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Stars CEO Jim Lites’ rant was far from a Steinbrenneresque tirade

Why all the fuss? Jim Lites, an expensive suit doing the bidding of a fellow who can afford to wear an even more expensive suit, didn’t even call Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin “fat puss-ie toads.”

Now that would have turned the Stars’ CEO’s wildly entertaining premeditated rant against the franchise’s two top-paid players into something almost Steinbrenneresque.

But no, this was no such passion-fueled tirade as the one the late Yankees’ principal owner once regrettably unleashed against the late Hideki Irabu. Wasn’t passion-fueled, but rather premeditated and likely more scripted than an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And of course, it was delivered by a hired hand, not the owner himself.

We get it. Owner Tom Gaglardi is fuming over the uninspired play and disappointing production of Benn, the captain, and Seguin, the No. 1 center, both of whom are on lavish, market-based contracts Lites so identifies as not the problem that he feels compelled to insist no one resents the money after citing the money more than once.

Ownership and their appointed spokespeople likely have every right to be underwhelmed by Benn, operating on the third year of a bonus-laden, eight-year, $76 million contract ($9.5 million per) that runs through 2024-25, and Seguin, whose bonus-heavy, eight-year, $78.8 million extension ($9.85 million per) doesn’t even kick in until next year.

While the Stars are fourth in the NHL in goals-against per game, they ranked fifth from the bottom of the league in goals per game entering Saturday’s match against the Red Wings after having posted two goals or fewer in five straight and 14 of their past 21 games. And though Seguin (11 G, 21 A, 32 PTS) and Benn (15 G, 15 A, 30 PTS) are one-two on the Dallas point-scoring leaderboard, their production is, well, a bit Lite for the executive’s liking.

The invitation-only A&Q convened by Lites for the express purpose of torching Benn and Seguin — both of whom have full no-move clauses in their contracts — began with a barnyard epithet and stayed on that high ground, with the CEO expressing all of ownership’s seething resentment against the lower-case stars.

Indeed, upset at bloggers for blaming the wrong players for the team’s demise, Lites urged the local press to rip Seguin and Benn while the organization discounts the price of their authentic, branded jerseys in all of their team stores (well, no on that last part about the jerseys, I made that up).

Dallas’ hockey team has won one round while making the playoffs twice in seven years under Gaglardi’s ownership and has missed eight of the past 10 years overall, with that one series victory in 2016 to show for the decade. Jim Montgomery, the fourth coach to work under this owner, sure doesn’t come off too well in this diatribe, if only by inference.

When Lites says there has been meeting after meeting regarding the Benn/Seguin topic but nothing has succeeded in getting their attention (my words), it doesn’t reflect all that well on the coach, or even general manager Jim Nill, for that matter. Lites says he “cannot speak for” the GM, but that doesn’t stop him from darn well trying to do so.

It is unclear whether Gaglardi ordered Lites to pop off or whether this little skit was conceived by the CEO before running it up the executive flagpole. Incredibly, more than four decades after Reggie Jackson made the phrase famous (or infamous), Lites cites Benn being the one who “stirs the drink, but he’s not doing it.”

By George, he almost got it.

I am old enough to remember when the narrative was that John Tavares wouldn’t be comfortable playing in the spotlight.

John Tavares
John TavaresGetty Images

Only here is No. 91, having the greatest post-free agency season (with a new team) in NHL history, and somehow doing it in his inimitably understated style under the harshest lights of them all in Toronto.

We have commended the Islanders for having put Tavares so effectively in a unique franchise rear-view where the object in the mirror somehow appears farther away than he really is, but there should be at least a tinge of regret that Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz were deprived of building the Islanders in their combined image with the team’s centerpiece in place.

Toronto is talented and relentless, Nashville and Winnipeg are packed and Calgary is loads of fun — you’d think, even by accident, the Rangers would draft someone like Johnny Gaudreau just once; well, not counting Rick Middleton — but no team in the league moves the puck the way the Lightning does and is as gifted 1-through-20 as Tampa Bay.

Columbus’ season could have imploded in controversy and recrimination over the pending free agency of marquee stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Yet, the Blue Jackets have remained focused on the task at hand. Credit goes to the John Davidson-Jarmo Kekalainen executive hierarchy and to John Tortorella behind the bench.

Remembering the Whalers in Raleigh, N.C., in the final game before Christmas had nothing to do with selling more licensed green merchandise and everything to do with honoring the Hartford heritage because the owner Tom Dundon is such a romantic, I’m pretty sure that’s true.

The nominees for Slap Shots’ local hockey sportspeople of the year: 1. Taylor Hall, for the Hart; 2. Jim Dolan/Glen Sather/Jeff Gorton, for the Letter; 3. John Tavares, for the Defection; 4. The Riveters, for the Isobel Cup.

Through Friday, the Avalanche had scored 33 goals at five-on-five with the Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen line on the ice (541 minutes) and 36 goals without any of the top three on (1,075 minutes).

So does Colorado hang onto Ottawa’s first-rounder and top defense prospect Cale Makar and attempt to take the next step organically, or does management strike out and trade what would be the most attractive commodities on the market for immediate help?
Asking for a friend with the initials J.G.

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