I was unsure whether to actually tackle this issue and whether it would even be worthwhile, well before Sunday's "incident" involving Tyler Seguin and Twitter. The trade of the young center to the Dallas Stars had fueled the flames of an absolute whirlwind of beat-down stories that did nothing but further Seguin's reputation as a hopeless young hockey player that the Bruins and their fans were more than happy to be rid of.
From afar, it was troubling to see. Even if Seguin had not been traded to the Stars this would have been an embarrassment to witness, with fans and local media seemingly focused on using every means necessary to justify the trading of a young, talented and incredibly promising 21-year old center. The timeline of events is certainly telling.
The 2013 Postseason Woes
Seguin enjoyed a fine season in 2011-2012, leading the Bruins in goals and overall scoring for the season and earning an All-Star nod in just his second season. Expectations were even higher for his third year, with Seguin supposed to truly break out and take over the veteran-heavy team on their way to another hopeful Stanley Cup run. With 16 goals and 32 points, Seguin had what some will call a bit of a "down" year -- despite being just four points off the team scoring lead -- and found his ice time and second-line opportunities cut down once the team traded for Jaromir Jagr.
The troubles truly began in the postseason, however, as the Bruins struggled against a tough Toronto Maple Leafs team. As the playoffs wore on, Seguin's offensive issues continued to build; after a fairly consistent season without any truly prolonged "slumps," Seguin suddenly struggled to put the puck in the net. You'll hear stories about how he wasn't playing hard enough, or how he was forced to play on the third line because of his poor performances, but anyone that actually watched these games objectively could see that Seguin was still one of the better players on the ice.
In fact, with the Chicago Blackhawks making adjustments to shut down the top lines of the Bruins in the Cup Final, Seguin and the line of Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille were the catalyst for several big wins for the Bruins in the series.
In fact, Tyler Seguin put the puck on net 70 times in the playoffs overall -- second on the Bruins only to Patrice Bergeron (71) and No. 6 overall among all players in the postseason. Seguin accomplished this despite averaging nearly five minutes of ice time less per game than the top shot-producers in the postseason. Seguin's possession numbers were more than adequate, not as good as the regular season but far from sub-par to the point of worry. So why was Seguin dumped upon so heavily by the fans and media in the wake of the Cup loss and the trade?
Seguin enjoyed just a 1.4 percent shot percentage in the postseason, scoring just one goal all the way through to the Cup Final. His production fell off a cliff when the team needed it the most, and instantly stories began to surface as to why such troubles had befallen such a promising young player in the postseason.
Fact: Hockey Players Like to Party
Troubles away from the rink, or the baseball diamond, or the football field -- or whatever -- are nothing new for professional athletes. Many times these are players handed an incredible amount of money at a very young age without the skills necessary on how to best lead their life with such privileges. Many of the top players have led a life where they have been catered to and spoiled nearly their entire lives under the guise of their sport; this is a problem most notable in college sports, which feeds into the NFL and NBA more than any other.
In a time, however, where the news is filled with legal troubles of football and basketball players -- and the performance-enhancing drug issues of baseball -- the hockey community is notably devoid of such issues. There are some problems every now and then (Khabibulin, Heatley) but the actual legal issues are few and far between.
At the same time, however, hockey players are not known for exactly being the shining example a church-going choir boy. NHL teams, all across the league, will hit the bars hard and often during the season -- usually while on the road and usually immediately after a game. Overall, most of these teams and players have found the perfect balance between these partying ways and maintaining their professionalism and success on the ice.
For some players, their partying ways tend to transcend the normal controls hockey players have on this lifestyle and suddenly they're thrown into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Patrick Kane is perhaps the best example of this, and his issues only truly came to be known one he was actually arrested for assault on a cab driver.
So why has Tyler Seguin's partying issues become such a big news story?
There's no doubting that there is some truth behind everything that's been written about and discussed the past month or so. Seguin has likely enjoyed his fair share of drunken enjoyment away from the rink and perhaps has done so to a bit of an extreme level. He's earned a reputation around Boston as a friendly guy around the local bars and had become incredibly popular with the local ladies as well, for various reasons, and has almost certainly enjoyed being a single multi-millionaire in one of the biggest partying cities in the nation.
Let there be no doubt, Boston is nothing but one long drunken exercise in debauchery for those of the right age and disposition.
Such a lifestyle is far from a problem, however, unless it starts to affect the reason you're a millionaire in the first place. This is where Seguin's story starts to hit a bit of a wall, as it's been written about how his struggles in Toronto during the playoffs were due to late-night parties with local friends that had him showing up at the rink in the same clothes three days in a row.
Seguin did not play well in those games in Toronto. After those struggles, and perhaps tied to his off-ice life making it's way to the rink, Seguin had a sit-down with his coaches and basically reset himself for the remainder of the postseason. By all accounts he was just as engaged as any other player on the team and despite his offensive struggles, was working the best he could to shore up the rest of his game to best help out his team.
The damage was done, however.
The Unforgiving Media
"He's got to commit his mind and focus to the one task at hand. He's got to become more of a professional. You know what? I can say that about a lot of 21-year-olds. I know he got criticized for playing on the periphery and all that stuff. He did. He's got to commit to being a professional and focusing on the game. Simple as that. He does that, we don't expect him to be crashing and banging. Just play your game."
These were the words of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli at the NHL Draft, as rumors of Boston looking to trade Seguin had hit a fever pitch. At the time it seemed to be nothing but a scare tactic, the team trying to get a young player's mind back on the right track after perhaps a bump in the road during the postseason.
At the time, it was discussed a bit that Seguin had perhaps been living the NHL lifestyle perhaps a bit too hard. Nothing, however, reached the levels of character assassination that occurred almost the minute that Seguin was traded to the Dallas Stars on July 4th. A player that enjoyed the nightlife and being single suddenly became the biggest problem child of the NHL, a bane on the existence of the Boston Bruins and a hindrance to their abilities to getting back to hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The way the Boston media seemingly took such joy in taking down Seguin on his way out of town has been downright troubling and bit sickening to those looking in from the outside. On the way out was a player the team apparently couldn't wait to get rid of, according to these reports, and fans were told just how thankful they should be that Boston had finally traded this troubled young superstar who was nowhere near worth the trouble afforded him.
The team had to post guards outside his hotel door, the reports said. Seguin enjoyed such a hard party lifestyle, there was no doubt whatsoever why he couldn't score in the postseason -- obviously it was the neverending supply of Jagerbombs and shots of SoCo.
On top of all this, troubles on social media added fuel to the fire. A late-night tweet that was construed as being "anti-gay" was sent out and promptly deleted, with Seguin having a meeting with You Can Play's Patrick Burke on the dangers of using such terms as a public figure.
With reports of the partying and hard lifestyle hitting every sports outlet in the Northeast, another tweet was sent out from Seguin's account that once again created a stir of controversy. The timing could not have been worse, as Seguin was on the verge of being formally introduced to Dallas, and did nothing but give detractors another weapon to use against him.
"See? He's nothing but trouble! Glad to be rid of him."
The Dangers of the Modern News Cycle
To their credit, there is a good portion of the Boston media that hasn't jumped all over this and has focused on the hockey aspect of the trade. There are those in Boston that feel the Bruins "gave up" on Seguin too early, that the focus on winning immediately sacrificed the chance to keep the youngest and most promising player on one of the oldest teams in the NHL.
Yet the dramatic nature of the stories had already hit a fever pitch and as so often happens in sports these days, a national controversial story was borne out of almost nothing.
Just like modern social media and the 24-hour need for constant entertainment has completely ruined "news" reporting in this country, the same cycle has had a similar effect on how we report sports. Twitter, and the need for instant gratification on sports news has created this demand for a constant flow of entertainment when it comes to our favorite sports and teams.
As a result of this, the lives and activities of players away from the field of play have received an even bigger spotlight than ever before. There is a very real demand for the inherent drama that surrounds sports an the teams we love, and many times that drama receives significantly more attention when such team has a much higher public profile than others.
We see it with the Dallas Cowboys, and the incessant fixation on the ongoings of what Tony Romo is and isn't doing away from Valley Ranch and how any hint of locker room dissension suddenly warrants helicopters and live broadcasts from the parking lot to talk about how one player might not be too happy with the other.
This doesn't happen so much with the Dallas Stars, but it certainly happens with other teams in the NHL. Look at Toronto, Vancouver or the New York Rangers. You better believe it happens with every single team in the Boston area, and perhaps more than any other market.
Living in Connecticut for ten years, I witnessed firsthand the fascination and obsession local fans had with their teams. Any poor play on the field or on the ice could be explained away because of what so-and-so was doing with so-and-so the night before, and obviously such-and-such player just didn't care and that's the reason for the struggles. The way that fans would instantly turn on their favorite players the moment a weakness was discovered was impressive to behold, and the level of animosity these fans would speak about these players -- real people -- was at times downright sickening.
This phenomenon was turned full force on Tyler Seguin almost the minute he was traded. The media turned full-on against him and in turn the fans, who for some reason decided that a 4th of July party that Seguin attended after being traded was Evidence Exhibit No. 1 of why this was such a great move by Boston and they were glad to be rid of him.
The "sources" feeding these stories to the local media might or might not exist. I don't think any of the writers explicitly made up stories about Seguin, but you wonder about the motivations of those feeding these stories to the local media. After all, this was a beloved young player with the fanbase -- at least he had been -- and justifying the trade was going to be very tough for the team to accomplish. After all, logic says the trade had as much to do with finances and the direction of the team as it might have had with the perceived off-ice issues of a 21-year old hockey player.
That story, however, doesn't sell papers. That story doesn't generate the attention of a story about a hockey player guarded at his hotel door, who was such a problem the team couldn't wait to be rid of him.
Take a look at this latest Twitter controversy and you'll see the perfect example of a story being made out of absolutely nothing. The tweet itself, while a bit distasteful, was nowhere near the level of hate-speech and anti-gay rhetoric the stories would have you believe. Even Patrick Burke thought it wasn't near as big a deal as it was instantly made out to be.
Many thought it was a poor decision by a friend, playing a joke using Seguin's account. Others thought it could have been a legitimate hacking job. No matter what, the blame was placed on Seguin's shoulders and the damage was already done.
This is the sports media landscape in which we live, and any public transgressions are immediately pounced upon. For Seguin, it was a snowball racing down a mountain and the timing of it all really could not have been worse.
Moving Forward, Moving On & Embracing A Fresh Start
"I think it's a great chance for Tyler to turn the page," Stars general manager Jim Nill said during the team's press conference. "He's starting a new career down here in Dallas. We had a great talk about it. He's the only one that knows what happened with his Twitter situation, and I just think it's time to move on and go from there."
The drama surrounding Seguin and this non-existent Twitter controversy followed him to the introductory press conference on Tuesday. The AAC press room was filled with reporters and cameras, more than many expected, and you wonder just how much the drama played a part in this attention. This Dallas media, so used to engaging in such drama with the Cowboys and really not knowing as much about hockey as they should, did their part to pounce on the controversy in what some feel to be embarrassing fashion.
Endless questions about the Twitter account. Asking Jim Nill whether he even believed Seguin's explanation that his accounts were hacked. It was frustrating to listen to, and it wasn't exactly the introduction to Dallas that the Stars and Seguin perhaps imagined.
"Yeah, it's troubling," said Seguin, when asked about this being the initial impression in Dallas. "Definitely you want to come to a new place, but I think in the end I want to earn the respect of my teammates, management and coaches but fans as well. I'm looking forward to that opportunity. With the Twitter stuff, it was impeccable timing for all that to happen and if I heard someone else say that their Twitter was hacked, I wouldn't think they mean it. But it was my Twitter, my emails, my iTunes account. There's a few other things that someone got a hold of. In the end, all you can do is move on from that. I'm looking forward to a great summer here and moving on to put this behind me."
For his part, Seguin has been more than professional in all of his interactions with the media following the trade to Dallas. Acknowledging that the media has their own job to do, he talked a lot about embracing a fresh start with the Dallas Stars and wanting to step into the shoes of the great No. 1 centers of the past and living up to those high expectations.
An incredibly talented and promising young center, Seguin has only begun to tap the limits of his potential. After being relegated to the wing and lower lines in Boston, Seguin will step into the top-line center role in Dallas and suddenly becomes the catalyst for the new beginning this franchise has been searching for.
Not since the days of Mike Modano have the Stars had such a young talent step into the circle, and there will undoubtedly be incredibly high expectations placed upon his shoulders as he moves into such high-profile job in Dallas. Seguin, a charismatic young man off the ice, seems fully prepared for the pressures ahead of him.
The timing of the stories surfacing about Seguin's troubles were certainly interesting to behold, and he'll be afforded the fresh start his needs with the Dallas Stars. The team's management seem focused on putting this drama behind them and if Seguin does his part -- and does everything possible to keep his name out of the wrong headlines -- then this will all be but a funny memory that kicked off an incredible run with the Dallas Stars.
Rich Peverley, acquired from Boston along with Seguin, now knows the young center better than any other player on this team. Playing on Seguin's line from time to time, and sitting next to him in the locker room, Peverley had the chance to really get to know the 21-year old. When asked during last week's conference call about the controversies, Peverley was quick to defend a player that those that know him describe as hard working, committed and incredibly talented.
"I think Tyler is under quite the microscope here in Boston," said Peverley. "I've heard a lot of things in the past 24 hours about Tyler and I don't think it's true. It's unfortunate that it's coming to people talking like that. He works very hard and he's got a lot more mature in the three years that I've known him.
"He commits himself to the game and getting better," he continued. "I don't see any reason he can't continue to improve all the time. Like I said, he works very hard and he's a committed individual. For Boston to let him go at a young age, I am sure he is going to be motivated to do well. I am excited for him because it's a new start, a fresh start and I am sure he is excited."
Tyler Seguin is far from a perfect person. There is a balance between being a professional at the rink and living a fun lifestyle away from it, and perhaps he's still trying to learn that balance. Perhaps he was a bit of an immature, young and single player in a locker room filled with married veterans and his struggles to fit in with his team led to some poor choices on his own time.
What is clear, however, is that the drama surrounding his arrival in Dallas has been incredibly overblown by an opportunistic media and an incredibly unforgiving fanbase. With the Stars, Seguin has the chance to start completely fresh and for many players -- that's all that's really needed to turn everything around.