Dallas — The Red Wings saw the comments just like anyone else did.
The entire hockey world saw the quotes from Jim Lites, the Dallas Stars chief executive officer — and former Red Wings chief operating officer — who Friday called out Dallas players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn for their performance this season.
The comments were bristling, profane, and unusual at the professional sports level.
“The accountability on the ice is not there,” Lites told Dallas beat writers, who were specifically called for the get-together. “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. 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.”
Lites used a multitude of expletives and made sure to specifiy all his comments were on the record.
Seguin signed an eight-year, $78.8 million extension this past offseason while Benn signed an eight-year, $76 million contract in 2016.
The Wings were surprised to see those types of comments come out in public.
“You don’t see it a whole lot,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “The two players that were called out are great players, they’re real hard to play against. It’s pretty unfortunate we have to face them (Saturday).”
Seguin has 32 points and Benn, 30 points, in 38 games this season. They’re the top two scorers on the team, also make the most money, and both players expressed disappointment with their play after Saturday’s morning skate.
Larkin wasn’t surprised by that, noting players know when they’re playing well or not.
“As a player, if that happens to myself or a teammate, you know that someone’s having a down season, there’s no one kicking themselves more than themselves because they know they have more and they want their team to be in a better position,” Larkin said. “It’s unfortunate to see it, but those two guys are great players.”
Coach Jeff Blashill didn’t delve into the comments, adding the Red Wings needed to concentrate on their own task at hand.
“You go to play your best hockey to have an opportunity to win,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened on the other side. We know that if you don’t play your best hockey, you’re not going to have a chance to win and if you play your best hockey you still have to execute.”
So, what was the response Saturday morning from Sequin and Benn, over in the Stars’ locker room?
“I hear the message,” Sequin said. “Jamie and I hear the message. Our whole team hears it. We know we got to play better, we understand that. We’re going to continue to work every day and keep getting better, come to the rink every day with the Stars in my heart, they’re my team, where I wanted to be, why I signed here.
“I’ll continue to work.”
Said Benn: “I read the article and it is what it is. People have their opinions on the outside and all it really is, I think is knowing there’s a situation within the organization I try to keep it within the organization and deal with it face to face, but that being said, I come to the rink every day and wear the Dallas Stars jersey proudly and play hard for the fans and my teammates in here.”
Blashill said forward Darren Helm (upper body), who has been skating this entire four-day road trip, could be ready within a week.
But defensemen Mike Green (lower body) and Danny DeKeyser (upper body), and forward Anthony Mantha (hand) are likely to return around mid-January.
“Is it a few days before, is it a few days after? I don’t have that answer right now,” Blashill said.