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Hockey Notes

Seguin is definitely growing into the job

By Kevin Paul Dupont
October 9, 2011

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At times it’s easy to forget just how young some of the players are when they show up in search of full-time NHL employment. Case in point: Tyler Seguin, who arrived here a year ago at 18, landed a spot on the Bruins roster and often looked as if he were trying to find his way in an adult world while still balancing a high school mortarboard atop his helmet.

“I’ve got to admit that I am still adapting to the game, it’s only been one year,’’ said Seguin. “That’s on and off the ice. Coming to a family like this team has, you are going to have to earn your way on it. I feel more comfortable now that I’ve gotten to know everyone.’’

Seguin, the second overall pick in the June 2010 draft, began his sophomore season on right wing Thursday, skating on a line with young winger Jordan Caron and veteran pivot Chris Kelly. At about 190 pounds, he is some 10 pounds heavier than a year ago, and with better-developed core strength after spending much of the offseason (as abbreviated as it was) working out diligently in Toronto at Matt Nichol’s BioSteel athletic performance center.

“You learn a lot more about nutrition and stuff like that,’’ said Seguin, whose production - 22 points in 74 games last year - showed signs of blossoming in the postseason when he went 3-4-7 in 13 games. “It will help me in the long run, for sure.

“I was there last summer for two weeks, but this year for the full summer. We had 15-30 pro guys every week. Off ice and on ice. Learning about nutrition. They are serving breakfast and you are learning what’s proper to eat. And I think that is going to help me.’’

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien see a significant improvement in Seguin, which no doubt played a part in his getting a hefty 17:20 in ice time in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Flyers.

Seguin averaged only 12:13 last season and briefly found himself in the press box during the playoffs, his game lacking the requisite jam/temerity needed for postseason action. Placed back in the lineup, he responded with greater jump and courage, reflected in his willingness to battle for pucks along the boards and in the corners.

“The areas that last year were, I guess, a big challenge for him, they have now become second nature for him,’’ said Julien. “He’s going and battling for pucks in the corners. Last year we saw him at times looking over his shoulder.

“This is all a natural thing for a young player to make that jump. He is a lot stronger. He is much more confident and now his skills are starting to show even more.

“Having said that, we are still of the opinion that he has to continue to want to learn in certain areas.’’

Added Chiarelli, “To me, he has been very confident, more comfortable in his skin. Last year, everything was new to him. This year, he knows what to expect, and he obviously has put in the work.’’

As Julien continues his attempt to resurrect the power play, look for Seguin to be among those (along with Rich Peverley and David Krejci) who get a look at the half-wall spot where Marc Savard was so proficient dishing pucks. Savard typically worked his magic from the right side, but Seguin would be on the opposite wall, where he set up for much of his junior career.

“I was always on the half-wall, but I’m happy to play anywhere down low,’’ he said. “The power play is one of the main things I love doing, and if I get the opportunity, I will try to take advantage of it.’’

In junior, recalled Seguin, there were times he would glance toward the stands, only to find his father admonishing him, using a hand to draw imaginary figure-eights. The sign language was code for “unproductive skating.’’ It’s not always best, noted the junior Seguin, to be in constant motion, an urge he still finds himself fighting from time to time.

“It’s been a lifelong habit,’’ he said. “And it would hurt me sometimes in my [defensive] zone coverage when I’d be circling around too much and not stopping. I have to prioritize my skating.

“Sometimes it’s just a comfort factor, I guess. Sometimes you’re cheating out there by circling, not stopping, so if the puck is gone, you’re gone. But sometimes it’s because you’re just too lazy to stop, and that’s something I learned all last year.’’

He’s a teenager, a very talented one, and the pro life remains a process. Seguin lived on his own last year, another big change, and this season he may be placed with a family (known as “billets’’ in the junior hockey world) during the season.

Late last week, Seguin and the Boston front office were still trying to figure out the right living accommodations for him. No doubt lots of area families would be happy to have a Cup champ in the house.

“Billeting is always good,’’ he said. “It’s good for dinners to have someone else to talk to, even if you are in and out of country like I am. You don’t have to cook. I am open to anything.’’

HARD-HITTING COMMENTS
Versus team has the floor Conference calls are typically mundane affairs, especially in the NHL preseason. But last week’s gabfest with the astute NBC/Versus crew, including Mike Milbury, produced a few gems when I asked what the panel thought of the job Brendan Shanahan is doing as the game’s new sheriff and if they felt there would be a “pushback’’ from GMs in light of some of his rulings pertaining to head shots.

Some of the panel’s thoughts:

Mike Emrick: “My dad was a high school principal, and I think he tended to lead with his chin a little bit, and then you could always pull back if you needed to. And I like coming down heavy at the beginning. If we’re targeting head shots and we’re losing guys, I think we’ve got to come down heavy.

“I worry about whether we’re going to reduce our game to football’s comparable two-hand touch. But I’d rather err on this side right now and trust the league to do what it has set in motion to do and just pull back.

As for potential “pushback,’’ Emrick said, “Well, perhaps, if one of their favorite guys gets taken out. Sure they’ll be annoyed. But I don’t think there’s any administrator that gets along with everybody perfectly all year long.

““We just can’t have guys getting carted off like this all the time. I realize this is a red-meat game. It’s a collision sport and that’s why we like it. And I realize that the center of the ice has been opened up by the rule changes. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster, they build up more and more momentum. And a lot of these are accidental collisions.

“But the ones that are with malice aforethought, those are the ones that they’re trying to test, make sure that these guys realize that, yes, they need to be fined.

Eddie Olczyk: “There’s no doubt in my mind, I think the players are understanding. There hasn’t been a lot of physical play [in the preseason], I’ll say that now. They’re looking at it from protecting themselves, a financial burden as well. Because if you end up getting whacked and you end up getting a suspension, you’re going to lose money.

“I hope that in the big picture, this thing will work itself out, which I believe it will. But at the end of the day what it comes down to with the players is how they react to certain situations. I don’t think that it’s as black and white as what a lot of people are portraying it to be.

“I think we all know, when players have the intent, and the puck becomes optional, and they’re looking to do harm or damage to a player that’s in a tough spot - those are the type of plays I think we all want to see hit hard.’’

Pierre McGuire: “Nobody knows it better than the people in Boston - what happened to Nathan Horton, what happened to Marc Savard. People don’t want to see repeats of that.

“I love what Doc Emrick said in terms of the school teacher has got to be hard and fast earlier on when you try to change regulations. So you get your message across. I think Brendan Shanahan is doing that. And he’s doing it very well.

“I think back to coming out of the lockout, where everybody was moaning and groaning about zero tolerance on obstruction. Zero tolerance on obstruction took some time for the players to adjust to. And once they did, the game became better. And I believe the game will still get better if we can get rid of some of these head shots.

“And you talked about pushback from the general managers, one of the reasons why I don’t think we’re going to see as much pushback, you’ve got enlightened general managers like [Peter] Chiarelli in Boston, like [Ray] Shero in Pittsburgh, like [Kenny] Holland in Detroit, like [George] McPhee in Washington, like [Stan] Bowman in Chicago, like [Jim] Rutherford in Carolina, like [Steve] Yzerman in Tampa. These guys don’t want to see head shots.’’

Mike Milbury: “I think if this goes the way it’s going right now, it will do more than if they took fighting out of the game. I think if it’s called like this - and with all due respect to the excellent comments by Eddie, Pierre, and Doc - if this is the way they’re going to call it, it is going to turn into touch football. People don’t want to lose tens of thousands of dollars going out for 10 and 20 games.

“Or what happens sometimes [with] really vicious hits and sometimes questionable calls, in my opinion, I think right now the way it’s called sucks.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like the trend of it. And I hope my colleagues are right that this is a work in progress. They’re being tough earlier. And we’re going to settle down and things are going to get back to where it should be.

“I mean, I wonder, would the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup if the standards had changed to what Brendan Shanahan has made it today? I wonder if that would be the case. I think you might have had a different champion and I wouldn’t like that.

“Because I love the way they played at the end. I love the way they hit everything that moved. I’m not talking about head shots. I don’t like head shots. I don’t like concussions, either.

“But right now there’s a lot of pink hats out there. And I don’t want to wear a pink hat.’’

ETC.
New Leaf is in winner’s circle Quiet acquisition by the Leafs last week, picking off sturdy center Dave Steckel from the Devils. The 6-foot 5-inch Steckel spent years as a faceoff horse with the Capitals, and the Devils acquired him at the trade deadline last season in hopes that his skill at the dot would help edge them into the postseason. In his Toronto debut Thursday, the 29-year-old former Ohio State standout won 18 of 25 (72 percent) of his faceoffs against the Canadiens, and it showed up on the opposite side of the scoresheet, where 5-7 Habs pivot David Desharnais went 4 of 15. Steckel won’t be a big point-getter for the Leafs, but at only $1.1 million, he is a huge value among their bottom six forwards.

More Cherry bombs Ex-Bruins coach Don Cherry continues to rattle cages on his “Hockey Night in Canada’’ segments. On Thursday, the 77-year-old bomb-tosser labeled Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan, and Jim Thomson, all former fighters, as “a bunch of pukes’’ for their stance these days concerning fighting in hockey. “You guys were fighters, and now you guys don’t want guys to make the same living you did,’’ said Cherry. Nilan, who has worked hard in recent months to recover from various addictions, including heroin, immediately disputed Cherry, saying he has not taken the position that the game should prohibit fighting. Some acts never grow old. Or do they?

Cooke is still stirring The Penguins opened their season Thursday in Vancouver, where ex-Canucks forward Matt Cooke led the way for the flightless birds with two goals, one a shorty and the other on the power play. Now there’s a feel-good story, especially here in the Hub, where one of Cooke’s headhunting victims, Marc Savard, will likely never play again. For the record, the Penguins make a habit of gathering as a team to watch the Brendan Shanahan videos in which he explains his rulings on the kind of head shots that Cooke helped turn into an art form. Wonder if Cooke sits alone in a corner, with ears plugged and blindfold in place, during that bit of cinema verite?

Loose pucks Mike Knuble, the ex-Bruins left winger on the “700 Pound Line’’ with Joe Thornton and Glen Murray, came into Capitals camp in exceptional shape and retained his spot on the No. 1 line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. He survived a challenge from free agent pickups Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, whom he had to watch fill his spot at times during camp. “It was kind of like going on a date in front of your old girlfriend,’’ the lighthearted Knuble told the Washington Post. Great guy, Knuble, now 39 years old and as of yesterday only 32 games away from the 1,000-game plateau. For what it’s worth, the Knuble-Backstrom-AO trio tips the scale at 666 pounds . . . The Bruins are in Carolina Wednesday night, the first time for Tomas Kaberle and Joe Corvo to face their former clubs. Paul Maurice, who replaced Peter Laviolette behind the bench for the Tropical Depressions, is on the last year of his contract. He won’t say so, but there’s pressure there, especially after consecutive postseason DNQs . . . Dany Heatley, regarding the 2003 crash of his Ferrari that claimed the life of Thashers teammate Dan Snyder: “There’s usually something every day that might remind you of it.’’ Snyder’s parents, in immediately forgiving Heatley, should be remembered for their profound act of compassion and kindness . . . Astounding news that Richard Martin, who died in March of a heart attack while driving his car in suburban Buffalo, suffered from CTE, the degenerative brain disease that continues to be studied at Boston University and the VA hospital in Bedford. Martin was not known to have suffered multiple concussions, nor was he a fighter. It likely supports the scientists’ belief that numerous subconcussive hits can lead to CTE . . . Nice gesture by Bruins players, sending Mark Recchi into retirement by handing him their eBay-purchased working-man’s jacket. And watching Rex struggle to shimmy the jacket over his game sweater was a Pixar moment from the Island of Misfit Toys . . . Good choices, Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly, to share Boston’s second “A’’ as alternate captains. Habs fans will love that when the Bruins visit Montreal. They’re still CHeesed off by Ference flipping the Bell Centre the middle finger during the playoffs.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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