In grasping for a reason to hype the Bruins’ visit to Edmonton tonight for the fifth game of their vital six-game stretch of road games, some are going to try to sell you on this contest as some sort of referendum on the debate between Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
Of course, when the Bruins take the ice for the 8 p.m. EST puck drop at Rexall Place, they’ll do so in a situation 180 degress opposite to the Oilers — and thus Hall and Seguin are playing in two different worlds and aren’t comparable at this early date in their careers.
Hall, selected first overall last June by Edmonton (and it can’t be overstated that only one team had a choice at the draft in Los Angeles), is averaging 18:18 of ice time for a team that sits 30th out of 30 in the entire NHL. Sure, he’s put up 21-19-40 totals in 62 games, but I’m sure he would trade all those points to be where Seguin is right now.
It’s hard to envy Seguin, who is averaging just 12:11 of ice time, individually. Seguin, who wound up skating just 6:16 against the Canucks last night, has totaled just 10-11-21 offensive numbers in 57 games played and has gone through some growing pains and healthy scratches. The Bruins, though, are in first place in their division and are challenging for second place in their conference. While the Oilers are well on their way to a fifth straight year without playoffs, the Bruins should have home-ice advantage to start their first postseason series for the second time in three years.
Seguin figures to get more ice time against a young, less-rugged Oilers squad tonight. He might even be on the ice at the same time as Hall a few times. Regardless of what happens, however, neither this game, the next 20 after this one or this entire season will have given us any indication of who’s better between Hall and Seguin.
For my money, this game tonight is more a meeting of two organizations that have gone different directions. After reaching the Stanley Cup final in ’06, the once-proud Oilers, through a series of unfortunate circumstances and some questionable decision-making, have put themselves in a position where they’re so bad they could pick first overall two years in a row.
The Bruins, on the other hand, responded to their own futility at the time the Oilers were in their Cinderella run to the final, by changing course and personnel in their front office. While Boston hasn’t passed the second round since 1992, the Bruins’ brass has forged a path that has included winning two rounds of playoffs in two years and swinging a trade that allowed them to supplement their solid roster with the No. 2 overall pick.
You can talk about tonight as a trap game for the Bruins, who are going to have to muster the energy to handle a hapless-but-pesky Oilers bunch less than 24 hours after disposing of the league’s best team and after getting into town early this morning. You can talk about the Oilers’ youngsters growing together and trying to meet the challenge the Bruins present tonight. You can compare individual players and wonder what both teams will look like when tomorrow’s trade deadline passes. Just don’t tell me this game has anything to do with Taylor Hall as compared to Tyler Seguin.
For those that want to draw a definitive conclusion on whether the Oilers got the best player last June, I say get back to me in five years. Then we can not only total up the goals and assists, but also the wins and the playoff rounds.