I shaved for the first time in about two months over the weekend.
Needless to say, I look very different than I did a few days ago. I have no real attachment to my facial hair: I simply lack the motivation necessary to stay clean shaven and instead cut it close once things get out of hand.
I’d like to think I act the same no matter how much hair I have on my head, but of course that got me thinking about Tyler Myers.
Aphorisms about dust jackets are nice, but the fact of the matter is that people treat me differently when I don’t have a beard. It is something I have become acutely aware of, and the first few days without a beard always takes a bit of getting used to.
In a half hour I go from someone who doesn’t look very trustworthy (or employed) to a choir boy who needs to show ID at R-rated movies. I don’t like it one bit, but it is an interesting experiment in how important visuals are when communicating with strangers. To people I know my beard is of minor consequence to who I am, but to outsiders it is extremely influential.
So what does this have to do with Tyler Myers? Well, I wonder what has changed with the now-struggling Calder Trophy winner. Aside from the fantastic road uniform, what’s the difference between this Tyler Myers and the one we saw last year? He looks slightly different, sure, but a year is a long time for someone so young.
Facial maturation for Myers aside, the main difference between myself and Tyler Myers is that my transformation is only on the outside, while his is completely within him.
Tyler Myers is a different person than he was at this time last year, and it’s not his fault. Not really, anyway. One of the great truths of growing up is that people change, and it is impossible to prevent it from happening.
Let’s face it: Everything changes when you grow up. You have different friends or go to different schools or listen to different music. Some people start to like Radiohead, some people study abroad for a semester and some people score 48 points in 82 games as a 19-year-old while average almost 24 minutes on ice per game.
It’s pretty clear that Tyler Myers is not your average 20-year-old these days. He is a freak of nature, an abnormally tall hockey player with a beautiful skating stride that had a charmed first season in the National Hockey League. You cannot relate to him because other than the fact that he too eats at Subway, you have nothing in common with him.
So it is impossible to really understand what’s going on with Myers right now. Myers has had an enormous shift in expectations and praise and emotions, some of which he has zero control over. But it all adds up, and suddenly it’s not working anymore. The hype, both internal and external, has changed who he is.
As hard as he’s taking it, fans seem to be taking it that much harder. Where we once saw shades of Chara or Lidstrom we now find shades of Andy Delmore, and that’s downright terrifying when you consider how great Myers was last season.
This season’s Tyler Myers is thinking too much, making too many mistakes and just plain trying too hard. Fans have talked about the sophomore slump so much that it has almost lost its meaning, but the psychological effect is impossible to dispute.
It’s not a jinx or a curse, it’s a reaction to things you can’t control but want to more than anything. In the English Premiere League it’s called Second Season Syndrome, and it has a lot to do with the structure of the league itself. Teams often can’t live up to the success they had to start, the surge of emotions and adrenaline new things can give you. Eventually things seem to equal out and even depress further.
I like the idea of the sophomore slump because it encapsulates something we just can’t “get” as fans. Sure, all of us have grown up and gone through middle school or struggled inexplicably. We all survived our awkward phase, but none of us have been as ridiculously successful as Myers was last season, only to struggle so much this year.
It’s such a solitary issue, such a singular problem. There are very few people who have dealt with what Myers is enduring right now, and so it’s hard to offer any answers. Even in the locker room, one of the few things familiar to him right now, who has an answer to what Myers is going through?
Right now Sabres fans are waiting for two things to happen. The first one is watching the Sabres get things together as a team and win some hockey games. The second is, of course, is waiting for Tyler Myers to find his way again. We want so badly for him to be great, but hopes and dreams from the stands can’t help him right now.
My beard is slowly growing back, but the changes Myers is dealing with are of a much more permanent sort. I’m not sure what will get fixed first: The Sabres as a whole or Tyler Myers. I think the latter can help fix the former, but I’m not sure many points in the standings can help number 57 right now.