The “Big Three” of the Dallas Stars, otherwise known as the top line consisting of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov, was one of the key pieces to the success of the Stars during the 2018-2019 playoff run.
The trio infamously igniting a fire underneath themselves after the Stars CEO very publicly slammed Seguin and Benn, dubbing them “not good enough” after investing so much in their contracts.
The public criticism caused a commotion on social media within the hockey world, Twitter was exploding with reactions, some aggressively agreeing with the comments that were made and others deeming them as unprofessional coming from someone so high up in the organization. Seguin and Benn however, handled the criticism by coming out hard for the remainder of the season. Seguin ended up producing 80 points, finishing first in production among his teammates, and Benn in third with 53 points, with Radulov comfortably in second place between them at 70 points.
Ultimately, the Stars went on to lose to the eventual 2018-2019 Stanley Cup Champions, The St. Louis Blues, in a frustrating Game 7 2OT game that playoff run. Despite the frustrating playoff loss, fans spent the summer gearing up for what was predicted to be a huge season for the Dallas Stars, with big-name players such as Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry being signed, the Stars were discussed among commentators as true cup contenders for the 2019-2020 season.
Analysts predicted that because of the strength of the top line (Radulov, Seguin, and Benn), an undeniably strong defensive core, and one of the best goaltending tandems in the league, Stars had a true shot at a breakout season.
Fans and the team were quickly disappointed, and the Stars opened the season 1-7-1, with things not seeming to click into place as predicted. Stars fans were in for a wild season, with ups and downs in terms of gameplay, a big coaching change in December, the Winter Classic, and finally the pause due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. One thing that could not be denied, was the low production coming from the big three players. Criticism came as Interim Head Coach Rick Bowness opted to separate the Stars’ top line for most of the season, shuffling each player into different positions hoping to generate more offensive production.
Regardless of if the team was winning games, the big names felt largely absent from the success of the team, and fans noticed. Criticism of Seguin, Benn, and Radulov was all over social media most nights during and after games, with fans wondering why their top tier players weren’t putting up any points. For reference, Seguin ended the regular season at 50 points, Benn at 39, and Radulov at 34. While the season was shorter due to the pandemic, based on their trajectory, none of the big three were on track to end the season with points as high as the 2018-2019 season.
The season restart came with its own new set of challenges that were seemingly all too familiar for Stars fans.
The Stars weren’t producing, the lines weren’t working productively, and the drive didn’t seem to be there. With a largely lackluster performance in each of the round-robin games, followed by the Calgary Flames securing a victory in game one of the first-round series, many fans were doubtful on a deep run this season. The pieces just did not seem to be connecting for the Stars. It was clear something needed to be changed, and Bowness followed suit by altering the line combinations, reuniting the big three as the top line for game 2.
The big three top-line generated 2 assists that night from Radulov and Benn, and the Stars tied the series, beating the Flames 5-4. The next night saw frustration, as Calgary goaltender Cam Talbot shutout the Stars. From there on out, big three has been consistently a line combination generating points for the team. If fans look to the stats of each game, they’ll notice that almost every line is performing, with multiple players getting points in games. It’s clear that it is not a solo effort, the Stars are showing their depth as a team, working effectively together.
With a huge Game 6 victory, and the Stars scoring 7 unanswered goals, they were off to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans were reeling, the offensive production among the team was such a stark contrast to how the series had started, and many were hopeful that it would continue to the second round against the Colorado Avalanche.
Game one against the Avalanche highlighted the big three again, where fans saw Radulov with two goals and an assist, Seguin with a goal and an assist, and Benn with assists on all three of those goals. Game two with a set of points for the veteran players as well, the Stars pulling out another victory, taking the series lead against the Avalanche at 2-0. Game three was a bit of a rollercoaster for fans, the Stars taking a loss of 6-4.
With the series against the Avalanche at 2-1 and the big three consistently generating points, alongside the rest of the team, it’s hard to ignore the impact that the success of the veteran players is having on the rest of the roster. When the veterans are performing well, especially Benn, it generates a ton of momentum for the team. Tyler Seguin commenting that when Jamie is going, the entire team gets going.
But it is crucial to remember here that the young players on the team, such as Denis Gurianov and Miro Heiskanen are also a key piece to the offensive success, with that only being amplified by the success of the veterans.
When each moving piece of the team is feeling hot, they generate more success as a group than as individuals. When the leaders of the team are feeling good and performing, it’s very likely that the young guns will follow suit, especially with morale being so high for the team lately. The Stars truly are a team, who don’t have singular players responsible for their success, they have a depth that could greatly benefit them the rest of the series if things stay consistent.
Stars fans should expect a strong team to come out on Sunday 8/30 for game four against the Avalanche, hopefully, one that will pull the series lead to 3-1.
Featured Image: Jason Franson/Dallas News