How Tyler Seguin has grown into his role with the Boston Bruins

By Jon Fucile

Very few people know what goes on behind the scenes of a hockey team. Sure, reporters and media members swarm the lockerroom after every game, win or lose, looking for quotes and stories. Some even have good relationships with the teams and get inside information. There is a good chance there is a more logical explanation for some of the questions we have or maybe something we fail to see through black and gold tinted glasses.

How the Bruins continue to handle Tyler Seguin continues to mystify most who are watching the situation from the outside. During a Saturday afternoon game where barely any player from either team showed up, the young forward saw less than ten minutes of ice time, and almost two less minutes that recent AHL call-up Zach Hamill.

Seguin has certainly struggled at times this season as the coaching staff reminds us at every turn that Seguin has to earn his ice time but how they expect the rookie to get better while playing so little is baffling.

Head Coach Claude Julien seems to work on some sort of weird “reward” system. If a player makes more plays, better decisions, etc they tend to see the ice more. This concept is not exactly a hard idea to grasp, but when other slumping players do not see their ice time reduced and Seguin rides the pine for long stretches the idea of rewards seems a bit off for the Bruins. What is a difficult concept to grasp is why Seguin was demoted to the fourth line after his big goal against Dallas.

Seguin played one of his best games of the season against Dallas, despite a turnover that led to a goal. He had four shots on goal and scored once, a goal that gave the Bruins a two goal cushion in third period after Dallas had stormed back. He barely missed high on one of his shots earlier in the game and created several fantastic scoring chances. By all accounts, the rookie had a pretty good game.

Before the game against San Jose the Bruins had called up Zach Hamill. Hamill had been doing well for the Providence Bruins, especially lately, with three goals and twenty-eight points in forty-four games for the baby Bruins so far this season. With Seguin playing a strong game against Dallas and Daniel Paille out of the lineup due to a suspension, many wondered where the Bruins would fit Hamill in and what they would do with Seguin.

Unfortunately for Seguin, his strong game and big goal were rewarded with limited ice time and some time on the checking line while Hamill handled third line centering duties. What kind of message does that send and what kind of blow is that to Seguin’s confidence when an AHL call-up gets more ice time and a third line centering task?

Hamill does have more professional experience and has spent parts of the last four seasons with the Providence Bruins. His twenty-five assists lead the Providence  Bruins and perhaps Boston was hoping he would be motivated to earn a spot and fill a small part of the play making void left by Marc Savard. The skill set of the two players is fairly similar with Seguin perhaps having more raw talent.

Julien’s mantra is that ice time is not handed to players, it is earned but Hamill has not exactly proved anything at the NHL level himself. In his first game with the Bruins this season he was inserted in a roster spot Seguin likely felt he deserved based on his recent play, and instead that spot was handed to someone else.

Boston wants Seguin to get better defensively and use his offensive skills more but a player does not get better by not playing. Occasionally taking in a few games from the press box can be beneficial for a player but if the Bruins want Seguin to help fill the void Savard left and be better prepared for a playoff run he needs to get his reps in now.

Late in the third period against San Jose, with the Bruins down by a goal, Hamill was sent out to take a shift. Seguin is generally glued to the bench in these type of situations. Again, maybe Boston felt Hamill’s  prior AHL experience made him a bitter fit for that type of situation and maybe Seguin is motivated by that but his confidence probably took at least a small hit when the coach made the call.

Seguin can be better and he can make better use of his limited ice time but the coaches cannot expect too much from the rookie given what little opportunity he is provided. Boston’s power play has struggled mightily lately and chances are it would not get much worse if the Bruins gave Seguin a confidence boost and let him try to use his skills on the man advantage a bit more.

He got thirty-five seconds of powerplay time against San Jose but by then the Bruins had appeared to have already given up. Even little things like takingthe ice on a few powerplays could go a long way towards Seguin gaining confidence and becoming a better player.

Maybe Seguin has an attitude problem or feels entitled. Maybe the coaches are trying to keep him in check with his ice time. Quite frankly we do not know what the coaches are doing or saying with Seguin behind closed doors. However if what we are seeing on the ice is indicative of how Seguin is handled off the ice, the promising rookie’s development could be severely stunted.

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