B’s first rounders fail conditioning test

Not exactly the “shot heard ’round the world,” yesterday, but the three top picks by the Boston Bruins failed their conditioning run yesterday during the fitness testing portion of rookie camp.

All three of Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn did not meet the standard for the 300-meter cone sprint sparking some predictable reactions from folks who sit behind computers and opine on such things in both the media and fandom. And, yes, that includes yours truly.

A couple of thoughts on this little tempest in a teacup-

  1. I said this on Twitter yesterday, but B’s strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides is a tough taskmaster and he needs to be. Otherwise, just about anyone off the street could come in and pass a set of tests designed for elite athletes. He’s a hardass. He also gets results. And it’s far easier to set the bar high at the beginning and force people to pass a tough standard up front (even if it means a few people flunk) than to set the bar too low.
  2. The three players don’t get off scot-free either- they had to know that they would be heavily scrutinized coming into this, their first NHL rookie camp. They attended Boston’s development camp in July, and got to know Whitesides a bit. They should have been better prepared on Day 1, period.
  3. It was a test, an indicator- and it serves as a very good learning point for all three. Sometimes, we forget that these players are not professional athletes- yet. In a perfect world, they would have aced the run, but they didn’t. Whether you chalk that up to a failure to be prepared, factor in the humidity and slick turf conditions that DeBrusk referenced (he came closest to passing of the three) or what have you- what matters most is what the three players do next.

I’m not absolving them of blame, but we live in an imperfect world. I, for one, am far more interested in seeing how they respond to this public embarrassment. In the long term, it might end up being better for them to go through this minor setback and better understand that just because they were all picked inside the top-15, does not mean they are going to be held to a different standard in this organization, or coddled and enabled- one standard for all- from the top selection down to the most junior undrafted camp invite. If nothing else, it has certainly given Whitesides three “project” guys that he can place a certain amount of…ahem- attention and emphasis on. And believe me- they’re going to get that.

Lost in the shuffle a bit was everyone else who passed the Day 1 testing. Zboril, DeBrusk and Senyshyn should be a little embarrassed that they’re under the microscope for the wrong reasons, and you have to give credit to the other rookies who met the standard. Some of them had been through it before, others had not. But at the end of the day, let’s give the kids a chance to respond to the setback and see how well they learn from it. I’m not criticizing those who are concerned about what this means for the players going forward, but I also remember being 18 once and having a hell of a hard time on an ROTC obstacle course the first time I went through it. I’m not an elite athlete, but I learned from my mistakes as and got better as I went along. By my senior year, I earned the Department of the Army Superior Cadet Award. Anyone who saw me in my early cadet days would not have believed that possible.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is- letting a little fire lit under them right out of the gate may end up being a blessing in disguise. In my mind- give them a mulligan, but they’re going to have to get busy and do everything else above the standard to the best of their ability. They can learn from this and resolve to not let it happen again, becoming better eventual pros in the process, or not. But how they respond is up to them.

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