How the NHL Lockout Will Impact the Boston Bruins' Young Crop of Stars
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The work stoppage could force these young players to lose some or all of a valuable season in which some needed improvements and important developments in their games are expected to be made.
Let's look at how the lockout will impact the Bruins' group of young stars.
Experience Needed, but Where?
Earning NHL experience on a contending team can do wonders for the development of a young player. Unfortunately, for the Bruins' young stars, they will have to play in either the AHL, an overseas league or remain with their CHL team until the lockout ends.
Will the lockout help or hurt the Bruins?
Young players who have already made an impact on an NHL roster are not eligible for the AHL or would have to clear waivers to go there. On the Bruins, these players include Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask. None of them will be able to keep developing their skills against the best talent in the world.
Instead, they have to play in overseas leagues, where the level of talent isn't as impressive as the NHL. It's difficult to make meaningful improvements to your game when the competition you face each night is sub-par.
Thus far, Seguin and Rask are the only two to sign with an overseas team since the lockout began. Jordan Caron and other young players will likely compete in the AHL next month, while Lucic and Marchand have yet to make a decision on whether or not they will play overseas.
This isn't a good situation for the Bruins. These players will likely be relied on to make the team a contender for the next decade or so. Their development into star players is crucial to the long-term success of the franchise.
Players Entering New Roles
Any young star on the Bruins' roster who will be asked to play a new role on the team next year or take on more responsibility will be negatively affected by this lockout.
The most obvious example of a player entering a new role this season is Rask, going from backup goaltender to starter. This will be quite a transition for Rask, even though he has done it once already.
For Seguin, his continued progress offensively will be fun to watch, but becoming a leader could be an important next step for him.
"I don’t think my age is a factor. I want to be a leader, even at the age of 20," said Seguin during a conference call to announce his new contract earlier this month.
"Getting situated with the boys and learning everybody and getting to know everyone in the organization, I feel I can step into those leadership roles and step into those shoes.
"And whether it’s new guys or just giving a good example out there on the ice, that’s what I want to do."
Marchand, like Seguin, has room for improvement on offense, and playing with more composure and discipline is something he needed to work on this season. Changing his game to be more disciplined—while not losing the effectiveness that comes from him being an annoying guy to play against—could be a difficult process for Marchand.
It's also a change that needs time to develop. If the lockout takes away some of the regular season, Marchand will have fewer games to adjust his different style of play.
Claude Julien's Defensive System Isn't Easy to Learn
Bruins head coach Claude Julien asks all his players to be defensively sound in all areas of the ice. If anyone fails to do this, they risk having their ice time reduced. Although he may be a bit lenient with veteran players, he isn't likely to tolerate consistently poor defensive performance or effort from younger guys.
The team's young group of stars could find themselves having to learn this system in a shortened season, which is far from ideal. For players, such as Seguin, who are used to being more offensive-minded from their days in junior hockey and college, adjusting to this defense-minded system will take some time.
Seguin is now becoming a more well-rounded player because he has two years of experience playing Julien's style of hockey. During his contract conference call, Seguin also talked about his defensive-zone improvement and his goal to become stronger physically.
"Well I think the big two things for me have been obviously been my D-zone, that was a big thing going into last year, and this offseason, this past summer, it’s been all about my core," said Seguin.
"Just having a bit more of, I guess you could call it man strength, in the corners. Obviously, I’m not going to run guys over, but I feel like if I can be strong in the corners, I’m going to come away with more pucks."
Adjusting to the Bruins' style of play requires a lot of mental toughness and physical strength to succeed and can be a large adjustment for some guys.
Players such as Jordan Caron, Jared Knight, Dougie Hamilton, Chris Bourque and Anton Khudobin all need a lot more experience in this system. If the lockout persists, they will lose valuable training camp practices and other times that could have been used as a learning experience.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins columnist at Bleacher Report. He was also B/R's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston and has covered the Bruins since the 2010-11 season. Follow him on Twitter. Quotes are from the Bruins media web site.
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