Donaldson: Bruins' Julien should have used Seguin sooner

May 20 2011 - 3:48pm

Bill Parcells said that it was the great players he worked the hardest.

Not that the legendary NFL coach was easy on average players. But, as long as they worked hard, and did their best to avoid mental and physical errors, he'd didn't get on their case. He'd try to make the most of their abilities and do his best to disguise their shortcomings, all the while remaining on the lookout for better replacements.

But the great ones, the ones with true talent and seemingly limitless potential, he'd be all over them.

The reason?

Because, he said, he didn't know how good they could be.

And, he felt, neither did they.

That's why Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien should have used 19-year-old center Tyler Seguin in the playoffs a lot sooner.

Was the young, inexperienced Seguin going to make some mistakes?

Almost certainly.

Was the swift-skating, offensively-gifted Seguin going to make some eye-opening plays, score some dazzling goals?

Almost certainly.

But consider what Parcells did with 21-year-old Drew Bledsoe.

To begin with, he picked the strong-armed junior from Washington State with the first overall pick in the 1993 draft. Then, he made the kid the starter.

Was Bledsoe ready to step in and play right away?

Not really.

But the Patriots were the worst team in the league at the time, and if they were going to be better in the future, it was going to be because of Bledsoe.

After losing 11 of their first 12 games that season -- they'd be 2-14 the year before, which was why Parcells had been hired -- the Patriots won their final four, to finish 5-11.

The next year, they made the playoffs, sparked by an overtime win Minnesota in which they'd trailed, 20-0, late in the first half, but rallied as Bledsoe set NFL records for passes in a game (70) and completions (45) while throwing for 426 yards and three touchdowns -- including the game-winner -- without a single interception.

Two years after that, in 1996, the Patriots went to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history.

This is not, let me make clear, a comparison of Bledsoe and Seguin. They're different players, in different sports.

And, as good as Bledsoe was -- he was just elected by the fans to the team's Hall of Fame -- the Bruins hope Seguin, taken with the second overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, will turn out to be even better.

Except that he wasn't going to get better sitting in the press box, watching the playoffs.

Admittedly, it's not as if the kid was on a scoring spree as the regular season ended. He scored 11 goals, but only one in the last 20 games, none in the last 11. He had just one assist in those last 20 games.

There were questions about his toughness, a feeling that he shied away from contact -- although why a guy who has gifted hands around the net should employ those hands in punching defensemen who push him around is a puzzling question.

And there was no question that his defensive skills weren't close to matching those he displayed in the offensive end of the ice.

So, with Julien's job on the line -- there's little doubt he would have been fired had the Bruins not gotten past the Canadiens in the first round -- it's hard to blame him for not putting his own future in Seguin's hands, even though Seguin clearly is going to be a key piece of the team's future.

The B's did get past Montreal, even after losing the first two games in Boston, and then swept the Flyers -- all without Seguin.

Despite the fact that the Bruins didn't score a single power play goal in seven games against the Habs, Julien didn't give Seguin a shot to see if he could help.

But it worked out, the Bruins won, and Seguin might still be sitting had not Patrice Bergeron suffered a concussion against Philly.

That prompted -- forced? -- Julien to give the kid some ice time, and he responded by displaying the electrifying speed and creative scoring touch that made him such a highly-regarded prospect, scoring a goal in the series opener with Tampa Bay, and then racking up four points in the second period of the second game, scoring two goals and adding two assists. He added three shots on goal in Thursday night's 2-0 win at Tampa in Game 3.

Some will say that Seguin's time on the sidelines was good for him. That it was an education, and also motivation.

They may have a point.

But the kid had five points in his first two playoff games.

That's why, as Parcells always said, you play guys like that.

Because you just don't know how good they can be.

 

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