Marco. Polo.

The problem with this post is that it will appear as though I’m making excuses, so let me say up front that the reason for doing it is the disconnect between Marc Pouliot’s draft number, implied value and current performance.

I’m not one of those people who buys into the theory that players from specific geographic areas or ethnic backgrounds are “tougher”, “more skilled” or in any way greater or lesser based on anything other than God-given skills.

You is or you ain’t.

One of the things I’ve always believed about prospects is that the key year is their draft season, their 17-year old season. After they are drafted, junior (or college) players usually move up the depth chart based on age and experience, but you have to be pretty damn good to get 500 at-bats at 17 in the Q, W or O.

Redline Report wrote born in Quebec City, Quebec 5/22/85. Pouliot is considered a very good two way player. He pays attention to his own end of the ice which is surprising for a Quebec League player. He also played for a bad team in the Rimouski Oceanic. Scouts reportedly would only go to see him play and the assessment was a question: how much better could he have been if he had some wingers to play with? There also were some questions as to whether he was taking some nights off. Still, there are those who think he is an exceptional talent and could be a solid second line center in the NHL. Pouliot played for Team Canada at the recent WJC’s. He recorded only 2 goals, but had 9 points in 7 games. He scored 32 goals in his second year in the QMJHL last year. Look for him to increase those numbers next season.

My knowledge of Marc-Antoine Pouliot’s injury problems began at the top prospects game when Dion Phaneuf leveled him with a vicious (and imo clean) check that gave him a concussion. I have read he had some back problems the previous season but could never verify it.

Fast forward to the draft. Quoting Pouliot “The Edmonton Oilers are one of my favorite teams, to play for a Canadian team is just awesome. They met me twice, and I thought they were interested in me. When they picked me, it was awesome.”

Indeed it was.

After being drafted Pouliot had some bad luck. In the summer of 2003 he got hurt at the Canadian WJC camp in Calgary (hip) and that had a major impact on his 18-year old season. It also hurt his performance at the Oilers rookie camp just two months after being drafted. In November 2003 he suffered an abdominal injury and missed the Q/Russia prospects game and he played on 42 QMJHL games that season, finally having surgery in Montreal in summer 2004 to repair the abdominal tissues.

There also appears to be another injury during the 2003-04 season. Quoting Kevin Prendergast in an interview with Guy Flaming (HF) from spring 2004 “He plays hard and gets slashed and hacked but he did play three weeks with a broken wrist which goes to show you that he’s a pretty tough kid to be able to go through that pain. He’s the captain of his team for a reason. He’s creative, gritty, he’s got really good hockey sense. We fully anticipate that this kid is going to be a number one center in the NHL.”

He had a wonderful 04-05, healthy and playing with Sidney Crosby. Quoting an NHL scout “Pouliot has progressed and done everything he has to do to become a great pro. His skating, his first step and his speed have all improved while his commitment and his skills were always good. I don’t know if I’ve seen a kid from that draft year whose curve has gone upwards as much as his has.”

That’s the beauty 2003 draft. Marc Pouliot played 90 games in a row (including Mem Cup) to end his junior career and turned pro as a 1st rder with high expectations. This was the period when the Oilers were farming out their juniors to whatever team could promise them work plus room and board. He went to Hamilton and started slowly there for coach Don Lever: “I put Marc on right wing about three weeks ago and then he started to come on a bit and he had a seven or eight-game point streak. He has great offensive skills as far as passing the puck and he does have better than average skating which we’re starting to see. It’s been the last two or three weeks where he’s started to come on and skating better and that’s made him a lot more effective.”

It was during this period that it was first mentioned that Pouliot might not be that “1line center” talked about in a quote above. 2line, checking line came into the conversation and the idea that he would be a winger or utility player became a possibility. He was named the Bulldogs MVP in 05-06 and played in his first NHL games. There was talk that he would be part of the playoff run but that became a distant bell with news that Pouliot had mono and had been sent home.

Fall ’06 was Pouliot’s “window”, his opportunity to grab an NHL job and work toward establishing himself as an NHL regular. Summer saw nice words from a scout in the organization: “The progression he has made over the last year by turning pro, starting slow, playing very well then coming to the NHL and fitting in, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what he can bring. He’s done nothing but impress a lot of people this past year.”

He did not make the team, and what’s more when the first callup was required Edmonton chose Toby Petersen. On November 19 they sent out JF Jacques, but chose Zack Stortini as the callup. Finally when Ales Hemsky was injured November 28, 2006 the Oilers recalled Pouliot. During his 46 NHL games in 06-07, he played well and showed signs of being a player who could help a major league team. His game in Toronto (the penalty shot game) would have to rank as his career high-water mark at this point in time.

Entering this fall I felt Pouliot had a job sewn up. At the JM Cup update I posted Marc Pouliot: Impressed me on several levels today. The goal was nice (not for the shot) because he made a nifty move at the end to get a better shooting angle and clearance from the defender. He battled every shift and paid a price physically (I think it was Smid who hit him pretty damn hard) and made a stunning pass to Marty for what would have been an easy goal but Marty didn’t have his GD stick on the ice. 1 goal, 1 assist.

However, the Oilers had moved him off center and put him in with the role players and checkers, giving the cherry minutes and skilled linemates to Cogliano, Gagner and others. At a very young age, it looked for all the world like Pouliot was getting long in the tooth for this Oilers team. He made the club out of camp but did not adjust to his role and now finds himself as a 1line center in the AHL. That’s exactly where he was back in Hamilton in ’05.

The reasons for his lack of progress have been tossed around endlessly. Conditioning, the lack of an AHL franchise during his first pro seasons, lack of desire on his part and his ethnic background.

I don’t buy ethnic background, and am at least dubious about desire. Conditioing we can talk about, and I’d also like to explore those injuries as a possibility.

Especially the ones during his junior career.

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12 Responses to "Marco. Polo."

  1. jon says:

    Lowetide, one of the reasons I come to your sight is for the valuable insight you give into players and player comps. I’m not good at this thing but I have a question for you, could marty reasoner be a good comp for MAP? They seem to both have been touted as goal scorers only to be toiling in the AHL for a season too many? Marty redefined his game upon joining the Oilers, is it possible to see MAP used differently next year…wherever he is? Just a thought I had.

  2. Lord Bob says:

    If memory serves me right, Reasoner was always… and I mean always… a better defensive player than Pouliot is today. When his offensive game failed to develop, the transition to a 3/4C wasn’t nearly as big as it would be for Pouliot.

  3. Lowetide says:

    jon: Based on where they were drafted (Reasoner in the middle of the first round in a rather poor draft, Pouliot at 22 in a very deep draft) their pedigree would probably be about the same. Good point you’re making.

    The problem is that the 2003 draft had world beaters everywhere but Edmonton’s turns.

  4. KlingonHockey says:

    Marc Pouliot sucks. End of story. He’s 22 years old and turning in a performance in the AHL that might please an organization if he were a 3rd rounder. Given the draft he was taken in, the cluster of players taken around him (especially Parise – old debate but it just keeps smarting more and more as Parise continues to excel), it’s absolutely horrendous. This organization is where it is now because of asset failures like this one, the Pronger trade, and the Smyth trade. The whole concept of quality over quality in an apex league like the NHL is lost on Lowe.

    What happened to all that character the scouts were so excited about? “The only player that tried on a crappy team.” If he had 3/4 of the character of a guy like Stortini he would have made the team 2 years ago. The truth is, Marc Antoine Pouliot is a loser. He clearly has the skill, but his progress suggests a guy that spends more time feeling sorry for himself because of demotions; criticisms; injuries; and being uglier than Lyle Lovett, than self-improvement.

    I can’t wait until Katz takes over. I don’t believe the notion that he’s a fan of Lowe as GM. Surely as the man that built the Rexall empire, he’s able to accurately assess managerial incompetence. The last thing he’s going to do is leave his new toy in Lowe’s inept hands.

    I’m going to pretend that our 2003 first rounder died in a tragic plane crash; something completely out of the Oiler’s control and not the result of a terrible fucking conscious decision.

  5. Black Dog says:

    I think he lost his confidence last spring in that awful run last spring after Smyth was traded. If he had done much of anything during those twenty games then he would have been set. Instead I think that MacT, who was a fan of his iirc, and Lowe looked at those twenty games, saw nothing and decided it was time to move on.

    He lost confidence in himself, they lost confidence in him and from their the cycle continued to where we are today.

    Too bad.

  6. voxel says:

    Marc wrote his own ticket to the A after a poor showing in the preseason (save for a goal against the Falmes) and a pathetic 8-9 games. How could a player with his size and speed be so weak on the puck? Amazing passer tho’ but we have too many of those already.

  7. Dennis says:

    Not just because there are at least a couple of us who liked both fellows, but there’s at least one numerical link between Rita and Pouliot: impressive rookie seasons.

    The difference is that MacT was around for both guys and he seemed to like Pouliot far more than Rita. The thing that always haunted me about Pouliot, even when he wasn’t getting scored on, was I wondered just where his goals would come from. There are certain guys that can score from anywhere, ie Hemsky might not score a whack of goals but he might snipe from any particular area, and then there are fellows that you wonder about. Despite that awesome PS goal on HNIC, I still had my doubts about his goal scoring abilities. But, he was posting a good Desjardin number and we all know that matters.

    And I think it matters to MacT as well.

    But somewhere along the way, something happened. I remember the pic of Pouliot smiling along with the rest of the fellows at last summer’s conditoning camp in Cali and it seems things are going along fine. But then the real camp opens and he’s stuck with the shittiest/youngest kind of linemates and the Oilers have newfound crushes in Gagner and Cogliano. That’s fine because they’re more appealing out of the box but now with the Oilers calling up Thor because he’s hard to score on, you wonder why Pouliot didn’t get that call.

    It makes me think that MacT’s sick of him and I wonder how that came to be.

  8. Ribs says:

    I’ve suggested the Reasoner comparison as well and truthfully I believe Pouliot will end up being a better player than he is at some point.

    Poo got kicked around in preseason by just about everyone behind the bench and didn’t seem to get the encouragement he needed. With Cogs and Gagner being MacT’s new darlings, guys like Poo and Schremp and Jacques fell to the wayside a bit. Heck, I’d even throw Nilsson into that mix.

    Which isn’t an extremely bad thing. MacT always gives out the tough love and for the most part it works for him.
    I think if Pouliot was given Reasoners shifts this year he would have pulled off similar results. It seems as if MacT wants the guy to be a 2nd line guy or nothing.

    I know a lot of fans have given up on him but I see him doing a pretty good job in the AHL and I still think he has the tools to crack the/a NHL club.

    We should probably keep in mind that Marty Reasoner is UFA after the season ends.

  9. Dennis says:

    My only problem with that, though, Ribs is that I don’t ever remember reading that Reasoner had a clue in his own end when I read all about his scoring exploits in Hockey East and in the A.

    I remember him scoring a couple of beauty goals for the Blues in the playoffs one year against the Stars and then I was disappointed that he didn’t show much offensive skill when he came to us. I know there was that one season he was creating chances every game but then Mush hit him into the boards in TO and when he came back, he wasn’t the same. And speaking of ijuries, I’ve never seen him create offense like that since.

    To me it was like Reasoner just decided he couldn’t score anymore so he’d use his smarts to defend and he was one of the few guys who checked his ego and began to actually check.

    In that regard, Pouliot’s always been a guy who’s had the rep as knowing how to play in his own end so he should be ahead of that curve.

    I just think that Pouliot didn’t show enough offensively last season and in camp to the point where it made it that much more difficult to look past Gagner and Cogliano’s birth certificates.

    And that opened some doors, but with everyone trying to go through them at the same time, only so many people could fit.

    of course that doesn’t explain Nilsson over Pouliot but I’ll throw in the Smyth trade having a little to do with that, ie optics.

  10. Bruce says:

    of course that doesn’t explain Nilsson over Pouliot but I’ll throw in the Smyth trade having a little to do with that, ie optics.

    Hey Dennis, here’s some optics for you:

    Nilsson 35 GP, 4-14-18, +2
    Pouliot 9 GP, 0-0-0, -7

    The problem was not so much Poo getting kicked around as stepped in.

  11. Dennis says:

    I mean in terms of This season, Bruce. Why did Nilsson get a recall after being sent down to the A, only to be healthy scratched whilst down there, while Pouliot hasn’t gotten a sniff in a long time?

    MacT’s always talking about Nilsson has to remember to work hard and he just benched him to remind him but what does it say about Pouliot that MacT will give Nilsson the shot over him? Because remember, Nilsson was getting more of a shot Before that eight game point streak and never in his history did Pouliot get to play 12-15 EV min with linemates like 10-83.

    Without checking, I think they’re A numbers were similar and Nilsson was just as unimpressive in his first NHL stint as was Marc.

    Anyway, reading the Falcons stuff today and Pouliot left last night’s game with an injury. Not sure if that means he’ll play this afternoon or not but it’s funny if he got banged up again on the weekend LT decides to break out these particular posts.

    Up next for Kreskin: he should talk about the point when guys like Smid begin to mature. Maybe Lain can use these powers for good.

    That is if he has the time to bang out another post while fending off the marriage offers of that noted Lowelyncher hater David Staples:D

  12. IceDragoon says:

    Good day.

    I think Mact sees brilliance in Pouliot, and expected him to fill Pisani’s hole, without the offence yet. I suspect coach hung the anchors on him hoping he’d fight thru, and was right ticked to see MP **** his game away.

    As Lain well knows… Marty Reasoner is one of my favourite players. There was a time he couldn’t check his hat, then he changed his game to get and keep an NHL job.

    Dennis… in ’03 the Islanders picking Nilsson at 15 is the reason Lowe traded our pick to New Jersey. Apparently, our scouts thought Row-bear would be better than anyone else available at 17 and beyond. *fill in one liner of choice here*


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