I believe Shawn Belle signing in Edmonton is a good example of player and agent identifying opportunity and thinking long term. Belle is a minor league veteran looking for NHL employment. Signing in Edmonton–where actual defensemen are very rare–could be a key decision in Belle’s career. The story rolls out starting at training camp.
•Boxcars: 70gp, 3-16-19 (all numbers AHL)
•Plus Minus: +17
•Cap Hit: $600,000
- What do these numbers tell us? Belle did play for the Habs last season (2gp, -2 and no crooked numbers) but his primary role was as an AHL defender. His plus minus is impressive but good enough for only a 4th place tie on last season’s Bulldog team (PK Subban: +46). He was 4th in total points and a glance at the overall roster suggests that he was likely a 2nd pairing defenseman. He had a solid year in the minors.
- How could these numbers be better? There’s so much we don’t know about minor league totals that it is difficult to get an HD view. His point totals have been improving over the years. Former coach Don Lever: “He’s a first-round pick and the potential is there. He’s a hard worker. I have no complaint with the way he works. I have a hard time believing that he only had three points last year. He’s got the free reins here as long as he gets back to where he’s supposed to be.”
- What kind of player should we expect? He has an intriguing combination of size and speed, but has coverage gaps that have kept him out of the show. Belle has a lot of minor league experience but has been passed by a ton of prospects over the years since turning pro. There’s an issue of some sort, probably the range factor and reaction.
- If you like him so much, how come he’s the 9th D you’ve listed? Because he has some things going against him: Belle is not well known in the organization, so the coaching staff will want to spend some time getting to know what he can and can’t do. Also, the Oilers will be his 4th organization since turning pro in 2005. There’s something about Belle that both makes him attractive to teams who haven’t employed him and expendable to those who have hired him. Before Renney and company trust him with big league sorties, they’ll want to have a complete profile.
- Anything else? Man he’s played a lot of pro hockey without spending an extended period in the NHL. 311 AHL games, 11 in the big leagues. That’s a terrible ratio for a former first round pick. Jason Smith didn’t start posting reasonable plus minus numbers until he was 25, but Smith played a TOTAL of 27 AHL games. Steve Staios? 168 between the AHL and NHL. Belle appears to be following the Scott Ferguson career path as opposed to any of the other men we know about from Oilers history.
- How important is he to the organization? Not important at all. Yet there’s a chance he begins to find his way with his hometown team. 6.01, 240 and good footspeed sounds like a player so let the guy play and see if the coaches can help. Belle is fairly typical of Tambellini’s summer of low risk 2-way signings and the advantage for this player is that he fills a position of need for the current team.
Prediction for 2010-11: 40gp, 1-3-4
This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship