The Dallas Stars won Thursday night, and the team’s CEO, Jim Lites, had plenty to say about it the following day. But he didn’t talk about the Stars' 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators.
Instead, in an arranged meeting with members of the media, he took aim at the team’s two biggest stars, left wing Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin, ripping their performance with shocking candor — and profanity — while imploring the media to write about their “embarrassing” play.
“They are f---ing horses---. I don’t know how else to put it,” Lites told the Athletic. “The team was okay. But Seguin and Benn were terrible.”
Lites requested to speak with selected media members about the issue and specifically told them his comments were on the record.
“It’s embarrassing, and no one writes it,” he said. “Write it!”
On Saturday morning, after the news had taken over the hockey world, Seguin and Benn responded to the comments. They said they were surprised by the remarks, especially because they were delivered publicly and not face-to-face. Both players said they had not heard directly from Lites at any point this season.
“Jamie and I hear the message,” Seguin said. “I think the whole team hears it. We know that we have to play better and we understand that.”
“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 am proud to be a Dallas Star and I am proud to go out every night and battle with these guys.”
Benn, who has 30 points in 38 games this season, has the third-highest salary in the NHL this season at $13 million. Seguin signed an eight-year, $78 million contract extension in September. He has 32 points in 38 games.
“These guys were signed to big contracts because they were the third- and sixth-leading scorers in the National Hockey League over the past five years,” Lites said. “They get their money, we expect them to not be outplayed every game we play in. And if they were as good as they’ve been in the past we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The Stars currently sit in the fourth place in the Western Conference’s Central division with 41 points. That has them in position for the conference’s second wild-card spot if the season ended today. But it doesn’t feel sufficient to Lites and team owner Tom Gaglardi, who texted the CEO during Thursday’s game to express his frustration with the team’s stars.
“WTF,” his message reportedly read.
The Athletic reported that Gaglardi was aware that Lites was going to speak publicly and on the record about the matter, and he supported that move.
“These guys have been great players, but we are 40 games into this season and they aren’t getting it done,” Lites said. “We are going to sleepwalk to another 14th place from the bottom and miss the playoffs.”
The Stars have qualified for the postseason just twice in the past 10 seasons, with their most recent appearance coming in 2015-16. Both Benn and Seguin were a part of many of those seasons. Benn, 29, has played his entire career in Dallas and is the team’s captain. Seguin, 26, joined in 2013 after winning a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins.
Lites and Gaglardi aren’t alone in their dissatisfaction, either. Jim Montgomery, the Stars’ third head coach in as many seasons, also has expressed frustration with the team. During Thursday’s morning skate he said he was “f---ing embarrassed” with where the team was in the standings.
It’s clear that Lites and Gaglardi are hoping this outburst of frustration will lead to more inspired play on the ice, especially from the players in question. In a text to the Athletic on Friday night, Lites said he hopes that he is proved wrong during the remainder of the season.
“I hope they jam it down my throat,” he said.
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