When Stars forward Tyler Seguin underwent surgery following the run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, he had no idea how long the road ahead of him would be. After essentially losing all of his muscle after surgeries on his knee and hip, the then 28-year-old was forced to battle harder than he ever imagined.
“I lost my whole quad,” Seguin said. “I had to start from ground zero. We sat down, Matt Nichol and I, we looked at it and it was just so tiny compared to the other side. We started from scratch and went from there.”
Although he was expected to return midway through the 2020-21 season, his recovery took longer than expected, resulting in him only playing three total games all year. Heading into this season, he was inching closer to 100 percent and now, looks to be turning the corner on likely one of the biggest challenges of his life.
Seguin Getting His Legs Back Underneath Him
The early parts of the 2021-22 season were not great for Seguin. Through the first 28 games, he had only tallied 10 points (5G, 5A), while nearly all of his goals were scored in greasy fashion around the crease. Around that time, Rick Bowness chose to reunite him with his buddy Jamie Benn on the Stars’ second line. That change seemed to be the spark that he needed as Seguin scored goals in each of the next two games.
From there, Dallas began receiving consistent production and much better play from the second line of Benn, Seguin, and Denis Gurianov. For a team that counted on their top line for nearly 50% of their offense, this was something they desperately needed.
“He’s been skating really well,” Bowness said of Seguin. “That road trip he skated really well. In Buffalo, he was a force, and he’s getting his legs back underneath him and I think he’s feeling a whole lot more confident with his legs, his body, and his game.”
Over the last eight games before the All-Star break, Bowness made another change. With Benn having a bit of decline in his play, he decided to move Seguin back to his natural center position. Just like the previous change, this was successful as it allowed him to open up his game and touch the puck more often. The result was 10 points over the last eight games, including a three-point night against his former team.
“When he’s skating like that, you can just see the jump is there,” Bowness said. “I wanted to put him back at center, and he had an outstanding game for us tonight clearly. I know you note the power-play goal and the other goal, but he did a lot of really good things. He was really engaged physically tonight.”
Seguin’s Journey Was Far Longer Than Expected
For Seguin, the process was full of baby steps. First, he had to re-learn to walk. Then, came the strengthening of his leg. Finally, he took the ice and developed his skill while learning to trust that his body would not fail him.
“When you’re an athlete and you’re training, you’re lifting heavy stuff and setting your goals, but with this you could only do so much, and it was so meticulous and boring and slow,” Seguin said. “That was the grind part of it physically, which led to it being mentally challenging because as an athlete you just want to keep getting better and keep getting stronger, but anytime we tried to make a step we’d have to go two steps back. There was so much healing I had to do. Then I wasn’t expecting to have so much nerve damage all through that leg and I did.”
But the journey did not end there. The recovery process has continued into the season and will likely be an ongoing process throughout the entire year.
“Better. Definitely a lot better,” he said. “I was feeling so positive because I didn’t have the pain anymore, but I realized quickly I still had a lot to things to work on in terms of strength and explosiveness. The progress I’ve made is great, but I’m hoping I see the full benefits as the year goes on.”
Seguin Still Looking To Find The Right Balance
When Seguin began putting up more points and skating better, one thing still seemed to be missing. Although he was scoring goals and playing a much better overall game, the skill and style of play that we have grown accustomed to seeing was replaced with a much more hard-working, grind-it-out type game.
“Sometimes it gets frustrating because I can’t play the same kind of game I’ve played in the past,” he said. “I’m still trying to find the balance between muck and grinder and finding that more fluid style to my game that I’ve had.”
As of late, however, that has finally seemed to change. Beginning with a beautiful nearside top corner goal against the Minnesota Wild, Seguin began to display some of the skill that made him such an elite player. From the celebration afterward, you could see that the goal meant a lot for a player who had been through so much on his journey back.
“That’s a goal-scorer’s goal,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “Not many guys can go in there short side and roof it right under the bar. When I see that confidence, I know it’s coming.”
After that goal, the glimpses of the old Tyler Seguin began to become more consistent. Not only were the points flowing, with three multi-point games in his last eight, but the style of play seemed to be back as well.
As a fan, teammate, coach, or anyone who knows Seguin at all, seeing this has to bring a smile to your face. While it was a debilitating injury and a very long recovery process, the now 30-year-old has shown his resilience and love for the game as he continues to battle back to regain his elite status.
“Steps forward and steps backward,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me it’ll take a while. I know I still have more to give.”
For Seguin, he has taken the whole process in stride. Knowing how low he once was, he is just happy to be back around his teammates and playing the game he loves.
“I never had a day where I was saying, ‘Why am I doing this?’ or ‘Is this paying off?'” Seguin said. “But I did have some days where I had those thoughts creep in of can I play again or who am I going to be when I play again, what am I going to be able to do and what won’t I be able to do? Things like that, they’re tough.”
From here on, Seguin says, it will be another opportunity to grow, something he has done a lot of throughout his recovery.
“I just look at every day as a new challenge or a new opportunity,” he said.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!