People love to throw around the term “Sophomore slump,” but what about all the players who make big jumps after struggling as rookies?
Some will reasonably state that Barry Melrose misused Steven Stamkos during his brief run at head coach, but either way, “Seen Stamkos?” turned into a short-lived joke when he struggled in his first season. After scoring 46 points, Stamkos exploded in 2009-10 to score 51 goals and 95 points. He certainly isn’t the first high draft pick to see such a jump in year two, but that turnaround prompts hockey writers to look even deeper for the next Stamkos sophomore.
Since Taylor Hall was more than solid in his first year, it’s natural for people to shift their focus to 2010’s second overall pick Tyler Seguin – especially after he tantalized audiences with his brief but blazing run of offense during the Eastern Conference finals.
Seguin hopes to prove himself this season after failing to convince head coach Claude Julien that he deserved to play during the first two rounds of the playoffs. His teammates and the Bruins’ staff told USA Today’s Kevin Allen that the learning experience should serve him well this season.
“He learned from sitting and playing in the playoffs,” Chiarelli says. “He knows the sacrifices that need to be made to win a Stanley Cup. … I don’t know if there are other players who have seen what he has seen at his age.”
Boston goalie Tim Thomas says Seguin, 19, benefited from learning how to play in the NHL without being asked to do too much.
“The way he was brought in, he got to avoid all of that pressure that gets put on those kids at an early age. And I think that could be helpful in the long run,” Thomas says. “There will be a time when he does face that pressure — the Taylor Hall-type of pressure. Some guys thrive on it. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane thrived on it. Maybe Tyler Seguin would have, too. But this is a way to let Tyler Seguin grow up a little bit.”
Putting Seguin in a position (literally and figuratively) to succeed
Julien received his fair share of criticism for the way he handled Seguin as a rookie, but his system isn’t exactly friendly to mistake-prone players. (Phil Kessel found himself in the doghouse on numerous occasions, for example.)
People look at drool-inducing numbers generated by the likes of Jeff Skinner and Michael Grabner, but those players earned those added opportunities because their teams had the openings. Logan Couture got my imaginary Calder vote for fitting in on a legitimate contender, but few rookies had the deck stacked against them like Seguin in Boston.
There are two ways that the team can work Seguin into the lineup in a more comfortable and productive way.
First things first, CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports that Seguin will start the season at wing position. While that seems like a natural progression considering the Bruins’ underrated center combo of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron – not to mention the loss of wingers Michael Ryder and Mark Recchi – it also gives Seguin less defensive responsibilities. In addition to that, Haggerty points out that he’ll be encouraged to shoot more, which is never a bad thing for a right-handed player with Seguin’s skill.
The second change is based on conjecture: Seguin should get more time on the power play. Recchi averaged 2:41 PP minutes per game and Ryder enjoyed 2:04, while Seguin logged 1:21 in 2010-11. Bumping Seguin up to a level between Recchi and Ryder could pay big dividends for the Bruins next season, even if he only scored one goal and three points in man advantages during his rookie campaign.
With those adjustments, Seguin could make a nice step forward next season. The question is: will it be a leap instead? I’d say it will be more of an incremental improvement, but both Seguin and Julien will play a hand in determining his impact in 11-12.