Despite Providence (AHL) head coach Rob Murray’s decision to make him a healthy scratch last weekend, Bruins prospect Zach Hamill is still confident he has a future in the Boston organization, according to the former first-round pick’s agent.
“It’s just perspective,” Ross Gurney told TheBruinsBlog.net when asked about Hamill’s standing with the franchise that selected him eighth overall in 2007. “Players are players and coaches are coaches and decisions are made. Zach wasn’t happy about it, but he’s also smart enough to understand the coach had an opinion and that’s what he decided to do.
“You only have two choices: you can pout or you can find a way to work harder or even work smarter. I think that’s Zach’s approach; that’s always been the approach. It’s just finding a way to work harder and work smarter. The points will come.”
Murray, who also didn’t dress veteran defenseman Jeff Penner for an overtime loss in Worcester Saturday, pointed to Hamill’s lone point (an assist) in seven games as one of the reasons for the lineup move.
“[Hamill’s] not doing anything, to be blunt,” Murray told Providence Bruins radio broadcaster Adam Kaufman before he re-inserted Hamill and Penner for a home game Sunday. “So I figure that it’s not going to be something that’s just given to him, it has to be earned.
“And it sends the message also that if those guys can be sat out, [anyone] can be sat out.”
Providence, which also lost Sunday (6-1) with Hamill (no points, minus-2) and Penner (no points, minus-1) dressed, is in last place in the Atlantic Division with a 2-5-1-1 record. Hamill and Penner are just two of the players that have struggled, with fellow first-round pick Joe Colborne in possession of just one goal; forwards Jeff LoVecchio and Jeremy Reich, and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk goal-less; and goaltender Nolan Schaefer carrying a 3.06 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Center Wyatt Smith has one point in nine games to go along with a team-worst minus-7 rating.
Obviously, Murray decided to do something to shake things up, and Hamill and Penner were in the cross-hairs. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told TheBruinsBlog.net that he was OK with Murray’s decision and that Hamill played particularly poorly in last Friday night’s game.
“He’s got to do more on the ice,” said Chiarelli after commending Hamill once again for an excellent NHL training camp last month. “He’s not executing, he’s not making plays. … I don’t know why.”
While the Bruins have benefited from the rapid rise of other prospects like Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron in recent years, Hamill has required more time to develop into a pro. Last season, his second with the P-Bruins, he followed up a strong NHL camp with 14-30-44 totals in 75 games. He was rewarded with a spot in the NHL lineup for the regular-season finale in Washington and recorded an assist for his first NHL point.
Hamill made another run for an NHL job this fall after reporting stronger and better in most areas of the game. However, Boston didn’t take him on its season-opening trip to Belfast and Prague.
It was expected that Hamill would emerge this season as both an offensive force and a leader for the P-Bruins, but his slow start has made it difficult to look at Hamill as a hot prospect. With the Boston organization so deep at center, it might be difficult for Hamill to get another NHL look with the parent club. However, Gurney says Hamill isn’t looking for a change of scenery and instead is looking forward to someday “wearing the spoked ‘B’.”
“It’s an organization with an awful lot of depth, especially at his position. But I just know how badly Zach wants to make it and how badly he wants to play in the NHL,” said Gurney. “So we’re just kind of taking mini steps along the way to ensure that when he does get there he’s complete and ready to stick, as opposed to maybe a player that gets sniffs from time to time but is constantly on the threshold of being sent down.”
Murray’s patience might’ve worn thin with Hamill over the weekend. But the Bruins still seem committed to his development, and Hamill seems devoted to their franchise. If Hamill uses that healthy scratch as the proper motivation, that patience just might pay off for all parties involved.