2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

In the wake of Tyler Seguin getting traded to the Dallas Stars, the stories quickly started to come out. “Off-ice issues” was the theme, and all the loyal Boston scribes traded out adjectives like “promising” and “talented” for “immature” and “irresponsible.” We heard stories about him showing up to morning skate in Toronto during playoffs for three straight days wearing the same clothes, we heard someone was hired to make sure he stayed in his room on the road, and we heard general jokes about him running amok in the great state of Massachusetts.

Whether those stories are true or not, I have no idea. I’m definitely on the side that’s been having fun adding sarcastic quips to the pile like “Wait, that rich, single, good-looking 21 year-old professional athlete has been going out past what some of us consider bedtime? Bring me my fainting couch,” but at the same time, I realize you can only give a party player so much rope before he hangs himself with it.

So let’s leave the Seguin example in the dust because who the hell knows what he’s been up to and why the Bruins decided to give up on him, and talk about the player who parties too much and how his “off-ice issues” affect the group. We’ll loop back to Seguin at the end.

In my experience, the player who goes out too much isn’t necessarily some disliked “bro,” and he isn’t necessarily missing practices because he’s unconscious somewhere, he’s just never quite what he can be, and it’s infuriating.

I played with a player who had an NHL-bright future, but his late-night habits slowly burned through his chances. But, teams are always willing to take a chance on talent, and he was a defenseman whose numbers in the QMJHL looked an awful lot like Kris Letang’s. By the time we were teammates, he was on his last chance.

And shit, was he good at times. He could quarterback the powerplay, make laser seeing-eye breakout passes, and do Tomas Jurco-like things with the puck. But somedays…somedays he just wasn’t himself.

He’d show up haggard for morning skate, then get walked around that night. He’d still make a couple great plays on the powerplay, get a couple points, and help us out, but man, it was so frustrating knowing that if he’d just take care of himself, we could eliminate some of the bad and have more of the good. So, the coach would talk to him, we’d all know it, he’d laugh it off and tell his story about why he was in such rough shape, the guys would laugh, and on we’d go.

But eventually, guys would laugh less. Say what you want about plus/minus as a stat, but no player wants a terrible one. The middle range may not say much about a guy, but if you’re on for a ton of goals for or against, eventually the trend points to you. So he’s costing you the odd minus, and not making plays you know he can make when you’re open and have a chance, and you start to get frustrated.

So coach talks to him again, but by now he’s stopped telling his stories because guys are sick of getting personally burned by his irresponsibility, and a divide forms. You can show up hungover with a good story, get laughs in the room, and have guys work hard to help you out if it doesn’t happen often. But once the team feels like they’re carrying your entire load, you’re bound to get the figurative Full Metal Jacket soap-in-pillowcases treatment.

From a fan’s perspective, you have this uber-talented player who sometimes makes glaring errors, but because he can make the odd head-snapping play – a toe-drag around a guy while he’s last man back that leads directly to a goal – I’m sure they just figured, hey, with all that good, we’ll take that bad.

But again: as a player you do start to feel like you’re getting personally f***ed over by the party guy’s inability to just get some rest and show up like you know he personally can.

***

If Tyler Seguin was late-night-mode in Boston during the team’s Cup push, you can understand why the organization would be frustrated enough to say “You screwed us over. We don’t know what your ceiling is, and while we suspect it’s extremely high, we don’t trust that you can get it straightened out to find out here. So here’s a one-way ticket outta town.” When your team loses in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and your team’s most offensively talented guy can’t help give you a push because he’s going out when you have guys like Patrice Bergeron playing through what appears to be a Hummer-on-pedestrian accident…you’re going to reach the point where you’ve had enough.

At the NHL level, you see far, far less of this. Where I dwelled for a few seasons, the minors, it’s everywhere. You have older guys who have made the turn from prospect to project who just want to play hockey and have fun. You have just out of junior kids who are experiencing true freedom (and money!) for the first time. You have guys just out of college, you have dozens of new cities to visit, you have…you have a cocktail that’s ripe for players having too many cocktails, is what you have.

One thing that separates some NHLers from lifers in the minors is their commitment to fitness and taking care of themselves. Some guys are simply more disciplined.

So when you see those disciplined guys on your roster, and you contrast them with the guy who keeps going out and burning through chance after chance, it’s only going to be so long until the coach or GM says that’s enough. You’re out, and someone who we can rely on is in.

Talent buys you an awfully long leash, but as I said earlier, even those with the most of it can find themselves getting tangled in it, and hanging themselves from that very same rope.

Comments (29)

  1. Andrew MacDonald?

  2. I dont imagine the Dallas nightlife is much worse then Boston! Whether this serves as a wake up call to him or not will remain to be seen but I hopefully with all the media slamming he wakes up and realizes it’s not just about him having fun and more so about being apart of something bigger.

    • Fuck that. Do you approach your job and life with that attitude? That’ its not about having fun and more about being a part of of something bigger?
      It’s a shame that we don’t get to watch the best product available and it may cost him some money in the long term but I definitely can’t take pretend to be morally superiour and judge him for what he wants to do with his time and money.

      • I would have to agree with you. I was thinking the same thing.

      • What part of ‘professional’ do you not understand? Part of being a professional is giving the most effort you are capable of to the person/team paying your salary. It’s a shame you don’t feel that necessary to whoever pays you for whatever you do.

        No-one is telling Seguin he cannot have fun, but he must learn that taking care of himself and thinking of his teammates. while trying to win the Stanley Cup, has to take a priority at that time on the calender. Non-commitment is much harder to hide in today’s NHL.

        • Seguin gets paid for a certain level of performance. If he plays better, great. If he doesn’t, that’s a problem. But it’s not necessarily a problem if an individual doesn’t max out with 100% commitment.

      • No where did I say he couldn’t have fun George but if he was in fact just as focused on partying during the SCF as opposed to being prepared and perhaps taking a leave of absence from the scene he needs to wake up.

        I wouldn’t expect anyone at that age not to enjoy themselves but there is a time and a place.

  3. I’m in Dallas. This kid’s going to have a lot of fun. Remember when Belfour offered a cop a billion dollars as a bribe? That kinda fun.

  4. And how, sir, do you explain the NHL success of Max Talbot?

    Just kidding, great column.

  5. hm. seems to me that getting rid of guaranteed contracts might eliminate some of this type of thing. rest of us stiffs have to show up every day and work, or we get canned.

    of course, only the NHLPA stands in the way of this particular pipe-dream :-)

  6. I can totally understand, both Tyler (commitment and discipline are hard to achieve no matter whats your job and how much money you get payed) and the Boston team, if Tyler did burn a lot and the team tried everything to change that but could not, it might be a good thing to change the scenery, at least he can give it another try, there is nothing worse than wasting your potential away, and nothing better than regaining what you thought you could not!

  7. It’s a shame Seguin can’t be more like Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane…..

    • Don’t forget that Chicago basically held an intervention for Kane. Supposedly.

      After that mess in Buffalo with the cabbie, and then showing up half dressed and drunk in a bunch of bachelorette party pics, rumor was that Chicago was seriously considering trading Kane. Apparantly mgmt and a few players decided to have a sit down with Kane and the ‘Hawks ended up keeping him.

      But I think Chicago NEEDED Kane whereas Boston didn’t NEED Seguin. After the stories and pics came out about Tyler’s European Vacation, and then whatever else went on in Boston, Bruins mgmt decided he wasn’t worth the headache, and if they could get someone to fill his role, then great. Enter Loui.

      Boston runs the risk of Seguin turning his career around reaching his potential. And there’s a chance he doesn’t. Either way is a risk and every person/player reacts differently when those moment come.

      • There are two sides to every story, of course, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare Chicago to Boston. Chicago is a class organization, from top to bottom. As is Pittsburgh. Both clubs put a lot of effort into trying to rehabilitate Patrick Kane and Matt Cooke (who was contending with issues such as infidelity and his wife’s alcoholism, which undoubtedly impacted his problematic performance on the ice). If you really are serious about wanting to salvage a player’s career – if you value what that player can bring to your team, and believe he has it in him to bounce back and put everything behind him – you have to be willing to put forth the considerable effort required and turn him into a special needs project. Patrick Kane was deemed to be worth the effort and look at how has tried to redeem himself as a result.

        So I’m not buying that Boston REALLY made Seguin a priority they way they should have. It’s not just that they didn’t need him. They didn’t give a crap. Just like they didn’t care enough that Bergeron could have jeopardized his career playing with the nature and extent of his injuries.

        Excellent article – thank you!

        • And I’m not buying you know half as much as you think you know.

        • Where’s all this evidence that the Hawks held an intervention for Kane or tried to rehabilitate anything other than his public image? Where’s the evidence that Kane of 2013 is any different than Kane of 2010 or 2013? There is none, but we do know that Kane has spent time this year drinking and partying. Not long ago he got a load of crap for doing body shots after winning the Presidents Trophy.

          The fact is, Kane had a disappointing season last year. There were a lot of legitimate reasons for that, but the media didn’t care because it was easier to blame his lifestyle. Seguin had a disappointing season this year. He was traded, for reasons we don’t know, maybe because of his lifestyle, maybe for some other reason. What people are now ignoring is just how well liked Seguin was by his team-mates, so he was no “locker room cancer”, just how snake bitten he was during the playoffs, and the fact that there are other top line Bruins who did no better, or worse, than him performance wise.

          For months last year people were calling for the Hawks to trade Kane because of his off ice behaviour. The Hawks kept him and he went on to win the Conn Smythe. I’ll laugh my ass off if Seguin has a similar bounce back year next season, and it’ll be all the funnier if he does it while still drinking his Fridays to oblivion.

        • This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in the last week and that includes Ryan Clowe’s contract.

          I think you need to get a dictionary and look up class. Here’s a hint, an organization that employed Ulf Samuelsson and Matt Cooke probably doesn’t have much of it.

  8. Justin, always love your viewpoints.

    Great description of the guy who parties too much, applies to pretty much any part of life: work, school, sports

    I just dont like how these things seem to come out after any young player is traded, if it’s really a problem why not try to deal with it before hes either traded or 2 days away from being traded.

  9. Good stuff, as always, Justin.

    At what point does the captain or a respected veteran make a point to embarrass your teammate in the room between periods? Doesn’t team leadership have to take a roll in getting the best out of the problem player?

  10. Excellent article. Great insight into the mind of the pro athlete. With Recchi in Dallas to help right Seguin and show him the way to be a pro I am expecting a big turnaround. Good family, good player, big shock. He has learned a valuable lesson. Let’s hope so anyway.

  11. Don’t care what level you played at. We all knew one of these,we were that guy, or we fuc%^ hated him, or envied him. Forty years later, one is dead, one sells cars ( saw that in bantam)
    and I’m still grinding on the 3rd line. There was no 4th line then. BTW..love your insights.

  12. James Sanford…

  13. Wow, that sounds like my own kids, a great metaphor for real life

  14. Horcoff will help to mellow this kid out.

  15. This is a great article, but I really think a lot of people are missing a really obvious factor to this entire trade. This was, more than anything, a good hockey trade. It wasn’t a desperation “oh we have to get away from this troubled youth” move. Eriksson is a short term upgrade over seguin with a better cap hit. Also, they moved seguin out of division and conference.

    The bruins cup window is starting to close. Once chara declines or retires, their chances at a cup go with him. I’m pretty sure chiarelli understands how windows in sports work and wants to take full advantage of this current one. So instead of waiting for seguin to become that consistent and committed 70 point player he made a move to get an already established 70 point player.

    So, if possible, let’s ignore the off ice garbage and process that maybe, just maybe, this was simply a good hockey trade.

  16. Great article, bonus points for working a timely Full Metal Jacket reference into a Seguin story.

  17. fucking giver !!! he’s young enjoy fuck bitches get money

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