“I was surprised Boston kind of gave up on him that quick.” – Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, on Tyler Seguin.
Kane understands Seguin. They became friends during the lockout when both were playing in Switzerland (under the watchful eye of Mama Kane). But more than that, he’s been where Seguin has been: Young, rich, hyped, a Cup ring adorning his finger and scandal trailing him like a checking forward he just smoked.
But the inherent difference between the two is that the Chicago Blackhawks stuck with Patrick Kane, and the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin.
One is looking incredibly smart, after Kane added a second ring and a Conn Smythe trophy to his accomplishments. The other is looking incredibly stupid, what with Tyler Seguin scoring 22 points in 19 games, including a 4-goal, 5-point effort against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
He’s outscoring every Boston Bruin. He nearly has as many goals (12) as the Bruins’ top two goal scorers combined (14).
Despite the sample size, this is making Peter Chiarelli and his braintrust look like a bunch of shortsighted idiots. No. 1 centers are a premium in the NHL, and the Bruins appear to have given up on one that was just 21 years old. It doesn’t matter how good Loui Eriksson is or how the Bruins’ cap situation improved or, potentially, even if they win another Cup before Seguin does. It could enter into the pantheon of lopsided deals; they can ask Cam Neely about those.
That’s the unshakable perception if Seguin is now this guy for the Dallas Stars, but it ignores the likelihood that he would have never been this guy for the Boston Bruins.
We all know the off-the-ice stuff. The behavioral issues that affected Seguin’s play in the postseason – guards outside of hotel room doors and the like – and soured the Bruins players and management on his future with the team. To that end, a change had to happen for Seguin to ever blossom as a star player. He needed to free himself from that situation in Boston; or, in Chiarelli’s case, provide him with shock therapy by dealing him away.
It was easy for Kane to come back to the Blackhawks after his transgressions, because the Blackhawks are not the Bruins. The captain is young and friends with the troubled star. Ditto much of the rest of the roster. They said ‘hey, we believe in this guy’s talent and how he fits here and we’re going to help him figure this out.’
Who can relate to Seguin on the Bruins in the same way Toews did Kane? Brad Marchand, an enabler? A 36-year-old Zdeno Chara? Patrice Bergeron, model citizen? Their eyes are on the prize, on the job, on the system. They don’t have time for someone that disrespects all of those things through his work ethic and behavior.
Or “compete level.”
That’s something the Bruins have used time and again in discussing Seguin. They saw him as fit and strong and talented and fast, but they didn’t see him paying the price to the Bruins’ admittedly lofty standards. (Gregory Campbell penalty killing on one leg, after all, was just an extension of Bruins hockey.)
“It’s a general thought that this team has been built that there has to be a minimum level of compete and willingness to compete,” Chiarelli told WEEI. “It doesn’t mean you have to crash and bang. That’s the distinction. You just have to battle. In your own way, you’ve got to battle. That’s a prerequisite here.”
All of this is to say that Seguin didn’t fit the Bruins. Not their style, not their defense-over-offense mentality, not their lineup, which had a logjam of players at Seguin’s natural position at center. David Krejci is signed through 2015, and has increased his stock with the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron is signed through 2022.
But even if the Bruins elevated him to top line center, there’s another reason Seguin’s not doing what he’s doing now in Boston.
Two words: Jamie. Benn.
Benn and Seguin have clicked in a remarkable way, doing what GM Jim Nill and coach Lindy Ruff prayed they’d do as teammates. Seguin arrived as Benn was named captain, and that role – plus the Canadian Olympic snub – has given his a swift kick in the rear that’s made him blossom as a dominant player, even after a switch to the wing so he could play with Seguin.
There isn’t a player like Benn on the Bruins. The best winger they have, arguably, was acquired for Seguin. The chemistry the Stars have seen is the chemistry between two elite offensive players, given top-line responsibilities. When is that happening in Boston for Seguin? In 2023?
We’ve dealt with these issues before, but it needs to be reiterated: Seguin isn’t this player if stays in Boston.
He’s getting shorter shifts in Dallas (0:48) and more of them (24.1 per game, compared to 20.1 per game under Claude Julien), as well as more ice time overall. He’s playing a system that accentuates his talent rather than asks him to conform to the Bruins way. He’s freed of the off-ice baggage weighing him down, no longer playing in a city that asked “what’s wrong with Seguin?” even when things would be on track. (Believe me, I've done enough sports talk radio in Boston to have heard it weekly).
He’s not a 1.16 points per game player in Boston. He's not looking like the next great NHL center in Boston. He's not this guy in Boston. Let it go.
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