Zizing ‘Em Up: Healthy Seguin shining for Stars after mulling retirement
TORONTO — Tyler Seguin clearly remembers the moment when he thought his NHL career might be over.
It was Jan. 26, 2021, and the injured Dallas Stars forward sat in front of a crackling fire with a buddy in Muskoka, Ontario, an upscale cottage area two hours north of Toronto, and watched on TV while his team lost 2-1 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings.
“I looked over at my friend and said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to play anymore,'” the 30-year-old told NHL.com this week. “My career might be over. This might be it.
“I just didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”
Twenty-one months later, retirement is the furthest thing from his mind.
Seguin is off to a hot start with five points (two goals, three assists) in five games and vows to exceed the 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) he got in 81 games last season by “at least 15 to 20.”
“I still think there is no way in [heck] I should be statistically where I was last year,” he said. “So I keep thinking that, keep believing that, keep working towards that.”
In the process, he never forgets the time he thought it was time for him to walk away from the NHL.
“Whenever there are dark times, whenever I’m down, I think about that, about being in Muskoka, about where I’ve come from,” Seguin said. “That keeps you going.”
It’s been a comeback of sweat and resilience.
After playing the Stars’ entire run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final on a torn hip labrum, Seguin missed all but three games in 2020-21 and spent last season working his way back from hip and knee surgeries.
“His work ethic is unparalleled,” said Matt Nichol, Seguin’s personal trainer. “He wasn’t giving up without a fight.”
Seguin says he feels better than he has in the past three years. To his point, even after playing last season, he only started running regularly for the first time in three years in July, his hip and knee finally feeling normal again.
“He looks like the old Tyler,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “It was tough for him. I knew how down he was. People don’t understand how injuries can threaten a career. Credit to him for working his way all the way back.
“It’s like we have a new player. Except it isn’t.”
Through it all, Seguin still remembers how close he came to calling it a career.
“I feel great,” he said. “But I’ll never forget.
Gone but not forgotten
It’s been 17 months since Jeff Gorton was fired as the GM of the New York Rangers on May 5, 2021, and although he is the executive vice president of hockey operations for the Montreal Canadiens, he still has a soft spot for those playing for his former team and admits he still watches them play.
“I’m always happy for the players,” Gorton told NHL.com last week. “There are a lot of good guys there. I feel good that they had a lot of success last year and I think they’ll have a lot of success this year, too.”
The Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Final last season under first-year GM Chris Drury, falling to the Tampa Bay Lighting in six games. They are 3-1-1 this season.
“Listen, I take pride in the fact that they’re set up pretty well and poised to go on some runs here over the next few years,” he said. “And hopefully around here we can do the same kind of thing.”
Gorton should be proud when he looks at the Rangers roster, given that he had a major role in constructing it.
As the Rangers GM from 2015-21, Gorton signed, re-signed, traded for or drafted a number of players on this year’s team, including forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Alex Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Chris Kreider, Vitali Kravtsov, and Filip Chytil, and defensemen Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba, Braden Schneider, Libor Hajek and Zac Jones. He was the assistant GM under Glen Sather when goalie Igor Shesterkin was drafted in 2014.
As for building something similar in Montreal, the Canadiens have a promising nucleus of young talent led by 23-year-old captain Nick Suzuki, 21-year-old forward Cole Caufield and 18-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft who scored his first NHL goal Thursday. Yes, patience is needed, but the Rangers are proof Gorton knows how to build a successful roster.
In the locker room jargon of NHL players, the term “trade deadline suitcase” refers to an extra-large bag players stuff to the max when they think there’s a chance they might be dealt leading up to the deadline. The logic: You never know when you might be shipped out to a new city, so you need to be prepared.
The Arizona Coyotes are lugging around a lot of those bags these days. But in this instance, it has nothing to do with the potential of being traded.
The Coyotes are in the midst of a season-opening stretch that will see them play 20 of their first 24 games on the road.
“I got the trade deadline suitcase going right now. I’ve got the big boys,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said with a chuckle. “I feel bad for my wife when I come back every two weeks and she’s got to do my laundry, then I’m gone again in three days. But it’s not bad. I think we’ve only got 10 road games from January to March, so it’s [a] give-and-take.”
The Coyotes are ready to play the first of three seasons at Arizona State University’s new multipurpose facility, Mullet Arena. Because of scheduling conflicts with the ASU hockey team, and construction work on the Coyotes’ facilities at the 5,000-seat area, Arizona has a top-heavy road schedule this fall, including a 14-game road trip from Nov. 5-Dec. 7.
“I’ll tell you one thing, no veteran is going to be used to that road trip,” Gostisbehere said. “But, obviously, it’s the hand you’ve been dealt. You can complain all you want, it’s not going to do anything. I mean, we know we’re going to be on the road for God knows how long here, but we have to deal with it.”
General manager Bill Armstrong said he’s heard the rumors that some players might be disgruntled early in the season because of the extreme logistics they face but said they haven’t said anything to him.
“From my point of view, they’ve been great under trying circumstances,” Armstrong said. “We brought them in to confer on our dressing room construction, training room, everything. We want them to be part of all aspects of the team.”
Arizona’s home opener, which kicks off a four-game homestand, will be against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
“He almost died. Forget about hockey, how he’s been able to rebound is amazing. ‘Donny’ coached me in the U.S. National Team Program as a teenager, so I’ve known him a long time. For him to be given an extension by the Sabres, especially given what’s gone on in his life, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
— Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel, a former Buffalo Sabres forward, on coach Don Granato’s new two-year contract with Buffalo. Granato, then an assistant with the Sabres, was hospitalized during the 2019 preseason and said at one point his doctor told him he could die if he did not undergo a procedure in the next five minutes.
THE SUNDAY LIST
On June 14, eight days after being fired as coach of the Boston Bruins, Bruce Cassidy was hired as coach of the Vegas Golden Knights. It has been a whirlwind for the 57-year-old and his family, especially with the lifestyle change from New England to the desert. Here are the top three things that have surprised Cassidy in his brief time in Vegas:
1. “Life away from the [Las Vegas] Strip. When you come in as a visiting team, you stay there, you’re among all the lights and bells and whistles, you play, then you leave. But away from there, it’s a place of communities and of families. That part of it has been enlightening.”
2. “How hockey has grown here. No matter which of the handful of rinks you go to, they’re always busy with kids playing. It shows you the impact of the Golden Knights on the community.”
3. “The lack of traffic. I thought there would be a lot, but it’s been the opposite. It’s a big change from Boston. I mean, I don’t think I’ve heard a car horn since I’ve been here.”