Tag: entry-level years

James Reimer, Mika Zibanejad

Is it in Ottawa’s best interests for Mika Zibanejad to make an immediate NHL jump?

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Every once in a while, a person makes an argument that changes the way people look at things. Sometimes that persuasive piece might alter your viewpoints on large issues such as religion or politics, other times a TV show just makes you think less of a rival program.

Just a year ago today (Sept. 27, 2010), Tyler Dellow argued that the Edmonton Oilers should’ve preserved the first entry-level years for promising rookies such as Taylor Hall and Magnus Pajaarvi. To impatient Oilers fans, that idea probably sounded ludicrous, but Dellow’s point shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially since the Oilers were bad enough to earn the number 1 overall pick in a second straight draft.

It might be harsh to call their rookie years a waste, but one can make the unpopular but reasonable argument that the Oilers would’ve been better served saving those two players’ bargain years. Now Hall only has two seasons left until The Dreaded Second Contract, which could be a nightmare.

(I’ll admit there’s one indirect perk to this “plan,” though. Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contract years will be staggered by at least one summer, so that could allow them to take their second contract lumps in more digestible portions.)

Senators face a similar conundrum

The Oilers aren’t the only struggling Canadian NHL franchise that should think long and hard about expending precious entry-level years, though. The Ottawa Senators should be careful about the way they handle their 2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad, even if the versatile Swede’s play almost demands a spot on the opening day roster.

The reasoning is simple: the 2011-12 season is expected to be an ugly one for the once-proud Sens. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Anderson could be very good next season. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza should get a little more luck with their health, while Sergei Gonchar has nowhere to go but up from a dreadful 10-11 debut in Ottawa. Even so, the Senators rank as a long shot, especially considering how much better the Northeast Division figures to be next season.

Zibanejad keeps scoring

Zibanejad isn’t exactly making it easy for the Senators to turn him down, though. He already was making a solid case with two “dazzling” goals going into tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Zibanejad managed to score one more impressive goal on Tuesday, as you can see from the highlights in that link.

It’s tantalizing to think about, but chew on this: two of the three Calder Trophy finalists played on teams who failed to make the playoffs. Rookie of the year Jeff Skinner’s first season was so sensational that it would be silly to call it a bad move, but the Carolina Hurricanes might wonder – for at least a second – when his payday comes in 2013 rather than 2014.

The Senators will likely make that crucial choice somewhere around Zibanejad’s ninth regular season game, which is the deadline for teams to either postpone that first entry-level year until next year or let it melt away. GM Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean will have a tough choice to make, but if you ask me, they should be fun-killers by sending him down.

What do you think, though? Should they lean one way or just keep an open mind about his chances? Do you prefer instant gratification or slow-roasted goodness? Let us know in the comments.

Did the Bruins make a mistake by ‘rushing’ Tyler Seguin to NHL level?

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers
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One of the dirty tricks in the NHL ’11 fantasy draft is to take Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall in the late rounds, stash them at the junior level for a year or two, then take advantage of their dirt-cheap entry-level deals when the two players have improved dramatically. Of course, in reality, there is no “potential rating” to ensure that some raw prospect will turn into a future star.

Yet in a climate in which high-end draft picks often make a seamless (but sometimes desperation-tinged) transition from the draft to the NHL, the Boston Bruins had an interesting opportunity with Seguin. The B’s could have allowed the second overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to marinate in the OHL for some more time, giving him the chance to (maybe?) build up a little size and mature further.

Instead, the Bruins made the somewhat-understandable decision for him to begin the 2010-11 season at the highest level and kept him there when it came time to decide if they wanted to burn one of his entry-level seasons.

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but the experiment hasn’t been a resounding success. Seguin has been a fairly frequent healthy scratch lately and isn’t lighting up the scoreboard when he is on the ice; his nine goals and 18 points aren’t likely to make the Toronto Maple Leafs green with envy.

Yet there are plenty of examples of high profile rookies struggling in their initial seasons. The disturbing part, though, is that Seguin isn’t getting the kind of opportunity to learn from his mistakes and occasional breakthroughs like Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and others did. That’s because his average ice time is only 12:20 per game.

It begs the question: did the Bruins rush him to the NHL amid the excitement of pulling a fast one on the Leafs? Could he be “a cautionary tale” for teams who might want to be a little more careful about expediting the development of smaller players?

Tom Wakefield of Canucks Hockey Blog brings up an interesting comparison between the hectic development of Seguin vs. the patient and productive process between the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan (another second overall pick).

Ryan played two more years in junior hockey, posting seasons of 95 and 102 points, before he got his professional feet wet with the Portland Pirates, the Ducks AHL affiliate in 2007. Ryan then spent the 2007-08 season on the bus between Portland and Anaheim, his “slowed” development a result of poor conditioning (reportedly 17% body fat) and foot speed that was not NHL-level.

Today, Bobby Ryan is a core member of the Ducks, on his way to his third-straight 30-goal season. The Ducks took their time with his development, and along the way Ryan learned what it took to compete and succeed at the game’s highest level.

Looking at how Tyler Seguin’s rookie season has gone (8 goals, 9 assists, 12:18 minutes a game. frequent healthy scratch), one can’t help but wonder if the Boston Bruins should have been more patient with him.

Instead of dominating junior hockey and being the go-to guy on his junior team (and most likely a leader on Team Canada at the World Juniors this past winter), Seguin’s an afterthought in the Bruin line-up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Seguin’s situation is a disaster. It’s FAR too early to give up on him. The only question is whether the Bruins would have been wiser to keep him in the juniors for another year or two. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

(H/T to Buzzing the Net.)