The Dallas Stars aren't a sleeper pick -- they already seem to be everyone's trendy breakout team for this season. After finishing 34-37-11 (their second-worst record in franchise history) and missing the playoffs by a whopping 15 points last season, the Stars reunited this summer with former coach Ken Hitchcock, who guided the franchise to its only Stanley Cup championship, in 1999. Dallas also dominated with its moves, making splash (signing goalie Ben Bishop) after splash (signing forwards Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov) after splash (trading for defenseman Marc Methot).
And this is a team that already featured two of the league's top five point scorers over the past four seasons: captain Jamie Benn, 28, has 324 points since 2013-14, while 25-year-old center Tyler Seguin has 306 points in that span.
Benn and Seguin sat down separately with ESPN for interviews during the NHL's annual player media tour in New York this week. Here they are, unplugged, on everything from why hockey wasn't fun last season, to how Connor McDavid could become an even bigger star and why Jaromir Jagr should play in Vegas.
On last season's woes
Seguin: I did lose focus and had to still find a way to compete. It was miserable, something you never want to go through. I mean, [I didn't] even like hockey.
Benn: When you get knocked out of the playoffs and are officially out, you still have games that need to be played. It's about playing with pride and honor and representing your team and city well. It's not always the easiest thing, but it shows character and it shows a little bit about yourself.
Seguin: It wasn't fun. It was a learning process. It's something that I'm almost happy that I went through -- and that we went through as a group. It was not good times. Once [you're eliminated from the playoffs], once you're sort of done, then all of the rumors start, right? The coaches rumors, the goalies, what's wrong. ... You need to find a way to stick together, which we did. We had this trip through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. After that we found a way to get it together and play with pride at the end of the year and try to find ways to make hockey fun.
On additions and subtractions
Seguin: I knew we had things we needed to address. We got Bishop, and I was like, "That's awesome. [He's] one of the best goalies you can get right now." We went out and got Methot and I was like, "OK, we got the goalie and the D-man." Then we got Hanzal, and I'm like, "Heck that's a good summer." ... I was ready to go and then I saw on Twitter that Radulov was following me on Instagram. There were rumors that he was coming to Dallas. So I called Jamie Benn and, sure enough, we got Radulov. That was the cherry on the cake. We got the feeling from the organization that, "Hey we're kind of going for this."
Benn (whose brother, Jordie Benn, was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February): We all know trades happen, and guys come and go, but to see it first-hand and how fast it actually happens -- it was weird. [Jordie] got a call at 4 p.m., and he was at the airport at 6. It was weird to see him go, but I think it was probably for the better. [Stars GM Jim Nill] called me right afterward and explained why he made the deal. It's a business, there's no hard feelings. Just because it's your brother, you can't have a grudge against your GM.
On why they're fans too
Seguin on personalities in hockey: The way I look at it, I'd like Connor McDavid to go out and date a celebrity. Go to the ESPYS like P.K. [Subban]. I'd love for the game to keep getting bigger and bigger. P.K. is a little extra maybe sometimes, but he's personable.
Seguin on personalities in Dallas: I've met a lot of [Dallas athletes]. Who do I look up to? Probably Dirk Nowitzki. He's such a nice guy. I go do his softball charity tournaments a lot. He's such a good dude. Kind of a big nerd, but such a good dude.
On Jagr being Jagr
Benn on the biggest personality he's played with: Jaromir Jagr. We were in Columbus for morning skate. It was like 10:15 in the morning and Jagr just rolled in and put on his gitch [underwear], went to his stall, sat on the floor and fell asleep for about 45 minutes. Me and Brenden Morrow were taking photos. That's Jags.
Benn again, on Jagr: I think [Jagr] should play in Vegas. Why not get a hockey legend with a new team and try to sell some jerseys at least, put some people in the stands? He's got his little entourage, people who follow him around from past teams. He can still play. He had a pretty good year last year. Just because he's 70 doesn't mean he needs to hang up the skates.
On what's ahead
Seguin -- who won a Stanley Cup title as a rookie with the Boston Bruins in 2011 -- on where he wants to be in five years: Stanley Cup champion -- times two. At least one more. [Winning a Cup] is a lot harder than people think. Start with one. Pittsburgh did it back-to-back. [After the Bruins won] my first year, I was like, "S---, we can do this again." The second year we lost to the Washington Capitals, the third we lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. But I'm like, "Yeah, I'm right there." Then we don't make the playoffs, then lose in the first round [the next year], in the second round [the year after that]. It's hard. It's a grind. I'd be really happy with one more.
On keeping score
Benn on what keeps him satisfied on long road trips: We play a board game called Super Tock. It's like Trouble, on steroids. ... with money involved. It's just four of us. We have multiple boards, but I play with three other guys. Antoine Roussel, our French guy, brought it in one year. You have to get certain cards to get out of your house, then you go around the board and try to eat other people who are trying to get into your house. We play on the plane, in hotel rooms, late at night. We play it everywhere. Four, six or eight people can play, but we just play with four players. It's me, Roussel, [Jason] Spezza and [Dan] Hamhuis.
Seguin: I've never had a point in a home opener. I've never scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the regular season. I can't get a goal against them.
On their mutual admiration society
Benn on Seguin: He is a leader and could be a better one and have more impact in the room. He's got a big personality; we've all seen that through social media and his charitable work. He's a big part of our team. He's our No. 1 center and when your No. 1 center is your best player, don't think that doesn't have an impact on the team.
Seguin on Benn: He's been my ultimate captain so far in my career. Don't tell him that, though. We're close in age; it's a little weird.