ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Tyler Seguin has a tradition- no matter what the venue, no matter whom the opponent- he likes to be the last player off the ice in warmups.
Why stray from the routine at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game? Seguin again loafed on the ice late into warmups, and aside from a few host St. Louis Blues players shoveling warm-up pucks to early-arriving fans, Seguin was one of the last off the ice.
The fanfare and national stage wasn’t what made Saturday’s warmup interesting, however- it was a friendly rivalry with Central division teammate and Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele.
Scheifele, too, likes to be the last player off the ice in warmups. He and Seguin have engaged in a back-and-forth before, as opponents in 2017, and again earlier last year. The first dispute was settled with a classic game of rock-paper-scissors, the second with Seguin’s deception, but each with Seguin again, being the final skater off the ice.
“We were talking about our chemistry right away, and said we were gonna have some fun,” he said after the All-Star game. “We both have links to each other, we could’ve had a couple more (goals). We’ll keep that in the back of our minds if we ever play together again.”
Seguin’s routine is one of many quirks that make him a natural fit in Dallas, and one of the reasons the weekend marked his fifth All-Star nod with Dallas. It was also a self-aware moment for Seguin, who made his sixth total appearance.
“I enjoyed being a younger player, honestly,” he said postgame. “It’s always an honor here. It’s a young man’s game and these young guys are superstars.”
It’s also significant that Seguin was Dallas’ lone representative at the event and Shooting Stars competition Friday, too. Last year, team CEO James Lites called out both Seguin and Stars captain Jamie Benn, calling on each star to “play better.” The team was struggling. Both players are under expensive long-term contracts, and the pressure point marked the rockiest point in each’s time with the franchise.
Since then, simply put, Seguin has been better- and so has the team. Seguin tallied 80 points in the regular season last year and helped the team get within a game of reaching the Western Conference Final in April, but he said it was the time around the 2019 All-Star game that served as a turning point.
Seguin has been better since then, and Dallas has responded, too. An unquestioned fan favorite, in an interview on NHL Network Friday, he said he notices, adding- “Dallas is home.”
In 2019-20, he’s endured a roller-coaster first four months of his sixth season with Dallas, including a 2-7-1 start as a team, seeing his third head coach in his short stint in Dallas dismissed, followed by impressive highs like a franchise-record tying seven-game win streak. Once again, a vacation to the Bahamas and the pageantry of the national stage could serve as a turning point for Dallas, still trying to find its footing in the Western Conference standings.
“I grew up watching the All-Star game and skills competition,” Seguin said. “It’s always hard to believe it’s you in those shoes. So, I put it in perspective and focus on having a good time.”
Now, the focus for Seguin and Dallas is a run to try to secure a playoff spot in quest for a Stanley Cup championship. The Stars took off after the All-Star Break in 2019 on the way to 95 points, but he said there’s noticeable differences.
“Last year after the All-Star break, we really grasped our identity,” Seguin said. “This year, we know what it is, it’s just about fine tuning. So let’s get to work. (I’m) Excited for the second half.”