Peter Cehlarik kicked off the 2018-2019 campaign with a strong preseason. There was speculation that he may actually make the team out of training camp, but he ended up being cut close to the beginning of the regular season.
He was sent down with the assumption of being one of the “first men up” in the event of an injury, and he got that chance in mid-January. Cehlarik made an impact immediately, scoring twice in his first game. Finally, it seemed, the 2013 3rd-round pick had arrived.
Since then, it’s been a season of fits and starts for Cehlarik. He’s been in and out of the lineup, up and down between Boston and Providence, and on and off the scoresheet.
About the only thing that’s been consistent for Cehlarik is a complete lack of consistency, from his place in the lineup to the league he’s playing in.
Cehlarik’s wild ride had another bump on Saturday night, where the Slovak winger found himself stapled to the bench for the entire third period. He skated just 8:54 on the game, and was the recipient of some pretty harsh criticism from his coach after the game.
From the Bruins media team:
“There [were] a few things we didn’t like. We’ve talked about allowing guys to play through certain parts of their game and sometimes it’s better to sit and watch. Tonight, we chose the latter. There were some things we had talked to him about. It wasn’t the penalty. Penalties happen. It was a little more about his routes, responsibility away from the puck, managing it at the end of the second period in your own end. Those are things we’ve talked to him numerous times about, so we went a different route, and we’ll see where it leads.
Yikes! Cassidy continued when asked another question by a member of the press corps.
Again, from the B’s media team:
“I think at some point the responsibility falls on the player to be ready to play and play the Bruins way. I thought he got away from that a little bit. Only he can answer whether he’s...frustrated or the travel. It’s certainly not the hour travel. Maybe the fact that he got sent down might have bothered him. I don’t know, I can’t answer that.”
Cassidy is, to put it lightly, probably being a little disingenuous when he says it wasn’t the penalty, referring the the offensive zone tripping penalty Cehlarik took in the second period. That penalty certainly irked the coaching staff.
The other noticeable Cehlarik gaffe also came in the second period, when Matt Grzelcyk pinched down the wall in the offensive zone. Cehlarik initially covered the point, as he should have, but then decided to push forward in the offensive zone as well. That push led to a New Jersey 2-on-1.
Mistakes happen, right? Sure. So did Cehlarik deserve to get benched for a bad pinch and a penalty? Surely other players have done similar without the same repercussions.
It seems, at this point, that Cassidy and Co. have identified something in Cehlarik’s game that they don’t like (the “routes” and “numerous times” comments), which doesn’t bode well for the winger.
However, it’s worth wondering whether or not the coaching staff’s views of Cehlarik have merit. Claude Julien drove fans nuts with his allegedly harsh treatment of young players, though it may have been slightly blown out of proportion by the time he got fired.
But Cassidy has taken a similar route at times. Earlier this year, he publicly criticized Jake DeBrusk seemingly randomly. Plenty of people feel like young players like Ryan Donato or Anders Bjork may not have gotten enough of a leash, though that’s mostly a matter of your opinion on those two players.
(The problem, of course, is that DeBrusk is on fire lately, so proponents of that style of coaching can point to Cassidy’s comments as being the reason.)
With Cehlarik, it’s hard to say what one should believe. People like to point to him being a 2013 draft pick and say “HE’S NOT A KID ANYMORE,” but that’s a little unfair. He’s a third-year professional, and taking a few year to make the jump from Sweden’s U20 league to the North American pro leagues shouldn’t be a knock on a 3rd-round pick.
Cehlarik has played well at the AHL level, and he’s done OK at the NHL level as well. He had 4 points in 17 in his previous two NHL stints, but has 6 points in 15 games this season.
When it comes to last night, Cehlarik actually had a pretty good game. His 5v5 possession numbers were outstanding; in fact, they were the best of anyone on the team.
The Bruins had 15 shot-attempts-for while Cehlarik was on the ice, compared to 4 against; that CF% of 79% was far and away the best of any forward on either team. He was credited with 3 shots on goal, 1 takeaway and 0 giveaways.
If you look at those numbers on their own, they don’t scream “BENCH ME.”
I suppose the larger point here is that if Cehlarik is doing all of these things well and seemingly driving offense in a positive fashion, could what he’s not doing in the defensive or neutral zones really be bad enough to deserve a benching?
At a certain point, it almost seems like fans are expected to kind of shrug and take the coaching staff at their word.
“They’re paid to monitor these games, monitor the players and help with their development...who am I to judge?”
But right now, it seems like Cehlarik is under a microscope. Whether or not he deserves to be in that position is a different matter entirely.
He certainly seems to be doing plenty of things well. Maybe it’s time to ride out the bumps and learn by doing, not watching.
Stats come courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.