Tyler Seguin is off to Edmonton on Saturday morning, and you know what that means: Another round of Tyler-Taylor questions are coming – and these ones will be more pointed than ever, given their current career trajectories.
Tyler Seguin is on the rise. If he were a stock, it would be on the verge of a split. Seguin currently leads the NHL in goals and points, a rare feat in today's game. Since the NHL introduced the Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy in 1999 to reward the NHL's goal-scoring leader, only one player has managed to win both goal- and point-scoring titles in a single year, and that was Alex Ovechkin in 2008. Before that, you have to go back to 1996 and Mario Lemieux for the last time it happened.
Taylor Hall's stock, meantime, is flat. In fact, some of the NHL's so-called insider traders put Hall's name on the sell list this week, after the Oilers fired coach Dallas Eakins and replaced him, on an interim basis, with the tandem of Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson. MacTavish is the Oilers' general manager and after reluctantly removing Eakins he promised a top-to-bottom review of the organization on the grounds that the team's current struggles reflect a deeper problem than just coaching.
That, in turn, led to speculation that Hall might eventually be on the move. MacTavish didn't get into any specifics about his plan because he wanted to watch the team play, from ice level, for a time, just to get a truer sense of where they're at. When Hall was apprised of the rumours on the day Eakins was dismissed, he said if it were up to him, he would stay the course in Edmonton, because he's been there since the start of his NHL career and would like to see the rebuild through.
Back in 2010, the Oilers ended the Taylor-Tyler guessing game by selecting Hall first overall, which left Seguin to go to the Boston Bruins with the next pick, one they'd famously acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade. Seguin won a Stanley Cup immediately playing for the Bruins, but ultimately couldn't dislodge either David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, who were firmly entrenched as the Bruins' top two centres.
The Stars made the Bruins an offer they couldn't refuse in the summer of 2013 – trading them, among others, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith – to get Seguin, and Seguin has flourished as Dallas's No. 1 centre ever since. Seguin had a breakthrough year statistically last season, finishing fourth in the overall NHL scoring race, two spots ahead of Hall.
Usually, the NHL scoring race is the private domain of Sidney Crosby in years when Crosby doesn't suffer a serious injury. It would be something if Seguin could actually run Crosby down for the scoring championship in a year when Crosby is healthy. Mumps don't count here.
There is a temptation to measure performance strictly by the numbers, but Seguin says the larger issue for him was "a voice change" within himself.
"There's just a maturing process that came with – I don't want to say that getting traded helps you mature a little bit, but it was an eye opener," Seguin said in a lengthy one-on-one interview. "I matured as a player and a person last year. I was given the opportunity to be a top-end player on a team. I needed to play centre, which I was happy about, but I also needed to be a young leader. Dallas told me right from the get-go what they wanted from me and I wanted to fulfill that. I think I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm happy with how Year 1 went and looking forward to getting better."
Spend a little time around Seguin and you can tell he lives his life to the fullest – which some people don't want to necessarily see in a professional athlete. They want a more serious and sombre demeanour all the time.
Stars centre Shawn Horcoff, a former Oilers captain, described Seguin as "definitely an intense guy on the ice," but says: "Off the ice, he's got a good yin and yang thing going on – and I believe in that. I believe in balance. I've been that guy before, that just doesn't turn it off – and it's exhausting.
"He does a good job of separating hockey from real life. In the locker room, he's really relaxed and jokes around.
"He's like every superstar I've ever been around; they've all got that quiet confidence. They just know they're going to be good; they just know they're going to score. It was like that with Prongs [Chris Pronger]. Even if you could put the worst possible night together for them, they don't worry about it. They just know they're going to be great tomorrow. There's not many guys I've ever been around that have that, but he's one of them."
When asked about his ability to achieve a work-life balance, Seguin gives the question some thought.
"I think you have to love the game and I definitely do," Seguin answered. "But – and I don't know how to word this – but I like living too."
Translation: Seguin has a variety of interests outside the game that keep him centred, and rhymes them off: lacrosse, movies, cars, tattoos, family life, his charity.
"Growing up as a kid, I came to a point in my life when I was 14 and I had to make a decision about whether to play hockey or lacrosse for the rest of my life," he said. "I still love lacrosse. I always look at Toronto Rock stats. I'm a big movie guy. If there's a new movie that comes out and I haven't seen it, that's surprising. I'll even go by myself if I have to. I'm a pretty big car guy.
"I've got two little sisters that I'm close to. One just went to college, out in Vermont. I'm a little worried for her because there's a lot of Boston fans out there and she says she's getting harassed in the hallways a little. I have another little sister that's finishing high school this year.
"I have my charity out there called Seguin's Stars. I played sledge hockey for the first time [this summer]. I have a close friend of mine who had a tough accident and is a quadriplegic and my foundation is trying to raise funds for that.
"I have a lot of tattoos. I got my first one at 17. My dad got it at the same time. I said, 'I'm doing this with or without you' so he said, 'Yeah, okay, I'm doing it too.' Pretty much every tattoo I have reflects something from my family – or the Stanley Cup, which a lot of guys got in Boston."
The Stars' Lindy Ruff spent the first 15 years of his NHL coaching career with the defensively oriented Buffalo Sabres. At different times in his coaching career, he probably would have liked to look down the bench and see a weapon such as Seguin at his disposal.
"Maybe he has been a little misunderstood, but he's got a terrific personality," Ruff said.
"He comes to practice to work. He's got incredible skating and shooting tools. I really enjoy being around him. He and Benner [Jamie Benn] have a lot of fun together. Tyler's on the more outgoing side; the other guy's a little more reserved. Maybe that's what makes them click so well together."
In an effort to get their season turned around, Dallas is preaching defence – more 2-0 wins, such as the Stars managed two nights ago against the Vancouver Canucks, and fewer of those highly entertaining 7-5 and 7-6 shootouts they occasionally fall into and lose.
Even so, Seguin has a chance to win the scoring title at some point in his career, if he can continue to couple the occasional monster scoring night alongside game-to-game consistency.
"On any given night, if they're rolling, it can happen – because Tyler's got an unbelievable shot," Ruff said. "He has as good and hard as a wrist shot as any I've ever seen. That, along with the dynamic skating – the ability to turn and burn – is one hell of a combination.
"But I've been around long enough to know it doesn't just take one guy to make it happen, it usually takes two. It takes a [Ryan] Getzlaf with a [Corey] Perry, a [Patrick] Kane with a [Jonathan] Toews. If you look at the scoring leaders, if there's one guy there, there's usually a teammate with him. For me, those two guys are tied at the hip. They enjoy playing with each other and for each other and pushing each other. They want to be difference-makers – and that is special, when you have a pair of guys that you can push on the ice.
"When other teams do that to us, we think about defending them. When we put those guys on the ice, the other team's thinking about defending us."
One sign of Seguin's increasing maturity is his ability to take a longer view of the hockey world. The plays he makes, to use a term he frequently drops, are "sick." But he is also in awe of the next generation coming in behind him.
"You've got to see what 15-year-olds today can do with their speed," Seguin said. "A lot of my close friends are agents and they're always out scouting people, so I go out and watch a lot of games, too. After we got eliminated last year, I came home and a lot of those younger players were still playing in playoffs. You see how big they are, and how they're training and how they're already eating organic food at 15. When I look back to when I was 15, it wasn't nearly as intense as it is now."
Seguin, incidentally, has finally reached the ripe old age of 22.
"It's only getting better," he said. "You've heard about this [Connor] McDavid kid since he was 13. I skated with him like two years ago. The kids are getting so much better; and the game is getting so young and so fast. It makes you work hard every day just to keep your job."