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The Seguin Saga

December 8, 2011

Mr Seguin, hopefully this blows over quickly.

Few have forgotten about the Blues’ TJ Oshie missing a practice last season (which is a bit more severe than missing a team breakfast). But Oshie was struggling to produce, on a young and inexperienced squad. Seguin is leading the team in points, and if he continues, this will all probably be but a faint memory.

But when Jack Edwards uttered in Winnipeg two nights ago the words “ah, Naoko Funyama just spoke with Peter Chiarelli, it seems that there was an ‘attendance issue’ this morning with Tyler Seguin, and he will be scratched tonight. We will have more for you on that shortly.” Later in the broadcast, we learned Seguin had missed a team breakfast. Two days of hub-bub and talk ensued. Tyler claimed he didn’t set his alarm back? Ah, well, even so, he should have been up an hour earlier. His own teammates said they’ve never had this issue. But more importantly, he’s had a “few other incidents” of this happening. He’s a young kid, and most 19 year-olds have overslept more than a few times. It’s natural. But when you’re in the NHL, that doesn’t really cut it. Have Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Burmistrov had similar issues? We don’t know. That could be between player and team. But if I recall, none have been scratched or faced discipline for such issues.

More troubling has been the Bruins PR response. Matt Chmura, who does a really excellent job, forcefully brushed away further questions on the matter today.

Seguin was available at his locker as the doors to the dressing room opened at approximately 11 a.m., but the 19-year-old winger had the club’s top media operative, Matt Chmura, at his side to shoo away questions about Winnipeg.

He’s doing precisely what someone skilled in PR and messaging does right: cultivate the questions and the answers, deny access where appropriate, protect the asset, move forward. The club act appropriately in scratching him. It sent a message “rules are rules, and you’re not immune, even if you’re playing tremendously well right now.” Sure, the Bruins fell to the Jets that night, but all streaks must end and the Bruins are simply not so reliant on Seguin that it was an inevitability.

But why the tight-lippedness? More questioning by Boston media would probably just result in poking fun at and humiliating the budding sophomore, true. But it would serve as important lesson: there’s accountability to the team, but also accountability to fans, whose primary channel of access to the team is via the media. You need to hold your own. Sure, you explained it once, twice, even, but even if you have to explain the story 100 times, it shouldn’t matter. Own it. It’s a bitter pill to swallow at 19, but it’s a worthwhile pill. Chmura’s actions elicit a feeling of paternalism on the team’s part that’s not only unhelpful, but potentially destructive down the line.

”Like he said, he’s already talked about it,” said Chmura. ”If there are any questions about hockey …”

This is about hockey. This is about the state of affairs in a hockey club, and this is about a 2nd overall draft pick and team-leading scorer. This matters. He shouldn’t shy away. Perhaps last year this heavy-guarding would have been sensible, but it is no longer. None have leapt to conclusions and declared any character issues in Seguin. But attempting to understand Seguin’s position, and the team’s thought process, is perfectly in-bounds of what the media should do. 

This has the potential to turn from a minor oversleeping problem, to a media control problem. We saw it in Long Island last year, and I pray we don’t see it in Boston.

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