The young woman at the side of the pool at the jam-packed July 4th barbecue was quick with her response when she overheard a few guys talking about the mid-holiday announcement that the Boston Bruins had traded a much touted 21-year-old named Tyler Seguin to the NHL team in Dallas as the key move in a deal involving seven players in all.
“Good riddance; you can see he’s a coward on the ice,” she said and moved on.
Maybe the woman’s observation was born of seeing Seguin play in person or via intensive study of video clips; or maybe she just reads the newspapers where hints of distress by the team’s administrators over his lackluster, non-aggressive play and rumors about his off-ice demeanor had been slipped into stories here and there over recent months.
This from Kevin Dupont of the Globe, a veteran and perceptive observer of the NHL game, the Bruins in particular: “Here’s the thing about Seguin: The Bruins stopped believing he could be a bonafide NHL No. 1 pivot. They began to wonder if he had the toughness and temerity and hockey IQ to play effectively among the top six forwards in the … ‘Bruins style’ of hockey.”
This assessment sits starkly against the promise offered by the bright-looking young fellow whom the Bruins picked as No. 2 in the 2010 NHL draft. To the casual observer, he seemed to be on track and doing the right thing when, in the summer of last year, he and the team signed a six-year contract with a figure of about $35 million attached to it.
Money talks, but it also complains, and when Seguin disappointed mightily with his play this year, especially in the crunch-time of the final playoffs, the Bruins began looking around. Soon enough, the WonderBoy was shipped off to Texas.
All of which is part of the warp and woof of the world of professional sports: players come and go and who really knows why they are good for there but not for here.
Still, this Seguin case goes on in the media, with the headline “Bruins guilty of quick whistle” over a column on Monday by the Globe’s Christopher L. Gasper setting the stage for the writer to offer his second-guesses on the deal in a prominent place.
For some of us, there is a larger question involved in all of this. Does a 21-year-old hockey player whose superego [the part of the unconscious that Freud suggested censors and restrains the ego] has not yet kicked in deserve to be shipped out of town labeled a coward (if not in so many words) and a playboy (if not in so many words) by the people who 12 months ago thought he was worth $35 million?
Kevin Dupont notes that on the Saturday before the trade Bruins General Manager Peter Chiafrelli acknowledged that he had seen “a lot of reports about extracurricular stuff” regarding Seguin in the “Twitterverse,” adding that the young man needed to begin acting like a professional while cautioning that “he is only 21 years old.”
Those of us outside the Bruins orbit who have seen close up how young men moving from age 17 to age 24 tend to behave don’t need any cautioning from someone who cites rumors for his actions involving a 21-year-old man in his charge.
For all that, maybe GM Chiarelli is onto something: Tell the truth directly – he doesn’t play our roughhouse style; he doesn’t act the way we want him to; so we traded him [and, by the way, saved money we can use for other purposes]. It would be hard for the media to slice and dice that one too much beyond what he said.
As for what it means to a 21-year-old professional hockey player to be cast in public as someone who would rather not play it rough in places where bodies get bruised, I guess we’ll have to wait and see the signs out of Dallas.