How Tyler Seguin Responds to Healthy Scratch Will Be Young Sniper’s First True Test

How Tyler Seguin Responds to Healthy Scratch Will Be Young Sniper's First True TestTyler Seguin found himself in an unfamiliar place on Wednesday night.

Not Buffalo — he'd been there at least once before when the Bruins played the Sabres on Nov. 3. But he was on the ice that night. Actually, he played a career-high 17:22, finishing a plus-2 with two shots in a 5-2 win.

But Wednesday night, the only time Seguin spent on the ice was in warmups. The rest of the evening he was up in the press box, a healthy scratch for the first time in his young career. And he could remain there Thursday night in Montreal, as coach Claude Julien told reporters that it would be a game-time decision whether to dress Seguin or Daniel Paille against the Canadiens.

Was it a wise move for the Bruins to bench their prized rookie, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft?

That will largely depend on how Seguin responds. History shows that plenty of promising young stars have had to go through this sometimes painful step in the learning process. And most have benefited from it.

The most recent example is Steven Stamkos, the electrifying young star down in Tampa who just also happens to be a player Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli compared Seguin to before the draft. Stamkos was scratched in three games in his rookie year and used sparingly in others early on in the 2008-09 season, but he broke out in the second half of the season, then put up 51 goals and 95 points the following year.

There's no guarantee that Seguin will follow a similar path, but sitting out a game or two certainly isn't going to cripple the 18-year-old's development. Just the opposite actually, as most young players benefit from the opportunity to see the game from a different vantage point.

Julien discussed that earlier this season when 2009 first-round pick Jordan Caron found himself in a similar position.

"You see the game from a different angle from up top, and that's another way of gaining some experience," said Julien. "You're looking at veteran players and how they react, and it just helps them sort things out a little better.

"Instead of just saying they're a healthy scratch, being a healthy scratch is an opportunity for them to see the game from a different angle and maybe make them understand it a little better," added Julien.
"Sometimes you see players hesitate a little bit in their decision-making and they're not quite sure, but when you see it from up top and see what's happening, you know that next time you're on the ice you'll be able to react better."

Caron ultimately fell victim to a numbers game and was sent to Providence when Marc Savard returned from injury. Seguin, who is not eligible to play in the AHL because of his age, is in no danger of being sent down, but getting a look from above while picking the brain of veteran assistant coach Doug Jarvis in the press box is a learning opportunity that could reap rewards in the future.

Seguin could use the breather and the chance to pick up some pointers. He has just one goal in his last 11 games and has been seeing his ice time reduced. He played less than 10 minutes twice in his last five games before missing Saturday's clash with the Flyers with what the team classified as flu-like symptoms.

And Paille is no threat to make the switch a regular arrangement, as Paille has no goals and just one assist in 11 games, posting a minus-2 and committing several costly gaffes in limited action this season. Paille's struggles are the only real argument against giving Seguin this break and a chance to watch the game from up top. But with both players scuffling, the long-term benefits to Seguin's development should outweigh the marginal advantage of having Seguin in the lineup instead of Paille in a midseason game in Buffalo.

Here in Boston, the last two top-five picks of the Bruins both went through similar situations. Joe Thornton, the top pick in the 1997 draft, played just 55 games his rookie year with very limited ice time under Pat Burns, but went on to become a league scoring champ and MVP, albeit with the Sharks. Still, he also had plenty of strong seasons in Boston, topping the 100-point mark in 2002-03.

Phil Kessel, the No. 5 pick in 2006, also endured some tough love from Julien, who scratched him for three games in the 2008 playoffs. Kessel responded with three goals in his first two games back in the lineup and his first 30-goal campaign the following year.

But Kessel also presents a cautionary tale. The strain that benching put on the relationship between Kessel and Julien was never fully repaired and contributed to Kessel's desire to leave Boston in 2009. Ironically, the ensuing trade with Toronto yielded the pick the bruins used to select Seguin.

The key now will be how Seguin responds. He hasn't been around long enough to know for sure, but the poise and maturity he's shown in handling the demands and pressures of his draft year and the start of his NHL career hint at a player who will learn from the experience and return to the lineup wiser and hungrier.

And Julien has also taken steps to avoid a repeat of the fallout from the Kessel benching, as the coach has been vocal in his support of Seguin.

"He's been improving all along," Julien told reporters Thursday morning in Montreal. "He's a young player and it's an 82-game schedule, [so] whether he misses a few here or there it's not the end of the world.

"You look at a young player who keeps improving and is going to get better," added Julien. "It's certainly not going to be the turning point of his career by missing a game. He sat upstairs with some of our management and certainly was beneficial for him as well."

Only time will tell how beneficial.

Will Seguin benefit in the long run from watching a few games in the press box, or is it a mistake to bench the talented youngster when the Bruins need all the offense they can muster? Share your thoughts below.

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