The Dallas Stars are currently fourth in the Western Conference's Central Division with 41 points on the season. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin -- the players with the first- and fourth-highest cap hit on the team this year -- lead the team in points, with Seguin notching 32 and Benn having 30 thus far. Seguin leads all Stars forwards in average time on ice at 21:03 a game, whereas Benn is third among forwards at 18:47.
All of this context may make Stars CEO Jim Lites' comments about the pair seem shocking. "They are f------ horses---, I don't know how else to put it," Lites said to The Athletic's Sean Shapiro. "The team was OK. But Seguin and Benn were terrible."
This came after a 2-0 win over the Predators on Thursday, a game in which Lites said he received several texts from Stars owner Tom Gaglardi that simply read "WTF."
Seguin and Benn may lead the team in scoring, but among the league they've been nothing special. They have 12 multi-point games between them this season, and three multi-goal games. They have 16 points between them in the month of December, which has been 12 games. Benn is signed through 2025 with a $9.5 million cap hit this year, whereas Seguin counts $5.75 million against the cap and has an eight-year $78.8 million extension that kicks in next year. He would be a free agent in 2027.
Lite went in on the two, saying that the two need to be held accountable.
"We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren't getting it done," he said. "It's embarrassing, and no one writes it. Write it!"
Perhaps making this even wilder -- these are both longtime Stars players. Benn has played his entire career in Dallas since being a rookie in 2009, and Seguin joined the team in 2013 from the Bruins. As Lites mentioned, the two have been prolific and earned their extensions. Seguin has 332 points over the past five years whereas Benn has 354, which is one more than Alex Ovechkin over the same span. Benn signed his extension in 2016, and Seguin signed his in September.
With that in mind, the relatively poor performance is alarming. As it stands, Seguin and Benn are pretty much immovable even if they didn't have no-movement clauses (they do). As for the job that Nill has done, he's put some good pieces in place, but Lites may be overselling the Stars' depth. Alexander Radulov has played well the past two seasons, and Brett Ritchie has shown potential but lacks consistency. As Lites said, however, the team starts with the stars, and Seguin and Benn aren't living up to the billing. The problem is, they play in a division that has stars like Nathan MacKinnon, Patrik Laine and Ryan Johansen leading the way. Seguin and Benn aren't scoring at their normal rate, but they're still scoring, making this sound harsh.
"(Benn is) the leader of the team, he stirs the drink, but he's not doing it. He's got to get it done," Lites told The Athletic before turning his attention to Seguin. "He's hitting posts, 'wah-wah.' That's what I say about hitting posts. Get a little bit closer to the action, actually go to the spot where you score goals. He doesn't do that, he never does that anymore. He used to be a pest to play against, people hated playing against Tyler Seguin, they don't anymore."
The Stars are trying to shimmy their way into the playoff conversation, but the going's been tough. They've won one playoff series since 2008, a 2016 series against the Wild after finishing first in the West in the regular season with a 50-23-9 record. The next series, they lost to the Blues in seven games. Seguin made just one appearance in that postseason, but Benn scored 10 goals against the Wild in the six-game win. He scored five in seven games against the Blues, with just one goal.
The Stars' frustration with their stars is out there, now it's on Seguin and Benn to respond on the ice against the Red Wings on Saturday -- stream on fuboTV (Try for free). It's not often you see team executives publicly dragging their players, but the Stars are in a tough division and these executives could be feeling the heat from the two players' massive contracts. While this is incredibly unorthodox, maybe it could be what they need. Or it could backfire spectacularly. Either way, the fallout from Lites' comments should be something to keep tabs on.