Tyler Myers can chuckle about it now, but he was a beaten man last season. He was a physical wreck, a mental disaster. It showed nearly every time he stepped on the ice or up to a microphone.
Something had to give. Actually, pretty much everything had to give.
“You have a year like you did last year, you want to change some things,” the Buffalo Sabres defenseman said Friday. “I’ll be the first to say, that’s not me as a player last year. I have to be much better.”
Not looking for anyone to blame, Myers took it upon himself to improve as a player and person this summer. He trained his body and mind in ways he never had before, and the early results suggest a turnaround is on the way.
“It’s just a matter of the way you handle different situations and make sure you stay on yourself,” he said. “A lot of things went on last year that got in my head. It just goes back to the mental training side of it, of how you prevent yourself from heading downhill mentally instead of stopping that and making sure you stay at your peak. It’s confidence level and how you build that confidence.
“It’s an everyday process that’s taking time, but it’s definitely in the right direction.”
Myers appears to have cleared the initial obstacle from last season. He arrived out of shape and never got right. He recorded just eight points in 39 games, while opponents scored 2.7 goals per 60 minutes of ice time, worst among Buffalo defensemen.
The resident of Kelowna, British Columbia, decided to spend much of this offseason working out in Buffalo with other Sabres.
“It’s always good to get a group together and train off of each other,” Myers said. “You get a nice push off of each other, try and beat each other in everything. We made it fun.”
When Myers went home between visits, he didn’t go alone. He asked the organization if he could bring an intern from the strength and conditioning department with him. The Sabres’ Matt Wietlispach flew to Kelowna and worked out Myers daily.
“I just thought it would be best for me to get the most out of the Buffalo Sabres’ training program,” Myers said. “It was awesome. I still got the benefit of seeing friends and family at home, but the way he pushed me in mornings and what we got out of the Sabres’ program, I’m really happy I did that.”
The results are noticeable. Myers’ brain, though, could prove even more important than his body. While his game was slow, his mind raced. He spiraled deep into funks and couldn’t regain the confidence needed by a professional athlete.
The 23-year-old is trying to change his thought processes into something more suitable for the NHL.
“The mental side of it is something that’s pretty new to me,” he said. “I’ve never really branched off in that area before in the past to this depth, I would say, but the steps that I’m taking with that they’re really helping me.
“I’m sure I’ll be growing for the next 15 years of my career. I’m sure Sidney Crosby has growing to do each year. It’s just a matter of making sure you get better at picking up what situation it is and what opportunity you have in that situation to figure out how you handle it.
“It’s an everyday thing. It’s not take a day off and hope you get it the next day. It’s improving every day.”
An improved Myers would tremendously help the Sabres. He says they don’t need as much help as people think.
“I don’t think any of the guys coming in this year are looking at it as a rebuild year,” Myers said. “There’s obviously been a lot of talk about the transition period and the rebuild period, but we have guys in this room that if we come with the belief system that we’re going to be a hard team to play against and we’re going to go into games telling ourselves we’re going to win instead of hoping we’re going to win, we’ll have success.”
Myers will be one of the guys in the dressing room insisting everyone works hard. The fifth-year pro is willing to step up and demand accountability.
“I’ve been here long enough now that I’m feeling pretty comfortable with being able to say anything to the older guys, and I expect them to say something to me if I need a talking to,” said Myers, who is impressed by the intensity shown during the opening scrimmages of training camp. “That’s one thing we lacked a little bit in the last couple of years was just being a hard team to play against. The way guys were playing today, we’re going to have to not only continue that trend but make it even better.”
The Sabres are ready to see Myers be better than last year.
“Mysie has had an unbelievable summer,” coach Ron Rolston said. “Where he’s at and where he needs to go, I think his summer was dedicated to that and working in those areas. He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s in really good shape, both physically and I think mentally. I think he’s going to play well.”