This past season was supposed to be the beginning of Tyler Seguin's ascent into the top tier of NHL stardom. Remember, Seguin had a tremendous 2011-2012 season, potting 29 goals and adding 38 assists, and all signs pointed to Seguin breaking out even further in 2012-2013.
And then the lockout came, and the Seguin and Kane Traveling Swiss Carnival began. After the lockout lifted in January, Seguin struggled to find his North American game, recording just six points in his first eleven contests and generally failing to get in a groove in a regular season filled with stops and starts.
The playoffs were similarly rough for Seguin, as the winger scored only once and registered eight points in the Bruins' 22 postseason games. Seguin recorded just one point in the first round battle with Toronto, and zero points in the Bruins' four-game thumping of Pittsburgh. He was demoted to the third line, saw his playing time reduced, and again only responded in fits and starts: a flash of brilliance here, another lazy play there.
Did Seguin have an atrocious season? No, not quite. But he regressed when he should've been improving, and regressed just before his huge pay raise is set to kick in, a prospect that apparently has the Bruins nervous: Seguin's name was reportedly bandied about in trade rumors all day on Sunday, with all kinds of "insiders" saying Seguin was "in play," that his name was definitely being talked about, and that Peter Chiarelli had been fielding calls all day.
(As a side note, the whole "name in play" thing always seemed funny. It's best to imagine general managers just calling each other up, saying a name, and hanging up. If that's the case, 29 GM's received multiple calls from Calgary with a disembodied voice saying "Cammalleri...CAMMALLERI" on Sunday.)
Curiously, Chiarelli responded not by shooting down the rumors as mere speculation and chatter between general managers, but by using them as an opportunity to publicly lay into Seguin:
"He’s got to commit his mind and focus on the one task at hand. He’s got to become more of a professional. And you know what? I can say that about a lot of 21-year-olds. I know he got criticized for playing on the periphery and all that stuff. He did. He’s got to commit to being a professional and focusing on the game. He does that, we don’t expect him to be crashing and banging. Just play your game. If [trade talk] doesn’t [get his attention], I’d be more concerned. We gave Tyler a big contract because he projects and he had good performance. I would expect that going forward."
The issue with Chiarelli's comments isn't necessarily that they're unfair or inaccurate; rather that the Bruins' general manager appears to have thought it a good idea to play passive-aggressive games with Seguin in the media. Seguin is obviously at fault here, as his play this season was simply not good enough. But Chiarelli is also at fault, insulting one of his franchise players through blogs and newspaper clippings.
However, Chiarelli's actions may hint at a bigger problem: if he felt the need to call out Seguin publicly, chances are there have already been private conversations that clearly haven't been fruitful. Is this the last step, the "shape up or you're out of here" talk?
Chiarelli said he would only move Seguin for an "elite young prospect or player," which is odd, because that's exactly what Seguin is. A large segment of Bruins fans appeared to be willing, if not wishing, to move Seguin prior to the draft, hoping the Bruins would snag a top-five pick.
Holding on to Seguin was the right move. Hockey fans are forever focused on the future, blinded by the glitter of "potential" and "ceiling," ignoring the fact that Seguin himself is just 21, has already scored 45 scored NHL goals, and has lifted Lord Stanley. Invested hockey fans saw the names Mackinnon, Drouin, Jones, and Barkov, and were ready to sell Seguin for one of those guys in a heartbeat. However, the Bruins don't need an elite young prospect/grade-A kid who's a year or two away, as this team is built to win now.
What they need is their most naturally talented (and third highest-paid, at least until Tuukka Rask's new deal is signed) player to wake up, grow up, buy in, and play like he's capable of playing.
The "grow up" part should take care of itself naturally, but it will be interesting to see how patient the Bruins are with him. There are already rumblings floating about regarding Seguin hanging with the wrong kind of crowd in Boston, and his maturity level has been lacking at times.
But does that, combined with a lackluster season, mean he should be moved? No, of course it doesn't. The rumors appeared transparent at best from the beginning, with "teams" allegedly "calling" about Seguin. Well duh, Chiarelli could "call" Tampa Bay about Steven Stamkos. It doesn't mean he was available.
Passive-aggressive comments aside, it appears that these rumors were the Bruins' way of getting Seguin's attention, figuring that if it wasn't getting through to him internally, they may as well try externally. Moving Seguin now would free up a lot of cap space, but it would also leave a gaping hole in the Bruins' offense, one that couldn't be plugged with a scrap heap free agent.
What will be interesting is to see how Seguin responds to this situation. Will he use it as fuel, as he did in the past when he was snubbed from Canada's World Junior team, or will he sulk and pout his way out of town?
Either way, the Bruins message to Seguin is clear: shape up and be prepared to earn that big contract, or drive the shiny Maserati right out of town.