Monday, 26 August 2013

Douglas Murray, Jarred Tinordi, and Nathan Beaulieu: Bringing Up Baby Too Soon

One of the upshots of the Douglas Murray signature is that it's thought that Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, who were considered to be in the running for a spot on the Canadiens' blueline, are now more likely to at least start the season in the AHL.  Certainly for Jarred Tinordi, who is projected to play the same role in the NHL that Douglas Murray has his entire career, this is a roadblock, and he'll have a less-obvious fit on the team he seemed to have, given the Alexei Emelin injury keeping him out of action until before Christmas.

A lot of observers wonder whether that's a positive development, since they'd like the kids to have a chance to play and develop, while others, me included, prefer a slow progression, a chance for a young player to dominate at a certain level before he moves up.  Jarred Tinordi had a productive season in Hamilton, but is far from having nothing left to learn at that level.  And we all remember Marc Bergevin's quote about often regretting bringing a player up too soon, but seldom regretting bringing them up too late.

For Jarred Tinordi, a 21-year-old who is still maturing physically, and would have been asked to play a physical role on the team, it's especially important that he be ready, since he'd be challenged by goons and tough guys and that's not optimal for a player who still has a lot of learning and filling out to do.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago on Jarred and Nathan, and regarding being rushed up too soon and skill development, and used learning how to juggle as an analogy.  We also mentioned how Larry Robinson had the luxury of being drafted by a stacked Canadiens team, and was allowed to play in Halifax for a couple of seasons and develop his game, as opposed to comparable player Harold Snepts, who went straight to the NHL with the talent-starved Canucks, and never developed beyond a mediocre level.

This brings up the question: "Is there really any evidence that young(ish) players are ruined by playing in the NHL too soon?"

I think it's hard to have any scientific evidence with all or even most variables controlled.  We could do a statistical analysis on draftees who make it to the NHL, but I'm not even sure how we'd set it up, what parameters we'd employ.  There are so many variables to control, ownership, coaching, team and fan pressure, contracts, team needs, that it's almost impossible to do.

Practically, I think there is lots of anecdotal evidence of teams and desperate 'win now' GM's, or GM's selling hope for the future to their fan base, of rushing young players up to the big leagues before they're ready.  Either the kid isn't ready skills-wise and treads water, never getting to a point where he can progress and improve, or the money/fame goes to the rookie's head and he slacks off in practice or off-ice.

In our case, based on my limited knowledge of the particulars here, I think Jarred Tinordi is mentally readier to be in the NHL, he has a level head on his shoulders and seems to have the makeup and attitude to come in as a #6 and work hard to improve in practice, to do what the coaches tell him, and to not get too jubilant or too depressed based on results.  Greg Pateryn, based on his age alone, would be next in my mind, plus he has the added bonus of being a righty.  But "readier" doesn't mean ready, and I'll be happy if they have to slog it out in the AHL and prove their case rather than having a spot handed to them, and then having to keep our fingers crossed that they can pull it off.

Nathan Beaulieu, for reasons we're familiar with, needs to spend another season in the minors to gain physical and mental maturity.  He seems to have the skills to get to the next step, it's just his emotional intelligence I worry about.

So Douglas Murray will serve many roles on the Canadiens this season, but possibly his most important will be allowing our defence prospects to continue their apprenticeship in the AHL without any pressure to perform in the NHL right away.

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