Before puck drop Tuesday night against the Stars at American Airlines Center in Dallas, it’s time for a hypothetical debate: Which player do the Bruins miss the most?
In my mind it’s Iginla. It’s no coincidence the Bruins enjoyed their most consistent season during 2013-2014 with the future Hall of Famer in the lineup. His veteran leadership both on and off the ice paid dividends for the Bruins as Iginla led by example.
His production -- 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points -- on Boston’s top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic is also missed. The Bruins organization knew it had a Stanley Cup contender with last season’s team, and that’s why general manager Peter Chiarelli went all in, knowing the team’s salary cap would be affected with overages this season.
As a result, the Bruins could not afford to keep Iginla, so he signed a three-year deal worth $16 million with the Avalanche.
In 47 games for Colorado, Iginla has 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points.
Lucic grew up with a poster on his wall of Iginla. He was thrilled to be his linemate last season and Lucic isn’t surprised by Iginla’s continued success.
"It makes you appreciate him as a player and what he’s done over his career,” Lucic said. “To be that consistent for this long, and he’s doing it again this year, is an amazing thing. At this level it’s a really hard thing to do.
“When you’re playing with a guy sometimes you take it for granted and you don’t appreciate it as much as you do until it’s gone. Not only did he make our line better, he made the whole team better just because he brought that consistency in his game, whether it was practice or especially in the games, it helped our team be more consistent and that’s what made us the Presidents’ Trophy winner last year because we were so good night in and night out with his presence and consistency.”
Let’s make something else perfectly clear: Seguin would not be leading the NHL in scoring if he played for the Bruins.
The respective teams’ systems are completely different. He doesn’t have to be as much of a two-way player in Dallas, and he's back to playing his natural center position with the Stars. By all accounts he’s matured both on and off the ice after the Bruins traded him, along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button, to Dallas on July 4, 2013 in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser.
Seguin enters Tuesday night’s action leading the NHL with 28 goals and ranks second in the league with 52 points in 45 games.
“It’s not surprising,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of Seguin’s success. “I don’t think there was ever an issue with his potential. At the same time, there’s probably a good chance he would be playing on the wing here right now with [David] Krejci. There was a deal that was done and we’ve moved on. Right now we’re in a playoff spot and they’re battling for one. We feel like we’re still in good shape here and we have to worry about ourselves.”
The Bruins currently sit in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Stars are 10th in the Western Conference and four points out of the playoff picture. Boston relies on the team concept more than one or two players to do all the work.
“You knew he was going to be a great player just because seeing him as a young talent and what he had, the confidence that he had and the skill set that he had,” Lucic said. “You could see that he was going to be this type of player.
“You’re happy for him to have success somewhere else, but we’re happy with what we got here and we believe in the guys that we have in this dressing room.
In Boston, Seguin played the wing. There was one brief stint when Julien tried Seguin at center and it didn’t go so well.
Despite Seguin’s offensive output, Lucic still appreciates his chemistry with Krejci.
“I’d have to go with [Krejci] just because I’ve played with him for so long and I’ve had so much success with him,” Lucic said. “If you’re looking at stats right now, that a pretty easy one to say. I’ve had a lot of success with [Krejci] and he shows up at big games and he’s led the playoffs twice in scoring, so there’s my answer.”
Ask any player in the Bruins’ locker room and the answer is basically the same. They don’t deny Seguin’s ability, but playing in Boston is completely different.
“This is tough to judge. He’s a really good player. He was a really good player when he was in Boston, he just started playing in the NHL,” Krejci said. “Now he’s establishing himself as one of the best players in the league, so it’s good to see him doing well. Who knows how that would be if he stayed in Boston, we play a little different style of hockey.
"He must be happy on one side that he’s up there in the scoring race, but on the other hand, at the end of the day you want to accomplish something as a team and that’s why you play the game,” Krejci added.
No matter the outcome of the next two games, it will be fun to watch both Seguin and Iginla face their former team at this point of the season and their respective careers.