Tyler Seguin certainly had his ups and downs as a rookie last season. His highest peak was something no Bruins fan will ever forget — leaping into the playoff spotlight with three goals and three assists in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. His lowest valley was much more forgettable — a stretch that saw him register just one point in his final 19 regular-season games before winding up in the press box for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Seguin said at the time that he learned a lot from both experiences, and even credited watching the playoffs from the press box as a big reason he was able to be so successful upon his return to the lineup. As Bruins training camp opens this weekend, the 19-year-old Seguin hopes to do more scoring and less watching in his second season.
“Having a year of experience goes such a long way,” Seguin said. “A day like today, when you’re in camp testing, you know what to expect a bit more. As camp goes on this year, I have a lot more experience and I’ve seen, on the ice and from up top, what it takes to go all the way.”
When asked about personal goals going into a season, many players say they want to get more ice time or get more points. Seguin has those goals, too, but his first goal is to get more of something Rodney Dangerfield never could — respect.
“I definitely want to earn more respect from the coaches and the players,” Seguin said. “With that, I want to get some more ice time. And I think following that will be more production. That all starts with me taking advantage of every opportunity I get.”
Seguin said he knows now what he didn’t know last season — that earning that respect is a 24/7 job. It isn’t earned just by being the second overall pick, or by having a skillset any player would be envious of.
“It really has to be everywhere,” Seguin said. “It has to be on the ice, on the bench, in the dressing room, in public appearances. On a team like the Bruins, you have to have good character and carry yourself and represent the Bruins well no matter where it is. If you do that both on and off the ice, that’s when you’re going to gain respect from the boys and the staff, and that’s what I want to do.
“It took a couple people to kind of give me a tap on the shoulder and a little bit of a wakeup call, giving me advice on, ‘This is what you have to do as a player, and this is what you’re doing well.’ It’s hard for a young guy in your first year, with really no experience. You don’t really know what to do. Obviously you know about respect and things like that in juniors, but it’s not the same as a professional team. Now I know a bit more.”
On the ice, Seguin hopes to earn some of that respect by playing a more complete game and doing more dirty work. Too many times last season, Seguin could be seen floating around the offensive zone or not backchecking hard enough.
Seguin said those were some of the areas he focused on while watching from the press box. When he returned to the lineup against the Lightning, he looked like a whole new player. It wasn’t just the highlight-reel goals; it was also his physical play, his work in the corners and his presence in the defensive zone.
One piece of advice every hockey player hears throughout his life is that if you work hard, the points will come. Seguin is taking that to heart.
“I wasn’t really much of a guy going into the corners,” Seguin said. “But I felt like, especially at the end of the season, that when I was battling more, more things were opening up.”
In an effort to be a more physically imposing player, Seguin put on more than 10 pounds of muscle this summer.
“For me, the main thing I worked on this summer was my core,” Seguin said. “I thought as the season progressed last year, I got better in the corners and battling. I think that starts with your core, so that’s really what I wanted to strengthen. Just being strong on my stick and winning those battles, especially in key times, is gonna help.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he expects last season’s experiences to be a big boost for Seguin, and that Seguin will have more responsibility to improve as a player.
“Last year,” Julien said, “it was a lot of, ‘What could we do for him?’ I think right now, more of it will be in his court as far as what he learned last year, whether he’s really willing to come out here this year with a lot of confidence. With that experience combined with his skill level on a more consistent basis, he’s definitely going to have a bigger impact on our hockey club, and we expect him to.”
Judging from his offseason training and better understanding of how to earn respect, Seguin is ready to make that impact.