The Boston Bruins obtained Tyler Seguin’s services as a result of parting with Phil Kessel after a mere three seasons of alliance. This past summer, they gave Seguin the exact same treatment by dealing him to Dallas nine days after the third anniversary of his second overall NHL draft selection.
With a visit from the Stars on deck for the Bruins this Tuesday, Boston faces the task of putting the beneficiary of an archetypical wake-up call under sedation. It is a periodic opportunity for Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli’s current employees to directly state that their high-end castoff is not a lamentable loss.
Yet this confrontation and future meetings, along with the continuation of the post-Seguin Bruins and the post-Bruins Seguin in general, will likely add emphasis to the question for the foreseeable future. There will be an indefinite absence of a rigid resolution to the debate over whether exporting Seguin was the right choice on Boston’s part.
With that being said, all parties concerned are free and would not exactly be wrong to believe they are better off with Boston’s front office opting to fish Seguin out of their card deck. Despite everyone’s present state of affairs, they are still entitled to conclude that the same formula from the previous three years was not worth a fourth gamble.
The tone-setting stage of the blockbuster deal’s aftermath certainly favors Seguin and the Stars on the surface―and in decisive fashion. A little more than one-sixth of the way through the 2013-14 schedule, Seguin is off to a 6-9-15 start through Dallas’ first 14 ventures.
Considering everything that implicitly prompted the July 4 trade, namely Seguin’s apparent lack of professionalism, the stark change of scenery appears to have sparked the celestial center. If nothing else, by design or not, he is making the most credible case possible that Boston might have dumped him in haste.
Still, one can dismiss that notion altogether and argue that a new team and only a new team stood any chance of improving the course of his budding career. His actions and performances early this season leave open a wider range of explanations, but some of his words give the change-of-scenery argument an edge.
In a Toronto Sun story that ran on Oct. 19, Seguin remarked: “I needed a clean slate. Are there regrets? Sure. But everyone makes mistakes. You learn from them.”
Could he have learned from any internal consequences had he remained in Boston and continued to put forth subpar efforts? Could the Bruins brass have cultivated the same hot start from the 21-year-old striker by waging one final grow-up-or-else ultimatum?
Not likely. One last attempt to make Seguin settle down and properly deliver to the demanding New England market might have worked in the long run. Or it might have merely recycled an old, tired pattern that no one involved would have appreciated.
However, if the former scenario had emerged, the change in individual results would not have kicked in as quickly as it has for Seguin with his new team, new system and new region of residence.
That is, unless Seguin had somehow returned with the rest of the holdovers from the 2013 Stanley Cup runners-up harboring the same sense of unfinished business that has clearly driven the likes of Milan Lucic. So far, at the 13-game mark of their itinerary, the Bruins can only point to Lucic and linemates Jarome Iginla and David Krejci as an example of productive consistency.
There is, however, one critical factor that all but dispels any chance that Seguin could have gone the Lucic route.
The infusion of Iginla, who signed as a free agent one day after the Seguin trade, is an indubitable factor in the top line’s booming start. Iginla entered this season fresher-legged, compared to all of Boston’s returning skaters, and he has clearly instilled invaluable hunger to his linemates.
The depth problem beyond that troika and the short-term solution underscores another reason why Seguin and the Bruins alike are better off apart. Brad Marchand, Seguin’s fellow fourth-year NHL forward and former fellow winger around veteran pivot Patrice Bergeron, brooked a depth chart demotion in mid-October.
Granted, the reasons behind Marchand’s October struggles are by no means a carbon copy of the reasons behind any of Seguin’s past underachievement. Even so, imagine Seguin trying to rebuild and sustain his compete level in Boston while Marchand is thrashing through his own identity crisis.
Not a favorable proposition for coach Claude Julien and company, but not what they are dealing with in reality.
None other than Reilly Smith, who came with Loui Eriksson in the seven-player swap involving Seguin, offered a fresh, instantaneous, albeit momentary, spark when he filled Marchand’s void. Eriksson, Seguin’s de facto replacement as Bergeron’s right wing, benefited from the familiarity of a fellow Star-turned-Bruin as they worked simultaneous shifts.
Eriksson and Smith did not necessarily need each other with absolute specificity to get each other clicking, and in turn get the Bruins clicking. Even so, their familiarity plainly helped to speed up their progress, and that familiarity would not have been available if not for Seguin’s sacrifice in the summer trade.
The fact that Eriksson is now out indefinitely with a concussion and still has yet to nail down the pegs in Boston’s system does nothing to improve the trade’s first impression. That notwithstanding, much like Iginla, he should be a crucial cog as a new face on the sure to be inadequately rested Bruins once the regular-season homestretch and postseason roll around.
Conversely, had Seguin stayed with the Spoked-B's, he would have brought back the perennial threat of sinking into an unhealthy, unproductive state of comfort. Whether that threat would have actually followed through once more is up for speculation, but is not even the issue.
Seguin’s closest available option to a foolproof method of reforming his approach to his work was a change in employer. Anything else would have left himself and the Bruins prone to stunted progression.
In turn, he was the most sensible choice to relinquish from the would-be returning core in exchange for new faces, a few of which even a proven core needs to ensure continued contention.
If there is anything for Boston to regret over Seguin, it is the organization’s failure to help him fulfill his potential to their benefit. The best it could hope for this past offseason was a return package bearing comparable or superior long-term benefits.
Tuesday night will simply be one of the two scheduled occasions this season in which the Bruins must work to ensure Seguin does not successfully chase his potential at their expense.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com