Tyler Seguin’s perspective on new Leafs forward Jason Spezza is simple.
“Character, leadership, a hockey nerd if you want to call it that,” Seguin said Tuesday, when asked about his former teammate with the Dallas Stars. “He’s great in the locker room, I’m going to miss him. He’s the first guy I text or call when it comes to hockey, and he’s gonna do a great job with all the young guys in Toronto.”
Seguin is at the BioSteel hockey camp at Varsity Arena this week, and he was enjoying the light atmosphere, especially while talking about Spezza. So, what’s a hockey nerd?
“Knowledge, he studies the game, he knows history … just a figure of speech, I don’t think he’s an actual, you know, nerd,” Seguin said, smiling throughout his answer. “He’s a heckuva player, a better person, and yeah, he’s going to be great for Toronto.”
Seguin, and his Dallas Stars, will get serious in less than two weeks when training camp starts. The Stars were bounced out of the second round of the playoffs last season by the St. Louis Blues, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. Six of the seven games were decided by two goals or less, with St. Louis winning Game 7 in double overtime.
Spezza was a key contributor with the Stars, though his role changed during his five seasons in Dallas. He scored 33 goals in 2015-16, one off his career high, but was down to eight in each of the last two seasons as he became more of a bottom-six forward. That’s the role the 36-year-old veteran of 16 NHL seasons will play with his hometown team.
Seguin was made aware in the media scrum that Spezza signed for near the league minimum — $700,000 (U.S.) — when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Leafs. Seguin noted that Spezza obviously “wants to win” with a team that has high expectations for 2019-20.
“I don’t think he needs any more money,” Seguin said, stirring laughter with the media types. “No … he just loves the game, loves making guys better, loves figuring out his role on the team. He plays to the best of his ability, he’s going to be a great addition to the Leafs.”
Seguin also repeated the same “high expectations” phrase in discussing the Stars. With the players gelling under coach Jim Montgomery in his first year last season, Seguin expects the Stars to “build on that” and become even better.
The additions of Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski will make up for the loss of Spezza’s veteran presence. Seguin believes NHL teams need the presence of the 30-something veterans, even in this age where young players control the game and the big contracts.
“I golfed with Pavelski in a golf tournament a couple of months ago and talked to Perry a couple of times, I think they’ll be great for our locker room,” Seguin said. “I think Perry will come in with a chip on his shoulder, just talking to him and knowing he wants to win. I think he’ll bring a lot.
“And obviously Pavs, with San Jose, when he got hurt, seeing how that team gathered around him and went to work, he’s something special in the locker room and I can’t wait to see him.”
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In the meantime, part of Seguin’s off-season included revisiting his friendship with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, a BioSteel camp alumnus, and attending Michael Del Zotto’s Stanley Cup party.
Joining in the celebration with Blues players was fine, and fun, for Seguin, except for one thing: “I didn’t touch the Cup,” he said.