Pouliot far from finished, kids

Robin Brownlee
March 23 2008 05:45PM

He's been written off as finished by some fans, but considering Marc Pouliot is two months shy of his 23rd birthday, is it a stretch to suggest he's just getting started?

Pouliot doesn't think so. More important, neither do the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him 22nd overall from the then-abysmal Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL in 2003.

As Pouliot approaches the five-year anniversary of his draft date, he hasn't made the big splash many members of his draft class have, but does that mean he's done?

Judging by how he's played since being recalled from Springfield of the AHL, it doesn't look that way. With a goal and an assist in Saturday's 7–5 win over Colorado, Pouliot's scored 1-5-6 in nine games since being summoned.

That's a stark contrast to the goose-egg, nada, nothing Pouliot had in nine games to start the season before the Oilers sent him to the minors, convincing know-it-alls to deem him more suspect than prospect—mea culpa on that count.

Not so fast.

"I've felt pretty good," Pouliot said of his latest audition. "I think I'm an improved player compared to the beginning of the year.

"It was tough not to stay. Obviously, I didn't play as well as I wanted, but I didn't quit. I worked hard. Bucky (Kelly Buchberger) helped me a lot... his mentality is you work hard. He's right. If you do that, do the little things, you improve your all-around game."

The NHL, for whatever reason, has a habit of eating its young. Players, particularly first-round picks, who don't make a significant impact by age 22 or 23 are often cast aside—traded, not re-signed, buried in the minors as roster filler.

With just 72 NHL games on his resume, Pouliot has been flirting with that fate through circumstance and his inability to seize the opportunities he's been given.

It looked like he'd broken through late in the 2005–06 season, only to have mononucleosis knock him out of the line-up just as the Oilers began their charge to the Stanley Cup final.

Pouliot's struggled to regain his place in the prospect pecking order since. Along the way, he's seen 18-year-old Sam Gagner and 20-year-old Andrew Cogliano zip past him. He's a restricted free agent this summer.

"Some players need more time," Pouliot said. "Maybe some people thought I was done, but never me, no. I know if I play my best hockey, I can play here with those guys."

While Pouliot had 45 goals and 114 points with Rimouski while playing on a line with Sidney Crosby in 2004–05, he's never going to be an offensive dynamo in the NHL.

But he's got enough gamesmanship and checks well enough to be a reliable third-line player. He has enough offensive upside to move up into the top six in a pinch. He can play in this league.

"He's got to fill a role for himself," said coach Craig MacTavish, who has moved Pouliot to left wing from centre on a line with Marty Reasoner and Fernando Pisani.

"That's how you get in the NHL. You start small, be productive in the role you're given within the framework of the team and try to expand on it. He's in the process of doing that now."

Pouliot is no quitter. Anybody who remembers how brutal Rimouski was in 2002–03 before Crosby came along knows that. The Oilers aren't quitting on him, either.

That's a good thing.

Sick like Savard

David Staples at the Cult of Hockey says Ales Hemsky's magnificent three-assist performance against Colorado made him think of Guy Lafleur.

"Personally, I think the more valid hyperbolic comparison for Hemsky is Guy Lafleur," wrote Staples after somebody suggested Hemsky was Gretzky-esque Saturday. "That's who Hemsky reminds me of in those games when he winds it up and rockets down the ice as if he were riding on the roar of the crowd."

For me, it's got to be Denis Savard.

Lafleur, who finished his career with 560 goals and six 50-goal campaigns, was more of a shooter off the wing than Hemsky, often uncorking a wicked slapper after getting a stride on a desperate defenceman.

Savard, meanwhile, scored 473 goals and never once hit 50, but he had 865 career assists, reaching 50 helpers nine times. He tied opponents in knots with his ability to dash, dart and change directions.

That behind-the-back drop pass to Gagner in the slot for the 2–0 goal was sweetly Savardian, without the spin-a-rama.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 theoil
March 23 2008, 06:19PM
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If Pouliot wins himself a contract (I think he will) then this summer or next fall's training camp just gets more and more interesting. I don't know where to go to make a quantity for quality trade but I think it is time for Kevin to find out - the roster is getting a little overcrowded.

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#2 Gord Mark
March 23 2008, 09:28PM
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Thanks for that, RB. I'm just wondering if that MacT quote was gathered in the last couple of days or so? I only ask this because it sounds a helluva lot like the one that was printed when Pouliot got recalled a few weeks ago.

So, I'm thiking that maybe means that MacT is heretofore unconvinced of 78's legitimacy and has just slightly altered his previous views.

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#3 RobinB
March 23 2008, 11:38PM
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Gord Mark: The quote is from today, but was much the same as what he said before. Lots of quotes I didn't use here. Basically, MacTavish and the organization likes what they're seeing from Pouliot. He's still in the plans.

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#4 fyvmvv
March 24 2008, 01:20AM
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Pouliot is a case in point for not panicking on some of the Oiler players who have been somewhat slow in developing into bona fide NHL'ers. Without an Oiler farm team in the last couple of years and a dirth of talent when they did operate the Road Runners, I think Bucky has an improved talent base to work with and it is helping. I think patience is going to pay off all over the Oiler organization. Every team seems to have several former Oilers and they all have a story to tell, I imagine. Hopefully as Lowe and Mactavish get more experience and wisdom in handling players this particular organization will soon stop hemorrhaging talent.

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#5 Al
March 24 2008, 01:32AM
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Maybe seeing the current crop of Oiler whiz kids is the flashpoint for lighting Pouliot's ass on fire. Maybe there are some others who will take note and respond. Shremp maybe?

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#6 Tommy
March 24 2008, 07:32AM
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I think Shremp is a valid topic to bring up in a Pouliot discussion. If there is the chance Pouliot could make the team full time next year then realistically what chance does Shremp have with the rest of the team (hopefully) coming back from injuries? It is time for Lowe to try and extract some value for guys who probably won't make the team next year.

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#7 1011011
March 24 2008, 11:05AM
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I still cant comprehend why Schremp doesn't get a chance. It seems everyone in the AHL has an audition in the NHL for a 10 game stretch if they show any promise, in the first three years of their career.

You wanna do all us Oilersfans in the Oilers nation a real solid Robin? Tell us why Schremp is getting such a short end of the stick. Even when the Oil were the lowest scoring team in the league with the worst powerplay earlier this year, he didnt get a sniff.

WHY????

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#8 Pat Mc
March 24 2008, 01:13PM
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I think Schremp is still improving but his skating is still an issue.

And Guy Flaming, in his latest review of prospects, said something about a lack of compete, as in he does not when it comes to puck battles. I think that was a quote from the organization.

I think you can find the post on Lowetide's site and he may actually have a link to it at the top of the sidebar.

Worth a read if you are interested in the kids coming up regardless.

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#9 1011011
March 24 2008, 04:01PM
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I have since read this thanks Pat Mc. Lowetide is a sweet blog for those who don't know.

http://www.lowetide.blogspot.com/

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#10 Gord Mark
March 24 2008, 10:25PM
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Thanks, RB. Good to hear that he's still in their sights because I really think he has a chance to outperform his contract.

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