That’ll be The Day

Prospects never (or rarely) get better in a straight line. They sputter and chug and step into elevator shafts and shoot the moon and die on the vine.

For an NHL organization, being patient with these kids is both key and well-nigh impossible. Fans? Don’t even talk about it. Some fans are all over Ales Hemsky’s career path as being poor, don’t even think about bringing up a Nilsson or a Smid.

Or Rob Schremp.

I’m hesitant to even write about him since the guy is already so bloody infamous. This will be the 25th post about him on this blog, meaning he’s been front and center here more often than Marc Pouliot (who some people believe I’m related to), JF Jacques (whose career is a car crash but it’s our car crash) and Slava Trukhno (another favorite of mine but he’s been so awful I’m trying to distance myself from him). :-)

Back when I followed baseball with the faith of a child, the Expos had so many prospects it was impossible to really keep track of them (I once had a drunken encounter in Mexico with a winter league coach about an Expos prospect. Too many Cuba libre’s and not enough “geez that guy seems to be getting irritated with me.” Why my wife is still with me remains a mystery).

So I devised a simple way to track them, in fact we all do it in our brains with all kinds of things. Our kids, when to push the envelope with the better half and many other real-life items. Basically, it’s the blank page of foolscap with one line right down the middle. On the left are positives, to the right negatives. If a player has more plus than minus, we can say his arrows are pointed in the right direction.

It can apply to teams as well. The Toronto Blue Jays had their arrows pointed in the right direction forever before they won the WS. As if to prove it, they did it again the following year. The great Detroit Tiger team of 1984 had it’s beginnings in 1974 when they selected Lance Parrish in the first round. The following season they plucked Lou Whitaker and then in 1976 added Alan Trammell, Jack Morris and Ozzie Smith (although Smith didn’t sign with Detroit). By the time they picked Kirk Gibson in the first round of the 1978 draft, the Tigers set themselves up for a long run just by doing the right things at the draft table.

Schremp has so many arrows going in the wrong direction he must feel like John Wayne in the Searchers. As horrible as his AHL numbers were (in his third year at that level), the thing about Schremp is that there’s no lack of really good copy about him:

  • Scout: “There are players who win battles in the corner and some who lose those battles. Rob Schremp has absolutely no interest in the battle.”
  • MacT: “He’s not ready for the NHL yet on a full-time basis. I think that’s clear. I can see him coming back up, but I think the things he needs to stay up here long term are not quick fixes, they’re longer-term fixes. He needs the strength base and the quickness. He’s got to be strong enough to battle at a standstill with players because he’s not going to outskate many players.”

There’s also the experience of Liane Davis early in his career. She spent a few summers working on his skating but it didn’t take and as of last spring he looked more wide track than ever. In fact a quick check of Davis’ website gives us a nice list of NHL players who have taken time to improve their skating. As far as I know, Schremp’s issues still have skating as a negative arrow. Would it not have been a good idea to keep going back?

So, what are his positives then? If all the arrows are pointed one way, he’d be an NP. Right? So, what about Rob Schremp makes him valuable enough even now for Jim Matheson to suggest he might be worth a “good draft pick” and that Toronto was reportedly interested?

The first positive involves ridiculous puck skills. If there were a Harlem Globetrotters of hockey Schremp would be the captain. Some of these skills even apply to hockey. The second positive involves the fact that he’s a first round pick and even when they fail with one team there’s almost always a General Manager at the ready with an offer in the hopes he can grab lightning in a bottle. The final one I can think of is that he’s supremely confident. That’s a strong element for a young man like Schremp, a desire to succeed. I haven’t been able to marry that thought with the apparent lack of effort in returning to Liane Davis for another summer of doing the dishes and improving a weakness on the ice.

Recently I’ve been reading on the Al Gore that Rob Schremp may have a brand new day with the arrival of Pat Quinn. I’m having a hard time with that one. Presumably Steve Tambellini will offload a smallish skill forward from the big league roster (Gagner, O’Sullivan, Cogliano, Nilsson, etc) with the idea that a bigger man will take his place. If they plan on making room for Schremp, I’d think the Oilers would be moving more than just Nilsson from the list above.

I’m not convinced Tambellini can get a 2nd rounder for Schremp and if you want to argue he’s worth more than Robert Nilsson you better pack a lunch because it’ll take all day.

But it’s enough, and its time. The Oilers need to let Rob Schremp go for his sake and at this point the return is less important than turning the page. The only way I see him getting a real chance in Edmonton this fall is if Tambellini overhauls the F position and Schremp impresses at TC with a new group of PF’s and Coke Machines replacing O’Sullivan, Cogliano and Nilsson.

And THAT my friends is a stretch.

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