In his first media availability as the Dallas Stars new head coach, Ken Hitchcock made a commitment to turning Tyler Seguin into a No. 1 center.
“I’ve got to work hard in the summer here to make Tyler start thinking like a (top center),” Hitchcock said. “I want him to be back at center on a consistent basis. And I need him to act, think and behave like a No. 1 center.”
That’s promising news for Stars fans, many who have maligned the use of Cody Eakin as the Stars top-line center during the Lindy Ruff regime.
Of course, it comes with a lot of work on Seguin’s part. And that’s something Hitchcock acknowledged on Thursday.
“That means he’s got to be out there in critical spaces all the time. And that means he’s got to kill penalties, he’s got to play against the other team's top players,” Hitchcock said. “He’s got to be out there at the start of games, he’s got to be out there at the end of games. He’s got to take key faceoffs, he’s got to do everything to become a one (center).
“And that’s what a [No. 1 center] does. Mike Modano gave up points, he stopped focusing on points, and it was all about wins and the points ended up being exactly the same. And that’s where Tyler and I have to partner up. To me if you’re a one, you’ve got to be a winner in every aspect.”
So can Seguin turn into a winner?
He’s always been a point producer, but has never really thrived in key moments. He won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in a supporting role, but has yet to come up big for the Stars, and injuries are partially to blame.
Perhaps he could copy the Modano path under Hitchcock?
“I want to be a No. 1 center here and I want to be a two-way guy, I never really saw much or knew much about Modano early in his career, but I did know how Modano finished (his career),” Seguin said. “I know Hitch is hard on players and we’ll have a good relationship built here and he’s going to be hard on me.
“But I do want to do what (Modano) did ... because that worked out there in the end.”
Seguin has the raw tools that could fit into the mold, if he buys in and commits to playing two-way hockey.
Defense is played with your feet first. Being in the right position and reading the play if the first step and is the foundation of a good system, that’s something Jim Nill made sure to point out earlier this week.
“In the end, good players can play good defense. Good defensive players without skill can’t play the skill game. We’re trying to build the best team we can here with the most skill. And in the end, the coach’s job is going to be to give them the structure to win in the right way,” Nill said. “Part of this too is the onus on players. They have to play the proper way. There’s no coach out there that the game’s going on and there’s a turnover at center ice, that’s not in the game plan with the coach. So there is a responsibility in the players also to play the right way.”
So Seguin will have a choice this summer. Hitchcock is going to try and make him a true No. 1 center, but can Seguin prove he’s a winner?
Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter @SeanShapiro