It’s amazing how many careers (even some of the really good ones) have fits and starts at the beginning. Things can look fine one week and then fortunes turn and you’re on the end of the bench with only your water bottle and the one coach who defends you and even that guy is looking at you funny.
Robert Nilsson belongs, but he doesn’t. He’s established enough in his NHL career that a HS would be noted by fans and media, but if the Oilers called up Rob Schremp tomorrow and gave him Row-bear’s minutes it wouldn’t be as big a deal as benching Raffi Torres or Jarret Stoll was one year ago.
I’ve talked in the past about Nilsson and Schremp being nice comps for each other (here and here) and it’s reasonable to assume that most or all NHL teams have talents available (either on their 4lines, in the minors or in Europe) who are “in the range” in terms of both talent and production. If the Oilers had given Nilsson’s job to Rob Schremp this fall or last TC, would there have been a huge difference?
On one level we’ll never know (and there is the speed issue) but on another it’s clear that at one point in time these men were similar (offensive) talents. How do we know this? Well, they’ve all played in the AHL very recently and their numbers are similar enough to be comparable. Here, let’s list them:
- Robert Nilsson (Age 21) 69gp, 18-48-66 .966ppg
- Rob Schremp (Age 21) 78gp, 23-53-76 .974ppg
That’s pretty close, right? I think it is. Anyway, we have a tendency to believe that Nilsson is a clearly superior player because he won the job but the math suggests Schremp would do as well if given a similar opportunity.
The question (in light of MacT’s recent comments) should be “is that enough?” and the answer is probably “no” and then ultimately we’re looking at two journeyman talents who will always be a slump away from being dealt and a minor league hot streak away from a call to the show. But they aren’t Miro Satan.
Lerg spent some time in the ECHL but has been a very consistent scorer in the AHL and a quality offensive option when playing with skilled men.
I like to use Gabriel Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies when looking at these minor league numbers. It nicks players based on age and it also (when placing it in 82gp segments) makes for a level playing field when comparing prospects over a season and leagues.
So, here’s the Springfield Falcons forwards and their NHL equivalencies so far this season. Interesting stuff (per 82gp)
- Rob Schremp (22) 4-35-39
- Gilbert Brule (21) 20-10-30
- Bryan Lerg (22) 15-15-30
- Liam Reddox (22) 16-13-29
- Ryan Potulny (24) 15-10-25
- Slava Trukhno (21) 4-17-21
- Tyler Spurgeon (22) 3-12-15
- Derek Bekar (33) 7-1-8
- Carl Corazzini (29) 1-7-8
- Colin McDonald (24) 3-3-6
- Ryan O’Marra (21) 0-5-5
- Tim Sestito (24) 3-1-4
- Geoff Paukovich (22) 2-2-4
- Guillaume Lefevbre (27) 1-1-2
- Hans Benson (25) 0-0-0
There are a few who haven’t yet played 10 games so we’ll have to wait. The idea of Desjardins’ is (by way of example) Bryan Lerg should perform at around that level should be be recalled to the NHL today. He’d need to be placed on a skill line with the same number of minutes as he’s getting in the AHL, but we should reasonably expect 30 points in 82gp (.365), which is close to what Robert Nilsson is currently (Robert Nilsson is at .370 today but his minutes are all over the place).
The problem for Nilsson and Schremp today is the same problem that Jani Rita and Tony Salmelainen and Josh Green had 5 years ago: You’re playing as well as you can and then Mike Comrie or Ales Hemsky or Fernando Pisani comes along and grabs your lunch. Robert Nilsson has to worry about Rob Schremp who has to worry about Bryan Lerg. ALL of them have to worry about the guy Edmonton takes in the first round this summer.