The Phil Kessel/Tyler Seguin debate is over now that Seguin plays for Dallas. The more interesting question now is how badly Boston regrets dealing Seguin away.
It’s funny how the Phil Kessel trade produces the same cycle of debate, year after year.
Tyler Seguin gets hot, Bruins fans taunt Maple Leafs fans for the trade that sent Boston the pick that became Seguin No. 2 overall in 2010.
Phil Kessel gets hot, Leafs fans smugly remind Bruins fans Kessel is among the game’s pre-eminent goal scorers and thus was worth every asset surrendered.
Bruins fans remind Leaf fans to include Dougie Hamilton in the discussion. Leaf fans fall awkwardly silent.
Enough already. There’s nothing more to say. Kessel is a truly elite sniper, albeit an inconsistent one, and the Leafs paid dearly to get him. In the end they got a player who may end up their all-time leading goal scorer in exchange for what were unknown commodities – draft picks – at the time. Seguin is every bit the star he was supposed to be on draft day, and Hamilton has the makings of a franchise defenseman. Every major player in the trade is excellent at hockey. We get it.
And besides, there’s one significant detail that makes the entire “THANK YOU KESSEL!” debate moot: Tyler Seguin doesn’t play for Boston anymore. It’s time we turned our attention to the trade that made him a Dallas Star. And it’s time for Stars fans to rachet up their “THANK YOU ERIKSSON!” chants.
Seguin earned his No. 2 overall draft status as a standout scorer with the Ontario League’s Plymouth Whalers, displaying an outstanding release. He scored 29 goals and played in his first All-Star Game as a 19-year-old NHL sophomore. He finished fourth in league scoring last season. He now leads the NHL in goals and ranks third in points, two behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead. Seguin was always supposed to be great and he is great. None of what he’s done is remotely surprising, which is why it’s fair to criticize Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli for trading Seguin in the first place. This is not a hindsight-is-20/20 situation. Foresight was 20/20.
It’s not that the Bruins got nothing for Seguin. This wasn’t Joe Thornton Trade 2.0. Far from it. At the time, Loui Eriksson was a strong add for a contending team, an adept and underappreciated two-way forward who would mesh well with Boston’s mature philosophy. Reilly Smith blossomed into an analytics darling with a strong second season, Joe Morrow still has potential and Matt Fraser has been a useful stopgap winger. Eriksson hasn’t been the same player since a John Scott hit concussed him early last season, but if you think it’s just Eriksson’s injury that skews the deal, you have to factor in Rich Peverley. He went to Dallas in the trade, too, and was a much more significant contributor until his terrifying cardiac arrest last season.
Even if Eriksson had maintained his scoring pace, the Bruins still surrendered a shocking amount. We don’t know exactly what happened in Boston’s room and off the ice, other than that Seguin was perceived to be too much of a partier. But it had to be something bad, right? Otherwise, it’s hard not to believe Boston gave up on Seguin far too early. He was an elite talent, just 21 at the time and already producing at the NHL level, if inconsistently. Even during his down 2012-13 year, after which he was traded, Boston would’ve seen a boom coming if it checked the analytics. Per behindthenet.ca, Seguin’s relative Corsi (Corsi relative to the rest of his team) was the eighth-best mark in the NHL. His shooting percentage had dipped to 9.9 that season. It would’ve been fair to expect him to finish the season strongly had it been an 82-gamer.
Seguin is almost too hot now, shooting at 18.9 percent, so he should regress from his 62-goal, 106-point pace. But he’s a virtual lock for his best numbers yet, he’s one of the only things going right for Dallas this season, and the scariest thing is he’s still ascending. He’s just 23.
The Kessel/Seguin debate is over, as the Seguin/Eriksson trade rendered it irrelevant. And the Seguin/Eriksson debate is over as quickly as it started. Seguin is a cautionary tale. Don’t give up on elite young talents too soon, as they’re far easier to give away than to get. If you do, you end up 24 games into a season without a six-goal scorer. Yep, if you took Boston’s leading goal scorer and tripled his total, he’d have three fewer goals than Seguin.
So when the Bruins travel to the Lone Star State Jan. 20, Stars fans should dust off their megaphones and troll the Bruins with a shower of thank-yous.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin