's director of player personnel, was one of the most vocal voices captured in this segment of Behind the B. “He's a star player, there's no doubt,” Bradley said of Seguin (about the 1:30 mark of the video). “But does he fit in our culture?”
The answer appeared to be no.
Bradley also mentioned there being too many red flags with Seguin, which also made him expendable. Team president Cam Neely spoke of the areas of the game in which Seguin had to improve and hadn't over his three seasons with the club.
The talk of culture and slow development are things that each team will see differently. The B's wanted Seguin to be more physically engaged and competitive. Clearly, they didn't have the patience to wait to see if that would materialize.
Not long after those discussions, Seguin was packing his bags for the Lone Star State.
The interesting thing is that less than a year prior, the Bruins felt strongly enough about Seguin's potential to lock him up to a rich six-year deal with an annual $5.75 million deal. Granted, the salary cap situation changed this season, making moving salary important for Boston.
With that extra space, however, the Bruins signed 36-year-old Jarome Iginla to a $6 million deal. Though Iginla is probably a better culture fit, his best days are behind him and he may only be there for a year anyway. When you weigh that deal against Seguin's long-term potential, it's fair to wonder if moving Seguin was worth it.
This is obviously not the first time the Bruins traded away a player that didn't fit within their culture. In fact, acquiring Seguin is a direct result of trading that kind of player away. Phil Kessel was traded after three years in the organization and just one season after he posted 36 goals and 60 points in 70 games.
As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kessel had his best seasons in 2011-12 and the abridged 2013. He's fifth in scoring in the league right now and has become one of the game's best goal scorers.
To be fair, at the time of the trade, the Bruins looked like they won the deal by acquiring two first-round picks and a second to help build for the future.
It even looked more promising as the Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2011. As Seguin took a step forward the following season, and much of the Stanley Cup core in tact, it looked like the Bruins could be on their way to building a dynasty.
With Seguin now gone, the value of the Kessel deal is somewhat diminished. Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight, the other two players that were results of the draft picks from the Kessel trade, have a ways to go as well.
Potential is no sure thing. Seguin very well could flounder as a center drawing some tough defensive matchups from opponents. If he does, particularly over the length of his current contract, the Bruins were more than justified. If he doesn't, there might be some regret in Boston.
That being said, we may not ever know truly how Seguin would have turned out had the Bruins kept him. In being dealt, Seguin has something that he wouldn't have otherwise gotten had he stayed in Boston. That would be added motivation of a team that quite publicly gave up on him.
As he told Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca, the way things ended with Boston is “100 percent” motivating.
It's hard to know if Seguin would have enjoyed the early-season success he's had so far this year had he still been a Bruin. His role and usage are quite different in Dallas. Seguin is seeing the ice more in Dallas than he ever did in Boston. He's not just a young player with promise for the Stars, getting guarded minutes. He's a vital piece of the Stars' game plan.
Every single thing Seguin does in Dallas will always come with the “what ifs?” of any player traded before his prime years. Just as Kessel's frequent meetings against Boston have become a game-by-game proving ground on which sweeping narratives used to be built about the trade, the two annual meetings between Boston and Dallas will be the same for Seguin.
Regardless of how the trade turns out years down the road, Seguin's Garden debut as an opponent Tuesday should be rather fun.