Sunday, September 23, 2007
A team can build toward becoming a contender for many years. Then the window is open and they either win many times, like the Islanders, Devils and Red Wings did, or once, like the Flames and Stars did or never, like the recent vintage Flyers and Blues, the Sens and the Sharks(so far)? The window opens and then it closes. Done. All that promise gone, squashed by better teams, mistakes at critical times, injuries, plain bad luck.
Imagine then what it would like to be a player who suddenly senses that his own window of opportunity may be closing. Probably the best player on his team for years, highly touted and drafted (or maybe not), greeted by the fans and the organization as someone who will be a star for the home team. Consider Rob Schremp.
As we all know Schremp always had the numbers but along with the numbers came a lot of concerns which is one of the reasons he fell in the draft. His skating, his play without the puck, his attitude - all were called into question. The kid has charisma and a lot of party tricks and a lot of fans fell in love with a guy who has a flair that the franchise has lacked for many years. Ales Hemsky is flashy but quiet. The Oiler players who have formed the core over the past number of years - Smyth, Smith, Staios, Moreau, Marchant, Grier, Horcoff, Pisani, Niinimma, Brewer - were mostly solid guys who got the job done (or not) with minimal fanfare. So fitting then that the Cup finalist team was a veteran team filled with solid players who did all of the little things right. That will win you a lot of games.
Lacrosse moves in a shootout win you nothing.
So Schremp was sent back to junior after his first camp and down to the minors after last year's, despite the outcry in the chatrooms, MySpace and high schools of the nation that given the chance Schremp could prove that he was clearly the superior player to Horcoff, who had only outplayed and outscored MVP Joe Thornton in May '06. Once a pro, Schremp struggled at times and found himself a healthy scratch for an alarming number of games. Then his season ended with a knee injury.
This camp Schremp has shown improved skating by most accounts, decent conditioning and a greater awareness of what he needs to do when he does not have the puck. He is becoming a better player. And he is being passed by prospect after prospect on the depth chart. I wonder if he looks around him and wonders if his window of opportunity, at least with the Oilers, is closing.
Passed by the undrafted Thoresen and the afterthoughts Brodziak and Stortini, who all bring abilities that Schremp does not have. Schremp was never going to be a fourth line energy guy or someone to play the tough minutes; he cannot provide toughness nor can he be counted on to work the PK. So that's well and good - these three may carve out good NHL careers - we certainly hope so - but they are not the same type of player as Schremp.
But Robert Nilsson is. So are Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner and Trukhno. What I mean by the same type of player is that these four would be considered the types who might some day play top six minutes, same as Schremp. Now from what little we have seen I think we might say that Cogliano and Trukhno may be NHL players regardless. They can do those little things without the puck that make them useful players even if they do not fill a top six offensive role.
So here is Schremp and there goes Nilsson, who had his own share of questions and seems to have answered them, for now anyways. There goes Cogliano, zooming by. And Gagner, just a kid, there he goes too. And Trukhno, out of nowhere (not really but sort of), as well.
I wonder what Schremp is thinking. He seems to be getting it but suddenly things look bleak. The window hasn't closed yet but for him, like Marc Pouliot and JF Jacques, time maybe ticking on his time with the Oilers and maybe on his potential as an NHL player (although I think Pouliot has the overall skill set to fit in as a third or fourth line guy, worst case). Next stop could be Ritaville or Winchestertown if he doesn't get a break because I am thinking that is what this guy needs, a break. He needs a couple of guys to fail and a couple more to get hurt and then he needs to take that chance and run with it. Or a couple of years down the road he's on his way out, maybe never to be heard from again.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:44 PM