The Bruins peeled back part of the hockey operations curtain on Monday with the debut of “Behind the B,” their in-house series airing on NESN.
Naturally, the stuff on Tyler Seguin crackled.
All the heavies — president Cam Neely, assistant general manager Jim Benning, director of player personnel Scott Bradley, future director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky — chucked their critiques at Seguin while debating the forward’s Black-and-Gold future. A personal favorite was when they lamented the pending loss of Seguin’s breakaway speed.
“In the regular season,” jabbed Benning, his poker face complementing the contempt spilling from his voice.
If only the cameras were rolling in 2012. That would have been even more illuminating.
Video would have documented the higher-ups executing exercises similar to the meetings that organizational cameras captured in June. It’s unknown what each executive thought last year. But teams do not hand out $5.75 million annually to a player with two years of NHL service time unless there is general agreement on his future stardom.
On Sept. 11, 2012, the Bruins completed one of their final pieces of pre-lockout business. They signed Seguin to a six-year, $34.5 million extension. Seguin was entering the third season of his three-year, entry-level contract.
“I see a player who’s committed to getting better,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said that day. “I see a player who’s already baselining at such a high level. Tyler has things to learn, and he knows that. He knows the things he has to learn and the things he has to be better at. But I see such a high baseline that I think it’s the prudent thing to do under the current set of rules. Sometimes we have to make decisions like that, and we made this one with Tyler.”
In hindsight, the Bruins were wrong.
They didn’t always intend to extend Seguin before the lockout. Their plan was to wait until the next collective bargaining agreement outlined contract structure.
But the early signings of Jeff Skinner and Taylor Hall, also from Seguin’s 2010 draft class, prompted the Bruins to follow suit. On Aug. 8, 2012, Skinner signed a six-year, $34.35 million extension with Carolina. Skinner, the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner, was coming off a 20-24—44 second season. He missed part of 2011-12 because of a concussion.
Fourteen days later, Hall agreed to a seven-year, $42 million blockbuster with Edmonton. Hall scored 27 goals and 26 assists in 2011-12. The Orr Hockey Group represents both Skinner and Hall.
As a second-year NHLer, Seguin had better numbers than both Skinner and Hall. Seguin led the Bruins in scoring with 29 goals and 38 assists in 2011-12.
Chiarelli could have held his ground. But partly to recognize Seguin within the context of the Skinner and Hall extensions, Chiarelli presented the forward with a similar deal. Seguin, represented by Ian Pulver, grabbed the offer.
We know what happened next. In 2013, Seguin’s development flat-lined. Nobody can say why.
Maybe Seguin lost some of his motivation by scoring a premature payday. Perhaps Seguin never felt comfortable back in the mean 85-foot-wide NHL arenas after shredding the friendly bigger rinks of the Swiss league during the lockout. Maybe Seguin’s off-ice issues, as described by Neely during Monday’s show, dragged down his game.
Seguin’s extension might have affected his play. It definitely upset the team’s salary structure.
The Bruins would have had no complaints about committing $34.5 million to a core player. But Seguin finished last season on the No. 3 line. For Seguin’s average annual value to fit alongside the numbers pegged to David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Milan Lucic, he would have had to be a top-six fixture.
Seguin’s play and pending salary didn’t just hurt the Bruins. They also diminished Seguin’s value once Chiarelli placed him on the market in June — first while the Bruins tried to re-up Nathan Horton, and second when the current Blue Jacket declared his intention to hit the market.
Had Seguin not been extended, he would have reached restricted free agency in July. A trade partner facing a blank template of term and salary might have been willing to part with the package the Bruins initially wanted. Monday’s episode disclosed that Chiarelli asked an unidentified GM for three pieces: a 2013 first-rounder, second-rounder, and prospect. Nobody bit.
It took an executive who had monitored Seguin closely to make the best bid. Dallas GM Jim Nill was formerly Ken Holland’s assistant in Detroit. Nill regularly made the 30-minute drive west from Joe Louis Arena to Plymouth to watch Seguin play for the Whalers. Seguin was a center. Nill liked Seguin in the middle. The Stars, who had hired Nill to replace Joe Nieuwendyk as GM, were short on centers. The trade went through.
Nill is smart. But it’s curious that part of Nill’s pursuit of Seguin is based on two years of OHL dominance when he was blowing by weaker, smaller teenagers. In the OHL, Seguin didn’t have to develop his smarts or toughness. Physically, Seguin had few peers. His speed and shot, lethal in the OHL, haven’t changed in the NHL.
But three years of play with and against men underscore Seguin’s liabilities. Seguin’s hockey sense is so-so. He peels away from contact. His work away from the puck is below average. A two-game audition at center last season was a defensive train wreck. Seguin may not stay at center. Dallas may not even be his last team if he doesn’t smooth out his weaknesses.
No NHL team bats 1.000. The Bruins didn’t get it right with Seguin’s second contract. But they fixed it by acquiring Loui Eriksson. The ex-Star is in Seguin’s old spot alongside Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Seguin and the Stars play at the Garden on Nov. 5. Seeing video of Seguin’s ex-bosses monitoring their former forward from that night is unrealistic. But it sure would be great.
Tough road for Elynuik
Pat Elynuik never had trouble scoring. In 506 career NHL games, he scored 154 goals and 188 assists. Elynuik’s best season was in 1989-90, when the forward piled up 32 goals and 42 assists, second on the Jets only to Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk.
Campbell Elynuik did not inherit the old man’s soft mitts. During his junior career, the younger Elynuik scored nine goals and 13 assists. His bigger contribution was to the penalty-minutes category: 291.
Elynuik played four years in the WHL, with stops in Everett, Regina, and Prince George. In 2008-09, his first year in junior, then-Everett GM Doug Soetaert pegged the 16-year-old Elynuik as a Milan Lucic-type player. In junior, Lucic first made his name with his fists.
“He was a player I should admire and look up to,” Elynuik recalled of Soetaert’s message. “My end goal was to be a player just like him.”
During his final season in junior, Elynuik had 156 penalty minutes between Regina and Prince George. Last season, he prepared to start his pro career with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. But the team believed Elynuik would be better served with another year in junior.
Elynuik’s destination was Muskegon of the USHL. The league, a feeder system for NCAA teams, was a better place for Elynuik to blend his fighting with other parts of his game. In Muskegon, Elynuik played for former NHL heavyweight Jim McKenzie.
“It was a better option to develop my game a little bit more,” Elynuik said. “So I went to the USHL so I could play a little bit more and have more of a role than I did in the Western League. I could play more than just the intimidator/enforcer aspect. I have more to bring to the table than that.”
Elynuik’s season prompted the Bruins to invite him to rookie camp. During the four-team, three-game tournament in Coral Springs, Fla., Elynuik dressed against Florida’s rookies. He fought Alex Gudbranson. Upon the team’s return to Boston, the Bruins opted against bringing Elynuik to main camp.
There is nothing easy about making it in pro hockey. Even if you have good genes.
Lindholm one who got away
The Hurricanes will give a good look to Elias Lindholm, their most recent first-round pick. The two-way forward scored 11 goals and 19 assists during his draft year for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. Lindholm was on the Bruins’ wish list. But they didn’t have a first-round pick in 2013 and couldn’t trade into a position to select Lindholm. In 2011-12, Lindholm was a teammate of Bruins goalie Niklas Svedberg. That year, Lindholm played most of the year for Brynas’s junior team, but earned a 12-game promotion to the varsity. “You could tell right away he was going to be a player,” Svedberg said. “He could do a little bit of everything.”
On Wednesday, the Coyotes will hold an intrasquad game at Jobing.com Arena. All proceeds will benefit the families of the 19 Arizona firefighters who died June 30. Tickets are $5. The Coyotes are accepting donations at coyotes.auction-bid.org or by texting “Coyotes” to 68494. The team will auction tribute jerseys worn during warmups.
The 316 penalty minutes next to Bobby Robins’s name underscore the right wing’s willingness to drop the gloves. The Providence forward led the AHL in PIMs, including 35 scraps, according to www.hockeyfights.com. Robins’s fighting skills were good enough to land him a two-year, two-way contract with the Bruins July 5. If Robins plays for the varsity, however, he’ll have to keep on the visor he’s required to wear in the AHL. Under the NHL’s new rules, only players with 26 games or more of NHL experience (regular season and playoffs) can choose to take off the shield. Robins has never appeared in an NHL game. None of the NHL’s regular enforcers wear a visor. “If it was my choice, I definitely would not have worn a shield, just because guys who fight in the NHL don’t wear shields,” Robins said. “It’s kind of a rite of passage; you make the NHL and you don’t have to wear a shield. At the same time, I understand why they made the rule.”
This is the fifth September since the death of Jack Falla. The Sports Illustrated writer, Boston University professor, and author (“Home Ice”, “Road Ice”, “Saved”) was one of hockey’s greatest friends and most elegant chroniclers. Falla, the architect and engineer of the Bacon Street Omni, was the champion of backyard rinks. Falla remains very much missed by his friends, readers, and former students. Hopefully, not many more years pass before Jack’s much-deserved plaque debuts at 30 Yonge Street in Toronto.
Delaware North Companies, the Bruins’ parent corporation, filed plans on Monday to develop the site of the original Boston Garden. The 2.8-acre parcel is currently a parking lot used by, among others, players and staff. Elements of the development include residential, hotel, office, retail, and restaurant space, as well as a 40,000-foot expansion of floors 3 through 7 of TD Garden for additional concessions and elevator lobbies. The filings do not include plans for a practice rink. Of the 30 NHL teams, only New Jersey and Columbus have practice rinks on the footprints of their home arenas. The Bruins’ most likely landing spot is in Brighton as part of New Balance’s expansion.
Former major league pitcher Dan Petry pinch hit on NESN’s Red Sox broadcast last Sunday. These days, Petry is better known as the father of Edmonton defenseman Jeff Petry. The younger Petry was once blue-line partners with Torey Krug at Michigan State. Jeff Petry’s got a long way to go, however, to match his old man’s mustache . . . Upon the season-long loss of Joni Pitkanen (heel), the Hurricanes signed ex-UMass-Lowell defenseman Ron Hainsey to a one-year, $2 million contract. Hainsey, who played for Winnipeg last season, had been working out in Connecticut while waiting for a job. Meanwhile, before Carolina learned of Pitkanen’s status, ex-BU defenseman Ryan Whitney accepted a tryout offer in St. Louis, with no guarantees of a contract. Timing is everything . . . Miikka Kiprusoff announced his retirement on Monday. The ex-Calgary goalie will turn 37 next month. But Kiprusoff’s $5,833,333 annual cap hit is wiped from the books because he was younger than 35 when he signed his deal. Kiprusoff’s game tumbled off a cliff last season: 8-14-2, 3.44 goals-against average, .882 save percentage. Kiprusoff’s only other comparable NHL season was in 2002-03 in San Jose, when he went 5-14-0 with a 3.25 GAA and an .879 save percentage while backing up Evgeni Nabokov . . . Ace wheelman Peter Sagan plans to attend Monday’s Bruins-Canadiens preseason game at the Bell Centre. Sagan is scheduled to race in this Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. If Sagan can take even a few skate strides, the Canadiens should consider him on the wing. Sagan’s as fast as they get on two wheels. Two skates shouldn’t be that different.