An Outburst the Stars Could Regret

The state known as “The Lone Star” state is about to get very lonely for a couple of Dallas Stars’ players after being singled out publicly by none other than the team President. In an public outburst leaving the entire NHL world scratching its head, Jim Lites decided to rip apart the team’s best two players, captain Jamie Benn and his assistant Tyler Seguin… and everyone around the league has taken notes. What remains to be seen is what grade they gave Lites who, according to many, crossed the line.

First and foremost, if you were living under a rock over the last few days, let’s take a look at what Lites had to say.

“They are fucking horse-shit, I don’t know how else to put it,” Lites said. The team was ok. But Seguin and Benn were terrible.” (quote from Sean Shapiro of The Athletic)

The quotes were taken from Sportsday – The Dallas News. For your convenience, I’ll post them here:

“It’s pissed me off,” Lites said. “What nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players.”
“We pay these players to be the best players on our team and they are consistently out-efforted and outperformed by everybody else’s best players.”
“If 14 and 91 don’t lead, we will not be successful. I think this is the most talented and deep team we’ve had in years here.
“Certainly, this is the best team that we’ve put together from a talent perspective since Tom Gaglardi’s owned the franchise. Tom has allowed us to do everything we needed to do to be successful. Whatever it’s taken, he’s done. And I am tired of getting emails from him saying ‘What the hell is going on with our best players?'”
“He’s (Seguin) playing on the periphery. I’ve been in the business forever. I’ve been with Steve Yzerman in bad seasons, and what you’ll find is goal-scoring is a dirty business. You’ve got to go to hard places. And Tyler, last year, I saw him really perform and get into the difficult spots. This year, I’ve seen him as a weak forechecker, slow to the action and not getting it done.
“And he’s hit a lot of posts. He’s had some bad puck luck. But he’s not getting dirty. I don’t know what it is. I’m not accusing him of being without character, but we’re not getting it done.”
“Jamie Benn hasn’t scored a goal from longer than 5 feet all year. He makes plays in the neutral zone that if my kid had done it in squirts, he’d be benched. Am I wrong? He turned the puck over three times yesterday on plays if Denis Gurianov had done that, he wouldn’t have seen the light of day.”
“The owner and I see this the same way. We expect our best players to perform like other team’s best players, to be accountable, to have attention to detail, to have responsibility on the ice and off and get the job done for us. And it’s not getting done. Game in, game out, the best players on other teams are outplaying the best players on our team.”
“The coach has to, the GM has to, the owner has to, the CEO has to. I have to fricken hold these guys accountable and be part of the process of getting these guys to play to their best. … We don’t question their desire to win, but they think it’s easy, and that’s what bothers me. There’s just too much complacency in their games. Lack of attention to detail, and that’s what we need. Accountability and attention to detail and hard work.”
“The frustration I have is there were times where I think ‘Geez, we’re not getting any secondary scoring.'” Lites said. “But we’re not getting any primary scoring.”
“This team shouldn’t even be thinking about missing the playoffs. It shouldn’t even be an issue. We are too talented, too good, too strong to be performing this poorly.”

My first reaction after reading those comments was one of surprise. It’s not every day that you see a professional athlete get nailed to the wall like that. It’s even less common when it comes from the team President. And when he does it to his best two players, it’s unheard of.

Then I got thinking that maybe, he had talked to them in the past and saw no signs of improvement or willingness to improve. If that were the case, it could be a last ditch effort to get them motivated and if that failed, they would then consider moving one of them, or both.

I don’t play for him

“I don’t play for him,” Benn said. “I play for every player in this room and the coaching staff. I come to the rink and, like I said, I’m proud to be a Dallas Star and proud to go out there every night and battle with these guys in games. I’ve really put my teammates first.”
“Obviously, I read the article, and it is what it is,” Benn said. “People have their opinions on the outside. All it really is is noise. I think knowing there’s a situation within the organization, I try to keep it within the organization and deal with it face to face. With that being said, I come to the rink every day and wear the Dallas Stars jersey proudly and play hard for the fans and my teammates in here.”

“A little bit of a surprise there, because I didn’t know how he felt,” Seguin said. “It came as a bit of a surprise. I said it yesterday at practice. I understand I need to be better. Jamie understands he needs to be better. We need this team to be better, the organization to be better. I think everyone is frustrated over the last few years, and it came out yesterday.”

That was until I read the questions to Benn and Seguin, and subsequently, their answers. It was the first time they had heard that the President and the owner were not happy with their performances. Never were they approached with the exception of talks with head coach Jim Montgomery. Now I’m worried that with this outing, Lites has done some irreparable damages not only to Benn and Seguin, but to the Dallas Stars’ franchise. Who in their right mind will want to sign there as a UFA with a loose cannon at the helm?

Further, Lites might have tied his team’s hands in the even of a trade, by painting his players as ones who aren’t professional in not paying attention to details. Yes, there is a chance that Benn and Seguin will up their play but there’s also a huge chance that the players in the dressing room range behind their teammates and not care anymore.

In the only game the Stars have played since the comment, a 5-1 Dallas win over the Detroit Red Wings, Benn (39GP, 15G-15A-30Pts) played 15:07, with only two shots on goal to show for. Seguin (39GP, 11G-22A-33Pts) had 17:59 minutes of ice time, only managing one shot on goal although recording an assist on the powerplay.

In my humble opinion, Lites’ outing is a huge risk, one that no President or owner should take. Can you imagine had Geoff Molson come out that way against Carey Price when his play wasn’t up to par earlier this season? My oh my… Go Habs Go!

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A Matter of Attitude

Attitude

“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” Who said this nonsense, you ask?  He was three times NBA Coach of the year. Head coach of an NBA All-Star Game team nine times. He is the first North American sports figure to win a championship as a player, assistant coach, head coach, and as an executive. In 1996, he was named one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history… Do you give up yet? It was none other than Pat Riley

Why the quote? Because too many made fun of General Manager Marc Bergevin after he commented on the need for a change in attitude on the Canadiens, when he spoke at his year end press conference after a pretty miserable season. But what was wrong with the attitude on the team? What did he mean by “attitude change”? We got a pretty good hint when he traded two of the team’s top goals scorers in Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty. But were they really the problem?

Based on the start of the season, particularly with the way the team is performing, with a fast pace game and a relentless effort, with the way everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction… then maybe. It’s early. Too early to come to any conclusions. Fans however, seem to enjoy a new found love for the team they were so disappointed in just a few months ago. There’s a new vide and everyone is feeling it. Even Bergevin’s biggest critics are starting to fall asleep in the weeds waiting for the occasion to pounce again. Heck, even Brendan Kelly has to start writing about what he knows about… showbiz.

A Summer Of Change

A post-mortem is one thing, putting words to action is another. The first mea-culpa from Bergevin was to recognize the need for better scouting and player development. First, he fired some scouts to start his summer. Then, he put the axe to the coaching and development staff. Out went the farm team’s head coach Sylvain Lefebvre, as well as assistant-coaches Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Dan Lacroix. In came Joël BouchardDominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson.

BouchardRedHelmet
It will be up to Joël Bouchard to develop the Canadiens’ top prospects.

After a few meetings with Claude Julien, they decided on what style of play the coach wanted instate to the team. The GM then umbilical cord to the Galchenyuk feet-dragging project while bringing back a character player in Max Domi, and succumbed to his captain’s trade demands by shipping him to Sin City for what seems like a Golden return, ending his pouting at the same time.

And that’s when the real work started. It was up to Julien and his coaching staff to decide on who would stay and who would go. While it is still my opinion that he should go back to Finland, Jesperi Kotkaniemi came out of nowhere to force the Canadiens to keep him, at least for the time being. It was a very competitive training camp and though decisions were made as the Canadiens lost Jacob De la Rose, picked off waivers by the Detroit Red Wings.

While it’s true that teams don’t win the Stanley Cup in the first couple of weeks of the season, it is also true that it is almost impossible to make the playoffs when trailing by five points or more comes American Thanksgiving. At the very least, the Canadiens are keeping hopes of making the playoffs, especially that they are doing this without their best defenseman and newly appointed captain Shea Weber.

The Attitude Change

As Serge Savard mentioned and Bergevin admitted himself, attitude starts from the top down. Geoff Molson promised a better experience at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens’ GM promised more transparency and we’ve seen plenty of examples of that. New also from this year has been the team coming out publically to confirm or deny rumours, and setting the records straight, making “rumouroids” look like fools at times. All in all, it seems like everyone, from top to bottom, is pulling in the same direction… finally. Not bad for a couple of weeks into the new season!

GallyByron
Relentless workers Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher were named alternate-captain to Shea Weber.

“It wouldn’t be fair to judge Reilly’s play or talent based on what we saw last year. When he got here, the team wasn’t playing well. The attitude wasn’t good in the dressing room. This year, the atmosphere is polar opposite to what we saw last year. Since day one, we play with confidence. We play collectively.” ~ Brendan Gallagher

More than the surprising wins so far this season, it’s the way the team works and plays that impresses the masses and brings hope to fans. It seems like the players in uniform are taking pride once again at wearing the Sainte-Flanelle and fans can feel it. Claude Julien implemented his new system and style of play, one that the players seem to all be buying into.

“You’re probably tired of hearing about it, but the attitude is really good and we’re serious when we say it. We love coming to the rink and everyone is having fun while working hard. When you show up to work and you feel good, the positive effects can lead a long way.” ~ Brendan Gallagher

The true test is still to come. How will the team reaction when – not if – they go through rough stretches in the schedule? How will they react when they go through personal slumps or team losing streaks? We know it’s coming as every team goes through it in a long season. That’s when the character will dictate if there will be a change in attitude or not. But one thing is for sure, this team is developing its own personality, both on and off the ice and it makes for a much more enjoyable environment for everyone. Go Habs Go!