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Actually Comparing Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza to Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby

How did the Stars' top two middlemen compare to the best in the league? We can actually ask this question with a straight face now.

1C to 2C is a beautiful thing to see.
1C to 2C is a beautiful thing to see.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are one of the best duos in the league without a doubt.  The comparisons are often made to Kane and Toews or Getzlaf and Perry, and there's a reason for that.  Did anyone on here think Jamie Benn was going to be the one taking home scoring hardware this year?   Even if you had told me that Seguin would miss a chunk of games, I think most of us would have assumed that his absence would have negatively affected Benn's production, because how could it not?  It's just remarkable what Jamie Benn was able to do this year, and also every year.

Today though, I wanted to focus on the other duo on this team.  Going into the offseason last year, a number two center was a big priority for Jim Nill.  There were rumors about Joe Thornton's availability, and Ryan Kesler was all but certain to flee Vancouver on the next available train, taxicab or rickshaw.  Mike Ribeiro and Brad Richards were never really options. The prize the Stars did end up grabbing was neither of those, because it was Jason Spezza, of course.  The 2015 UFA-to-be had finally had it with Ottawa both because of Eugene Melnyk and because it was Ottawa, and when were they ever going to make the playoffs?

Well, as much as the four (and likely no more) extra games the Senators received this year might look nice from the outside, Spezza certainly seemed to have made the right call for someone looking to play in a competitive and enjoyable environment.  The Stars had a young core, competent management, and a steady, veteran coach who had just led them to the postseason for the first time in a little while.  So when we all found out that Nick Paul+ had been swapped for Spezza, all our eyeballs slot-machined into little pictures of goal horns, and the Stars looked primed to be as tough a matchup as any defense could not hope for.  Seguin plus Spezza?  That just wasn't fair.  It may not have looked like Crosby/Malkin, but still, that was—I say! Wait just a moment.

Were Seguin and Spezza actually that far behind Geno and the Kid?  We know that Benn and Seguin actually outscored them, of course, but let's try to be fair and compare the Stars' top two centers to the Penguins' pair of pivots for a moment:

Player

Team

GP

G

A

P

PPP

TOI/GP

Sidney Crosby

PIT

77

28

56

84

31

19:58

Tyler Seguin

DAL

71

37

40

77

29

19:33

Evgeni Malkin

PIT

69

28

42

70

26

18:58

Jason Spezza

DAL

82

17

45

62

26

17:13


Spezza/Seguin scored 139 points in 153 games while Crobsy/Malkin scored 154pts in 146 games, which is impressive  Is 15 points that much of a gap?  Well, it is and it isn't, depending on your point of view.  First of all, keep in mind that Crosby and Malkin combined for a cap hit of $18.2 million this fall while Spezza/Seguin were at $12.75 million.  The Penguins effectively paid $5.45 million for those 15 extra points, which is sort of like paying someone Tyler Seguin's salary to put up Jordie Benn's point totals.

That's a grossly unfair way of stating it, but the Stars haven't had a top-five pick in roughly seventy-four years, so this is me caring about fair.  Heck, Spezza, Seguin and Benn were still only at $18 million.  As Erin mentioned the other day, the Stars basically have a cheat code for the salary cap, and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.  Also, remember that the Penguins got to play Buffalo quite a bit more than the Stars did, although the Stars should perhaps be grateful for that, all things considered.

So, okay—Jim Nill in two years' time didn't quite bring in two centers that could match Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby's production; if you want to get upset about that, you are an insane person, but okay.  Before you stew too much longer, here is where the Stars' two centers ranked in scoring relative to the other top 30 "centers" in the NHL:

Player

Team

GP

G

A

P

PPG

PPP

TOI/GP

John Tavares

NYI

82

38

48

86

13

31

20:40

Sidney Crosby

PIT

77

28

56

84

10

31

19:58

Nicklas Backstrom

WSH

82

18

60

78

3

33

20:31

Tyler Seguin

DAL

71

37

40

77

13

29

19:33

Jiri Hudler

CGY

78

31

45

76

6

16

18:00

Claude Giroux

PHI

81

25

48

73

14

37

20:33

Henrik Sedin

VAN

82

18

55

73

5

25

18:36

Steven Stamkos

TBL

82

43

29

72

13

25

19:22

Tyler Johnson

TBL

77

29

43

72

8

17

17:14

Ryan Johansen

CBJ

82

26

45

71

7

26

19:30

Ryan Getzlaf

ANA

77

25

45

70

3

13

20:05

Evgeni Malkin

PIT

69

28

42

70

9

26

18:58

Joe Pavelski

SJS

82

37

33

70

19

31

20:07

Logan Couture

SJS

82

27

40

67

6

24

19:04

Jonathan Toews

CHI

81

28

38

66

6

17

19:33

Pavel Datsyuk

DET

63

26

39

65

8

24

19:03

Joe Thornton

SJS

78

16

49

65

4

22

18:25

Anze Kopitar

LAK

79

16

48

64

6

24

19:23

Kyle Turris

OTT

82

24

40

64

4

16

19:12

Filip Forsberg

NSH

82

26

37

63

6

19

17:19

Sean Monahan

CGY

81

31

31

62

10

19

19:37

Jason Spezza

DAL

82

17

45

62

4

26

17:13

Jeff Carter

LAK

82

28

34

62

10

15

17:58

Mike Ribeiro

NSH

82

15

47

62

1

12

18:44

Tomas Plekanec

MTL

82

26

34

60

7

16

19:09

Derick Brassard

NYR

80

19

41

60

6

18

17:23

David Backes

STL

80

26

32

58

10

16

18:38

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

EDM

76

24

32

56

2

14

20:38

Matt Duchene

COL

82

21

34

55

2

7

18:34

Patrice Bergeron

BOS

81

23

32

55

4

14

18:07

Not too shabby, right?  It's a lot of data to look at, but looking at the names around Jason Spezza (and Tyler Seguin—11 fewer games than Backstrom while essentially matching his production!) is a pretty enlightening exercise.  Even in a year with some adjustment for Spezza (and when winger Hemsky was almost invisible for the first portion of the year), he still managed to put up some outstanding point totals.  Oh, by the way, Spezza has the lowest average ice time of anyone on that list, so he was doing this with less opportunity than his peers.

And here (below) is that same list filtered to only show teams with multiple centers in the top 30.  We are talking about the best duos, after all.

Player

Team

GP

G

A

P

PPG

PPP

TOI/GP

Jiri Hudler

CGY

78

31

45

76

6

16

18:00

Sean Monahan

CGY

81

31

31

62

10

19

19:37

Tyler Seguin

DAL

71

37

40

77

13

29

19:33

Jason Spezza

DAL

82

17

45

62

4

26

17:13

Anze Kopitar

LAK

79

16

48

64

6

24

19:23

Jeff Carter

LAK

82

28

34

62

10

15

17:58

Filip Forsberg

NSH

82

26

37

63

6

19

17:19

Mike Ribeiro

NSH

82

15

47

62

1

12

18:44

Sidney Crosby

PIT

77

28

56

84

10

31

19:58

Evgeni Malkin

PIT

69

28

42

70

9

26

18:58

Joe Pavelski

SJS

82

37

33

70

19

31

20:07

Logan Couture

SJS

82

27

40

67

6

24

19:04

Joe Thornton

SJS

78

16

49

65

4

22

18:25

Steven Stamkos

TBL

82

43

29

72

13

25

19:22

Tyler Johnson

TBL

77

29

43

72

8

17

17:14

It's worth noting that San Jose is lying, because Pavelski and Thornton were often on the same line.  Same thing with Hudler and Monahan in Calgary, who generally played together on the Flames best/only line (although you maybe didn't realize just how good those two have been this year).

Stamkos and Johnson have the Lightning in a golden spot (until Stamkos flees to Toronto, which is a foregone conclusion according to all of Canada).  That kind of production from two of your team's kids is unheard of around the league except for, ahem, Benn and Seguin.  Little wonder that Tampa Bay was the only other team able to keep pace with the Stars' offense this season.

The bottom line here is that in terms of points from top two centers, the Stars had the best duo in the West, and third in the NHL. Concerns about Spezza's back were put to rest as he played all 82 games, and the four-year extension guarantees that even if Spezza's goal production doesn't approach 30 again, some actual help from his wingers should more than make sure that the Stars stay pretty well set to continue dominating down the middle for a good long while.