BOSTON (CBS) – My 14-month-old son loves books, especially the ones where you lift a paper flap to reveal surprise underneath in the midst of the story.
Sometimes, however, he thinks those flaps look tasty and puts them in his mouth – meaning they get soggy and sometimes rip. It takes some cajoling to get him to stop, and usually you just wind up taking the book away from him. My wife says they call this the stage where he’s “testing boundaries.”
As a second-year NHL player and the Bruins’ leading scorer, not to mention a teenage heartthrob who hears more public marriage proposals than Zdeno Chara hears jeers on the road, Bruins forward Tyler Seguin is seemingly at a pro hockey player’s version of the “testing boundaries” stage.
There’s no other explanation for Seguin to have missed the Bruins’ routine team breakfast Tuesday morning after the club flew into Winnipeg late the night before from Pittsburgh. General manager Peter Chiarelli, in announcing Seguin’s one-game benching Tuesday, said that this wasn’t Seguin’s first infraction, so I can’t help but picture my son with that book in his mouth and a look on his face like he’s wondering what my next action is going to be to stop him from sucking on tasteless paper.
Public interactions with Seguin – during media scrums, 1-on-1 interviews and occasional casual exchanges of pleasantries in hallways or the press box – typically reveal both Seguin’s youthful naiveté and some awareness that he still has a lot to learn. He possesses a dash of humbleness to go along with the required cockiness needed for any pro athlete to confidently succeed and also that of a teenager living the high life on one of sport’s grandest stages. This all comes on the heels of 18 years of being catered to as one of the most talented performers in his age group at his chosen sport, and someone plenty of others have relied on to bring attention and success to their organizations, regardless of the level at which he’s playing.
Now he’s a boy living in a man’s world, not unlike a baby living among adults, and it appears that he wasn’t convinced that anyone would ever discipline him unless he committed an extremely egregious act. There wasn’t a belief in Seguin’s mind that he would ever be disciplined for something as minor as missing a team breakfast. He dared to challenge authority and finally found out that he’s not above everyone else and the Bruins organization values the team breakfast as much as it values practices and backchecking.
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Head coach Claude Julien put in the breakfasts, which one former Bruins player said typically takes place early on game day and lasts during a brief window of around an hour, in order to take stock of his players’ frame of reference (i.e. are they hung over?) and make sure everyone’s getting their legs going. It takes discipline to not only get down to breakfast, but do so in your formal travel clothes. One might say it shows a champion’s attitude.
There’s also a camaraderie side to the event, as players can chat and wake each other up over coffee and, hopefully, hot omelets and pancakes.
Veterans might make it down to breakfast just before the time window closes. On rare occasions, they might even pass on breakfast for a reason they have to provide. But for one third of the calendar year, Bruins players are expected to show up and grab some grub with their teammates.
The idea that grown men have to show up to a breakfast or suffer the consequences might seem draconian, but think back to the lack of discipline and accountability that plagued the 2006-07 Bruins in the pre-Julien era. Julien’s team breakfasts were and still are part of the culture, a culture that brought an end to a 39-year Stanley Cup championship drought six months ago. There’s a reason a rag-tag team that relied on Glen Metropolit to play a top-six role and featured Dennis Wideman as a No. 2 defenseman was able to make the playoffs.
Julien’s coaching approach includes making sure he controls everything. He doesn’t allow his assistant coaches to speak to the media because he wants just one message coming from his staff: his. There’s certain information he won’t ever offer up to the press and certain other commitments he demands from his players. You can’t argue with the guy that won the Cup.
Now that he’s suffered the consequences, Seguin has to decide how he wants to proceed with his life. He can keep testing the limits, or prove that – as one scout before the 2010 draft said – he’s a future captain. That he offered a lame excuse about setting his clock on Boston time (he would’ve been early had that been the case), wasn’t the best start on the road to accountability. However, as we all know, he has plenty of time, starting now, to show not only that he’s learned his lesson, but maybe to teach the lesson to others. He can take the initiative to be early or exactly on time, and maybe even rally many of his teammates to do the same, going forward.
In the big picture, Seguin’s Tuesday benching wasn’t just about the 19-year-old. It was also about a team that’s mixed between younger and older veterans, who all had to see that no individual is above the collective.
This could be a learning point for all of them – don’t miss the breakfast of champions or you’ll look like a chump.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.