This is Charlie Simmer. He’s one of just a few examples I can think of when looking for NHL impact players who spent a prolonged period in the minor leagues. Simmer played over 250 games in the minors (and had fabulous scoring numbers throughout, including 23 goals in 42gp, 32 goals in 51gp and 42 goals in 75gp) before finally getting his chance to make a mark in the NHL.
Other more recent examples would be Daniel Briere (he spent 170 games in the AHL before establishing himself) and of course much was made of Jason Spezza’s 43 game minor league audition a few years ago.
Let’s start with some absolute truths: MOST impact players spend little or no time in the minor leagues. A quick look at Oilers history tells us this much is true. Here’s a list of Oiler draft picks (forwards only) who have established themselves at the NHL level since draft day 1990 with their minor league GP totals:
- Jason Arnott (1st rd-1993) 0 games
- Ales Hemsky (1st rd-2001) 0 games
- Mike Comrie (3rd rd-1999) 0 games
- Andrew Cogliano (1st rd-2005) 0 games
- Sam Gagner (1st rd-2007) 0 games
- Ryan Smyth (1st rd-1994), 9 games
- Boyd Devereaux (1st rd-1996), 14 games
- Shawn Horcoff (4th rd-1998), 26 games
- Miro Satan (5th rd- 1993), 39 games
- Martin Rucinsky (1st rd-1991), 42 games
- Kirk Maltby (3rd rd-1992), 73 games
- Jarret Stoll (2nd rd-2002), 76 games
- Georges Laraque (2nd rd-1995), 144 games
- Fernando Pisani (8th rd-1996), 172 games
- Kyle Brodziak (7th rd-2003), 173 games
- Tyler Wright (1st rd-1991), 176 games
- Jason Chimera (5th rd-1997), 233 games
- Arnott and Hemsky should be given extra credit for making the NHL at 19 and Gagner should get some credit too for doing this at age 18. It’s a rare thing.
This shows exactly what I’m talking about. Pretty much all of the players who have been or will be on All-Star teams played less than half a season in the minors. I’ll use Rucinsky as the outer marker here. It’s also no real surprise most of the players on the list above Rucinsky were high picks, 1st rounders, certainly in the top 100 overall in their draft year (Satan was 111).
So, can we agree it is a rare thing for an impact player to spend more than half a season in the minors? Let’s turn it around and make a positive statement:
- With very few exceptions, NHL teams elevate quality players as soon as they are deemed NHL ready without regard to minor league experience.
Some people don’t do homework during high school and hit a wall first year college, some have to cram for a Grade 6 spelling test (o go to hell, I was a late birthday) and still others tune out the teacher early on and consider school a social thing.
The guys we’re talking about graduate without having homework. No “please stay after class”, no calls home to talk to Mom about your attitude (again, go to hell it’s none of your damn business) in fact no worries at all. They get a new car in Grade 10 and romp through the girls in town, often driving by with the prettiest one as you bike through town delivering the Star-Phoenix (don’t make me come over there, stop pushing me on this) and look forward to an evening of picking weeds and washing radishes while buddy and his Camaro are letting nature take its course out at the lake. Some of us are Sam Gagner, some of us are Kyle Brodziak and the fact is that most of us don’t make the list at all.
Recently the Rob Schremp fan group have become more and more frustrated as the Syracuse Sniper rots in Springfield (once home to Eddie Shore who would probably have tied Schremp to a Mack truck and had him skate laps pulling it) and Cogliano, Gagner, Nilsson and Brodziak establish themselves as NHL players. Some are convinced that Schremp’s time in the organization has come and gone and it’s time to deal him, while others blame MacT for elevating players who should be in junior (Gagner) for reasons that have little to do with winning games.
I understand those feelings. It can be unfair sometimes to see people you know get things seemingly handed to them while others have to deliver the Star-Phoenix, er, spend time in the minor leagues and wait for a chance that may not come.
What would a player have to do in order to earn a spot? Can Rob Schremp learn something Charlie Simmer showed us 30 years ago? Let’s look at Simmer’s minor league seasons by age:
- Age 20: 47gp, 12-29-41 (.872ppg)
- Age 21: 42gp, 23-16-39 (.929ppg)
- Age 22: 51gp, 32-30-62 (1.22ppg)
- Age 23: 75gp, 42-41-83 (1.11ppg)
- Age 24: 39gp, 13-23-36 (.923ppg)
That final season in the minors Simmer’s minor league team (ironically the Springfield Indians) saw their goal scoring totals fall way off (349 to 289) so he was still producing well. If you look at those numbers it’s clear that Simmer was a good scoring minor leaguer by 21 and then just waited for a bad organization (the Seals) to elevate him and when that team began collapsing due to money problems he needed to establish himself with the new team (Los Angeles) and it took longer than it should have (1.5 seasons) but the Kings weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer at the time.
They kept him on the farm because of his footspeed. Simmer had good size and a terrific shot (very accurate, his NHL shooting percentage in 80-81 was 32.7, 56/171) but he was a poor skater. He worked hard on that area and although he never became even NHL average (that’s being kind) he delivered offensively in every season he played in and had to come back from major injuries a few times (he broked his leg badly early in his NHL career, maybe 1981).
Let’s look at Schremp’s pro career so far:
- Age 20: 69gp, 17-36-53 (.768ppg)
- Age 21: 45gp, 11-32-43 (.956ppg)
Schremp’s team in 06-07 scored 276 goals and the Springfield Falcons are on track to score 216 this season so Schremp’s totals are actually quite impressive. He was in on 19% of the 06-07 offense for the Penguins and this season it’s up to 34%. That’s on par with what Horcoff and Hemsky are doing for the Oilers at this time.
The Edmonton Oilers decided to move Schremp to the wing and he’s been adjusting to that in the minors and they also worry over his skating which apparently is less of an issue on the wing. Plus (as indicated above) he is progressing nicely as a scorer. One of Simmer’s strengths was that he was a terrific team player, had a reputation of being a good guy and a leader (he did have a terrible contract squabble that got him traded to Boston) and he certainly delivered as a scorer in the NHL.
I think Rob Schremp will do the same. He may never be an outscorer and that’s an issue for another day, but it looks like he’s done his homework and is about ready for the Camaro.
The modern Terri Welles is out there.