Oilers recall Belle, Crazy Train

The Edmonton Oilers recalled Shawn Belle and JF Jacques from Oklahoma today. Some of us felt Belle would spend time on the big league roster this season, and some of us know the Oilers well enough to suspect Jacques would play too.
It’s funny to compare the two players and their careers. JF Jacques has played 109 NHL games and delivered a frightful -32. He delivered 26 goals per 82 games in the AHL and 4 per 82 in the show. And don’t bother talking to an Oiler fan about JF Jacques suffering through 4line minutes. No sir. He’s had grand opportunities to shine with exceptional linemates and it hasn’t happened yet. I think his (mostly back) injuries have robbed him of some of the things he could do as a younger prospect. It’s too bad, but we’re unlikely to ever see him at his best.
The Oilers are bringing him in to crash and bang; one of those crashes or bangs will no doubt cause his back to erupt again and we’re back to do (as in do-re-mi).
Shawn Belle on the other hand has played in 11 NHL games despite being chosen 38 slots ahead of Jacques in the same draft (2003). He’s been pretty healthy and turned in some pretty solid minor league seasons. He’s been traded three times but the guys he’s been dealt for are known names to the average NHL fan (he hasn’t been dealt for a used bus and 8 baseballs).
His skill set suggests he might be a nice fit for the current Oilers. 6.01, 240. His scouting reports suggests he “owns an impressive physical package and plenty of athleticism for a blueliner. Is willing to make his presence felt with strong hits in the defensive zone.”
What should we expect. In the reasonable expectations series, I wrote two items that we should remember:
  • 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.
  • 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.
If you’re Shawn Belle none of that matters. It’s an NHL chance and possibly the last one. On top of that, the organization is dying for someone to come in and help settle things down. In a season built for cheering long shots and lost causes, Shawn Belle is coming from a long way back but he’s got a chance.
Good for him. I hope he makes it.

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