Last month the Bruins announced that all of their full-season ticket packages were sold out.
That declaration came just weeks after thousands of people packed the practice rink in Wilmington, Mass., for four days of development camp.
For a team that finished its season in historically awful fashion by blowing a 3-0 lead to Philadelphia in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and a franchise that hasn’t won the Cup in 38 years, the Bruins seem to have sure built up a ton of goodwill heading into 2010-11.
Now imagine where all those warm, fuzzy feelings will head if the Bruins decide not to keep Tyler Seguin this fall. They’ll be circling the drain faster than the chance Jonathan Papelbon finishes his career in a Red Sox uniform.
The Bruins won a bet they didn’t even know they were making when Toronto’s first-round pick acquired in the Phil Kessel trade turned into the No. 2 overall selection. That the Bruins had a chance to move up to No. 1 but didn’t get the luck of the draw in the lottery did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of the club’s fan base and the city. It didn’t really matter if Boston wound up with Seguin or Taylor Hall. All everyone knew what that for the first time in half a decade, a franchise player was heading to the Hub.
When the Wilmington fire department had to be called for crowd control on the last day of last month’s development camp, it wasn’t because people wanted to see Joe Colborne, Jordan Caron or Yuri Alexandrov – solid prospects that they may be. And that people are no longer complaining about ticket prices or the concession rip-offs at the “New Garden” and instead of buying up tickets at a pace unheard of since the lockout, or even since the turn of the century, owes only a little to potential franchise goaltender Tuukka Rask, the addition of scoring winger Nathan Horton or any of the potential roster players that have NHL experience on their ledger.
It’s almost all about Tyler Seguin. If you’ve read or heard recently that the Bruins might have to return the speedy center to Plymouth of the OHL because of the makeup of the team’s depth chart or because of performance bonuses in the player’s entry-level contract, you must realize that it’s all hooey.
Sure general manager Peter Chiarelli wants to downplay the expectations on the 18-year-old kid. That’s the GM’s job. Seguin, to his credit, hasn’t publicly taken anything for granted, including during a recent interview with NHL.com after the 2010 Team Canada tryout camp for the World Junior Championship team.
“It was nice to get my feet wet and get that experience and get to wear a Bruins jersey,” he told writer Mike Morreale about Bruins development camp. “I think I’ll know what to expect a little bit [at training camp], and I’m just going to work hard to earn that spot.”
That’s been Seguin’s boilerplate line ever since draft day. It’s a great sign that Seguin has sufficient humbleness off the ice to go with the required cockiness that will help him get the most out of his talents on the ice.
But words are just that. Let’s face it, Seguin – fresh off a 106-point season with Plymouth last year – has accomplished all he really can at the junior level. He has NHL speed and an NHL shot and on a deep Bruins team he’ll get broken in carefully by the NHL coaching staff. Whether Marc Savard is with the Bruins or skating elsewhere, there will always be room for a kid with so much talent and so many expectations. You can never have enough centers that can play wing on an NHL roster. Plus Boston’s solid corps of veterans will make great mentors for the teenager.
In Seguin, the Bruins not only have a player people throughout New England want to see play in black and gold, they have a good-looking kid that could be the face of the franchise. Along the lines of Chiarelli’s always-dampening words when it comes to Seguin’s expectations, the Bruins marketing department hasn’t rolled out a “Got Stamkos”-styled ad campaign just yet. Once he’s on the big club, however, expect his face to be on every billboard and bus within a 50-mile radius of Boston. Clean-cut and dapper, well-spoken, and an array of talents in the region’s longest-loved winter sport – Seguin is a potential prince of New England. Neither he nor the organization can reap the rewards of that if he’s playing in Plymouth.
It was recently suggested that Seguin’s $2.65 million in performance bonuses, which push his cap hit to $3.55 million could spell his demotion to the OHL. However, the clause that allows the Bruins to be 7.5 percent over the cap and count potential bonuses this season toward next year’s cap is again in effect. Seguin’s initial cap hit will just be $900,000. On the Boston roster, Seguin’s performance bonuses, along with those for Mark Recchi, would take up almost all of that $4.5 million of space. But that’s why that cushion is there.
Should Boston want to keep Colborne, Caron or another prospect on an entry-level deal with performance bonuses, things could get tricky. If one of those guys plays well enough to earn a job, however, Chiarelli will be more than willing to make room for him. Even if he can’t send Michael Ryder to play for $4 million in Providence (AHL) or to another team in a trade, rest assured the GM wouldn’t hesitate to cut the little more than $1 million he has invested in Daniel Paille or Gregory Campbell to make room for a young upstart.
It would really take one of the ultimate one-man collapses to keep Seguin from the NHL roster. I’d guess that considering all the natural talent he has on the ice, Seguin would have to run through the Bruins’ locker room in nothing but a Montreal Canadiens jock strap cursing head coach Claude Julien, president Cam Neely, Chiarelli and every Bruins employee to get shipped out.
We’re still a month away from the opening of training camp. There hasn’t been one battle drill, scrimmage or off-ice conditioning test yet when it comes to the 2010-11 Bruins. Still, I can almost guarantee that nothing is going to postpone the start of the Tyler Seguin era in Boston.