On Hockey

No need for second guessing

By Kevin Paul Dupont
June 26, 2010

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No surprises. No late flurry of phone calls, creative twists, packaging of draft picks, Potter-like sorcery from general manager Peter Chiarelli or new president Cam Neely.

And no Taylor Hall for the Bruins.

Either unable or unwilling to slip into the top spot in the NHL draft in Los Angeles, the Bruins last night followed expected form and took Tyler Seguin with the No. 2 pick, only minutes after Edmonton led off the night by taking Hall. Seguin should be here for development camp next month, again for full training camp in September, and should be on the opening night roster in Prague Oct. 9.

Again, that’s should be, because he is only 18 years old, which means the only guarantee is that he’s a kid, about to enter a man’s game, and ready-to-wear 18-year-olds remain rare in the NHL. Seguin, a center, is fast, has a very good shot, and in time should be an impact player for the Bruins.

Maybe that time is now, but it’s more likely that Seguin will need time — a year or two? — to grow into those expectations. Do we need a better history lesson here in the Hub of Hockey than Joe Thornton? Jumbo, also a center and the top pick in the ’97 draft, broke into the league with a meager 3-4—7 season in 1997-98. He didn’t reach the 20-goal plateau until his third season. It took him until his sixth season to reach 100 points. Much was asked of Thornton, much was expected, and he got there. Eventually. And in part, the long time it took for him to fulfill those expectations eventually led to the trade that sent him to San Jose.

A prudent word of warning last night from Chiarelli: “I think he’s pretty close — but he’d have to make our team.’’

Hall, a winger, will arrive in Edmonton, where he’s a lock to make the lowly Oilers, with a much simpler task — get the puck and get it to the net. That has always been his job, and he’s done it very well, so well he was named Memorial Cup MVP the last two years. Sure, he’ll have to take it to the net while hectored by bigger, faster opposing forwards and with nets fronted by smarter, brawnier defensemen. But all in all, same job, same basic tasks, and in the opinion of most NHL scouts, he has a compete level that should allow him to blast through any and all obstructions.

The Bruins, especially if they don’t trade top center Marc Savard, probably will try to ease Seguin’s transition and shift him from center to wing. It’s a prudent strategy, because wingers (see: Hall) have a much easier job description. Unlike centers, they don’t have to establish the defensive game plan in the offensive end. However, even with the job simplified, wing will be different role for Seguin. Not only will he be working at one transition (from junior to pro), but also a transition within that transition (center to wing).

Now, what if the Bruins do swap Savard? Then Seguin is back to pivot, his natural position, but with the greater burden of executing in a more responsible role. Oh, it’s possible he makes a huge immediate impact. Sidney Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh in October 2005, selected No. 1 only four months earlier, and immediately rolled up 102 points. But holding up Crosby as the working model for Seguin, as bountiful as his gifts may be, just is not fair.

As eager as everyone will be for Seguin to succeed — especially in light of the fact that he’ll be holding the roster spot that once belonged to Phil Kessel — it’s far better for everyone, Seguin included, to build in at least a two-year gestation period.

Now, as for Savard, and the growing speculation that he’ll be traded, the 33-year-old pivot has an interesting menu of trade exceptions built into his new seven-year “no-trade’’ contract. He cannot be traded prior to the upcoming 2010-11 season. However, the Bruins gain more trade flexibility with his contract as the years go by.

To wit:

■In 2011-12 — Savard can be dealt to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Philadelphia and/or Chicago.

■In 2012-13 — The previous five clubs remain in play, along with Florida, Tampa, New York Rangers, Washington and/or Pittsburgh.

■In 2013-14 — Can be traded to any club in the Eastern Conference.

■In 2014-15 — Can be traded to any NHL club.

All of which means, if Seguin is the real deal, it’s more likely today than it was yesterday that Savard will be dealt. True, by the letter of the contract, he cannot be traded tomorrow, or any time in the upcoming season. But Savard’s name is out there — the scout of one club named above told me last week Savard has been offered there repeatedly of late — and the Bruins are about to have Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci vying for ice time.

A new era is upon us. Tyler Seguin will definitely be in the mix, but it might not be as soon as some people expect. And the faster he is ready, logging effective minutes, his offensive impact growing, it could mean the faster Savard is gone.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at

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