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Tyler Seguin: Ready or not

May 11, 2011

Second overall draft pick to third round Stanley Cup playoff plug-in in less than 365 days. 

I figured it might be worthwhile to devote a post to Tyler Seguin. Much is being made about his arrival in the playoffs; the intensity he will need to adjust to, the degree of trust the coaching staff has invested in him and exactly how he’ll be able to perform with third-line duties. And, invariably, lingering fears about defensive gaffes and turnovers he may provoke. Well.

What’s fascinating is the lack of consensus on exactly how he was playing in the final stretch of the season. He was scratched a fair bit, of course, but then so was Ryder, to make room for Seguin to get some ice-time.  Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy would have you believe he was playing well whilst Fluto Shinzawa of the Globe would say he struggled.

So which is it?  Their analysis seems sound enough. Maybe it’s not a matter of either/or, maybe it’s both. Seguin certainly showed flashes on his line with Peverley and Kelly, and he was playing with some added snarl and pep around March. It wasn’t consistent, but it was there, a good tease. But then he reverted back to his more timid self in the final games of the season in which he played. He quickly gave the puck up. Too quickly.

I think the key to unlocking Seguin is going to be green-lighting him to play with reckless abandon. That is how he plays best, after all. Allowing him to utilize his speed and puck-handling abilities will maximize his potential. That may be difficult at times with Ryder and Peverley, because those are areas they too excel in. There really isn’t a complementary component to that line (perhaps Peverley’s defensive skillset, after all, he does get fair use on the penalty kill). Then again, perhaps if all three are firing on all cylinders and Peverley serves as the backbone, it will work.

That aside, Seguin seems like a player that can excel with or without his linemates. Give him an outlet pass from a d-man in a less than inviting set of circumstances and he may be able to generate an offensive opportunity. Unlike other players on the team, who have their inclinations and have developed their chemistry with certain line-mates, Seguin has been jostled around extensively. While some may say this has stunted his development, I think it’s enabled him to be somewhat more adaptive and versatile. He will learn to function at a high level despite, or in spite of, his linemates.

Will he be a game-changer? Eh, probably not. Will he bring the team down? Eh, probably not. This comes back to my point about a lack of consensus on Seguin’s body of work during his first season, or at least at the tail-end of it. It’s been a middling season, but that’s to be expected for a rookie. Right? Where you stand on how good of player Seguin is has everything to do with the expectations you had of him coming in. Leahy (who writes a lot about the Bruins) maybe had lowered expectations, Shinzawa, not so much (or maybe he’s more honest).

Tyler Seguin won’t be Chris Kelly, he won’t be Patrice Bergeron, and no one has ever said he will be. He will be Tyler Seguin. And he will be figuring out the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time ever, at 19. Like most every 19 year-old before him to have done this, it will be a confusing and meandering path. That said, of all the players who could realistically be plugged into the line-up when a Conn Smythe candidate like Bergeron is downed, Seguin isn’t so bad at all. Indeed, he has speed and vision that could throw a wrench in the plans of the Lightning. If he’ll have the guts to throw that wrench, that’s the question.

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