Anthony Lancione takes a look at Myers' struggles in Buffalo.
Tyler Myers has certainly been humbled one month into the 2013 season, seeing himself healthy-scratched (for the first time in his NHL career) on consecutive evenings. To say his star value has fallen from his Calder Trophy-winning year over fellow rookies John Tavares, Matt Duchene and Jimmy Howard would be premature. However, one cannot discount that he has not come even close to fulfilling the lofty expectations after he signed a seven year, $38.5 million extension before last season.
Now that he has entered the first year of the new $5.7 peryear deal, there’s no doubt he’s felt the pressure. We can’t forget that Tyler is a very young man, only having turned 23 this month. Learning the hard way at times is the best way to improve, playing to the “take a step backward in order to take two steps forward cliché”.
Myers’ regression is certainly a curious case considering how the caliber of his defensive partners has only seemingly increasing in quality over his short career. Let’s take a look at his signature standout rookie season as a fresh faced 18-year-old with such blueline partners as Henrik Tallinder Chris Butler. Neither will ever be thought of as elite defensemen, yet with them he posted an amazing offensive year for a teenaged rookie defenseman.
The following season, in 2010-2011, his rotating partners did not improve a lick, yet he still pulled off decent numbers despite an over 20% drop in overall production.
Now fast forward past last season’s injury riddled campaign and we can see that he has been lined upside the best defensemen of his career thus far, such as the accomplished Christian Erhoff, former Canadian Olympian, Robyn Regehr, and veteran Jordon Leopold. So one would think his physical maturity, experience in the league and the pairing off with the highest talent and wisdom he’s played with yet would result in at the very least a return to the best he’s already shown a few years back, if not all the makings of a ‘Step Forward Year. That has certainly not been the case as of yet. However, it is well documented that young defensemen take longer to hone their skills compared to forwards.
In fact, Myershas already at least begun to show signs of life again with his first multi-point game of the season a week ago, two games after his half week spent watching from the pressbox. Although he’s followed that up with three straight goose eggs this week, he has at the same time seen his +/- go from an ugly minus-9 up to a minus-6, along with a season-high four blocked shots night over the past few days. But he still has plenty of time to get his offensive instinct right, where his current single assist on the season is still a ways away from the 37 he nabbed in his rookie year.
The odds are certainly in his favour to turn things around as he grows into his body and slowly starts to build up that confidence level again. A string of strong performances in a row can certainly get his momentum back. It should also be noted that his shooting percentage so far is at an all-time high, while his shots on target per game are at an all-time low. So just do the math. More shot attempts equals more goals!
His TOI (Time on Ice) is still among the team leaders at above 20 minutes per game, so the opportunities continue to be provided for him. However, it remains to be seen how the firing of long time stalwart Lindy Ruff and the subsequent promotion of interim coach, Ron Rolston will affect Myers. However, with a new coach, don’t expect anything as bold as a benching for the young Myers so soon for a man, in Mr. Rolston, trying not to do anything too brash or controversial in hopes of having the interim tag removed.
I like Myers’ chances of progressing back to what he’s shown in season’s past that he’s capable of. Let’s not forget his journey to Europe during the lockout which saw him in a totally different ice surface, possibly leaving his talents more neutralized and/or exposed for a man of his stature, unable to impose his will as much on the big surface. He may simply be experiencing a lengthened transition back to his much more comfortable North American brand of hockey, further hampered by an injury suffered overseas, which has likely played a role in his slow start.
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