February 19 2009 08:59AM
Rob Schremp has one very special talent: he creates goals. He sets them up, he scores them (well, aside from this season), and he’s got a satchel full of fancy lacrosse moves that he pulls out for shootouts and minor-league All-Star games. That special talent is offset by an occasionally flagging work ethic, mediocre skating, and an inattention to defensive detail.
Position: Centre Size: 5’11”, 200lbs Birth-date: July 10, 1986 Shoots: Left
Schremp spent 2000-02 playing for the Syracuse Jr. Crunch (now the Syracuse Stars). The Crunch competed in the OPJHL at the time, and Schremp played with future teammate Tim Sestito as well as Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan. Tim Connolly was also developed in Syracuse, and the program is well regarded, even mentioned by The Hockey News as one of the ten best preparatory programs in North America. In his final season with the Crunch, Rob Schremp recorded 93 points in 49 games; that total led the team by 35 points, and meant that Schremp was in on 50% of the team’s total offense. At the 2002 OHL Draft, Don Cherry’s Mississauga Ice Dogs made Schremp the first overall pick. Schremp would spend four seasons in the OHL, posting some very impressive offensive totals:
2002-03: 65GP – 26G – 48A – 74PTS, -17 2003-04: 63GP – 30G – 45A – 75PTS, +15 2004-05: 62GP – 41G – 49A – 90PTS, +36 2005-06: 57GP – 57G – 88A – 145PTS, +17
My very first post at my old site was about Rob Schremp, and it compared him season-by-season to a group of other players who a) had good offensive numbers in the OHL, b) were highly regarded in their draft year, and c) spent at least one season in the AHL. The group of players I used fell in to three broad categories:
Good NHL Players - Jason Allison, Andrew Cassels, Marc Savard and Cory Stillman NHL Players - Jason Dawe, Jody Hull, Tim Taylor and Todd Warriner Busts - Jason Bonsignore, Brandon Convery, Jarrod Skalde and Chris Taylor
In that first post, I compared these players by points-per-game. This time, I thought I’d compare them by percentage of their team’s offense.
The 2002-03 Ice Dogs were coached by Steve Ludzik, the former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach and current The Score analyst. Ludzik had two main offensive weapons; Rob Schremp and Patrick O’Sullivan. Ludzik is still an unabashed fan of Schremp -- talking about the Oilers prior to this season, he stood by his assertion that Rob Schremp would have won the Calder in 2007-08, if only the Oilers had been willing to play him. Ludzik’s Ice Dogs were not a strong team; they went 23-31-11-3, scoring 212 goals and allowing 231 (-19 goal differential). Schremp’s 74 points were second on the team, and meant that he figured in on 34.9% of his team’s offense. Schremp’s -17 was the worst number on the team. Let’s compare Schremp’s numbers to those posted by the rest of the group. Andrew Cassels and Tim Taylor didn’t play in the OHL at 16, so they don’t appear on this list.
Schremp: 34.9% Stillman: 32.9% Savard: 30.0% Warriner: 20.8% Convery: 16.7% Hull: 14.1% Bonsignore: 13.5% Dawe: 11.2% Skalde: 10.1% Allison: 9.4% C. Taylor: 7.3%
You can see why Ludzik is such a backer of Schremp; of this set of comparables, he posted the most dominant numbers as a 16-year old OHL’er. Only Cory Stillman and Marc Savard are close. This is also a big part of the reason that Rob Schremp was so hyped entering the 2003-04 draft. In his pre-draft season, he was a dominant offensive player. It was enough to win him the OHL Rookie of the Year honours.
2003-04 was a different story altogether. Schremp requested a trade just three games into the season, and was subsequently sent to the high-powered London Knights. The Knights went 53-11-2, scoring 300 goals while allowing 147 (+153!) and posted the best numbers in the league, but lost to the Guelph Storm in the playoffs. Schremp managed 75 points and a +15 rating, which would seem to indicate stagnant offensive development and defensive improvement (Schremp even hinted as much in a Q&A with Hockey’s Future). In point of fact, it was a major regression.
Schremp’s 75 points represented only 25.0% of his team’s offense, a massive dropoff from the previous year. As for defensive improvement, Schremp’s +15 constituted another dropoff because being -17 on a team that was -19 as a whole is far more impressive than going +15 on a team that went +153. On top of the on-ice issues, Schremp’s attitude was repeatedly questioned throughout the year. Schremp requested a trade early on (apparently because of past history with the new ownership), and was then passed over for Team USA’s World Junior squad. His agent tried to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, but professional scout Kyle Woodlief (not a fan of Schremp) had a different opinion:
For all his abilities, RLR can't help but wonder if his history and attitude led directly to the U.S. Junior team's scouting staff and head coach Mike Eaves' decision to leave the 17 year-old London Knight off the team. In fact, even when injuries struck two Team USA position players, USA Hockey still couldn't find room on the roster to add the disruptive Schremp… Amazing — the guy USA Hockey felt was one of its rising stars, who was at the center of a major skirmish in the ongoing heated battle with Hockey Canada over transfers and player procurement, now just two months later isn't even wanted on USA Hockey's 22-man WJC roster. There's just no good way to spin this. If Eaves and staff made the right decision for team chemistry, it doesn't bode well for Schremp. And we can tell you that Team USA's Schremp snub was Topic A in every conversation we heard in scouts' rooms at every rink we visited in early December with Schremp's personal character at the heart of every conversation.
Even as the London Knights excelled, coach Dale Hunter tried different tactics with Schremp; shifting him to the wing (where he’d never played before) and benching him. Schremp’s agent complained in the London Free Press about the use of the young forward, but based on his performance Hunter was absolutely right to try and light a fire under him. There were also reports that Schremp’s conditioning was poor, reports that were dismissed as inaccurate by Schremp’s agent.
The various scouting services ranked Schremp highly, and several prominent hockey people said that Schremp was a “top-five pick” based on talent but that his attitude could cause a drop (although it’s definitely worth noting that his on-ice performance in 2003-04 was simply not that good). Kyle Woodlief, a noted critic who was quoted above, ranked Schremp #19 in his draft preview, with the following scouting report:
Huge talent level, probably the best of any North American in this draft. Tremendous hands and magic with the puck. Average skating keeps him from being a truly special offensive player, yet still can be explosive. Unfortunately that usually only happens when he gets lots of ice to work with. Solid leg strength and low centre of gravity make him difficult to separate from the puck. Can make good d-men look stupid 1-on-1. Selfish and petulant with an attitude of entitlement; difficult teammate. Always looks to be focus of attention, but wants to make things happen and many times does. Unafraid of traffic. Lacks defensive intensity and off-ice issues are a concern, but abilities are first rate. If you can get past the baggage, he’s your man. Projection: Top flight playmaker or total bust. Style compares to: Marc Savard/Vaclav Prospal.
As it turned out Woodlief (who was harshly criticized for his public statements about Schremp) rated him higher than NHL scouts as a whole. Schremp fell all the way to the 25th overall pick, where Edmonton selected him despite reports that his meeting with the team went poorly. Kevin Prendergast described Schremp this way:
”Rob’s got all the tools to be a player in the NHL someday but mentally he has to get on board with what’s going on around him. He has to understand the process in every situation whether it’s with the London Knights, U.S. junior hockey or the Edmonton Oilers. He has to work hard, be consistent, be on the ice and ready to play and practice.”
Let’s see how Schremp’s draft season fits into our group of comparables:
Savard: 46.3% Allison: 36.5% C. Taylor: 33.5% Stillman: 33.1% T. Taylor: 31.1% Bonsignore: 31.0% Warriner: 30.5% Cassels: 29.7% Dawe: 25.7% Schremp: 25.0% Skalde: 22.6% Convery: 20.2% Hull: 19.5%
The 2004-05 London Knights were even more dominant than the previous season’s edition. They destroyed the league, going 59-7-2, and scoring 310 goals while only allowing 125 (+185!). This team also set the CHL record for most consecutive games without a loss, posting a 29-0-2 run. They won first the league championship and then the Memorial Cup as well. Schremp’s numbers improved, but not by a lot; his 90 points worked out to 29.0% of his team’s offense, and his +/- was still only average (at +36, Schremp’s total was 33 behind team leader Danny Syvret’s +69 - Morris Dalla Costa, take note).
Schremp wasn’t named when Team USA unveiled its first twelve players for the World Juniors. When Schremp finally did join the team, it was the 13th forward. There’s actually a fun string of articles about Schremp’s experience at the World Juniors; in the first he talks about how hard it is to be the 13th forward, in the second he talks about the joy of being inserted into the lineup and how he wasn’t aware that his disappointment at not playing was so visible, and in the third the reporter discusses how the American coaching staff is unfairly biased in favour of college players.
Let’s run Schremp against our list of comparables again:
Allison: 48.5% Cassels: 44.3% C. Taylor: 42.5% T. Taylor: 36.7% Savard: 35.1% Dawe: 33.9% Convery: 31.1% Warriner: 29.5% Schremp: 29.0% Skalde: 27.5% Bonsignore: 23.6% Stillman: 22.7%
For the second season in a row, Schremp ends up in the bottom third of this group.
Rob Schremp had the finest season of his junior career in 2005-06. London was still a good team, going 49-15-1-3 and winning the OHL regular season title, scoring 304 goals and allowing 211 (+93). Schremp’s 145 points represented 47.7% of his team’s total offense, a very high total, and his +17 was second on the team. Schremp was finally used as a key member of the U.S. World Junior team (which ended up outside the medals again), and various publications lauded Schremp as an impact player (and raved about his character) and a sure-fire NHL’er. THN ranked him as the 15th best NHL prospect, although they did note some deficiencies to his game:
A highly skilled player, Schremp has all the offensive upside the Oilers want -- and is becoming more responsible defensively -- but they told him to spend the year working on strength and conditioning, neither of which did him any favours in Oilers camp.
Schremp finished second in voting for the CHL Player of the Year award to Wojtek Wolski. While Wolski took the high road (“Rob Schremp had a great year and he definitely deserved the award as much as I did”), Schremp was obviously (and perhaps justifiably) angry:
If we win the Memorial Cup, I’m not worried about an individual award like that. You’d think (it would be given to the league’s leading scorer), but whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. We’re playing in the OHL final right now (starting Friday against Peterborough) and that’s where my focus is. All I know is that when Dylan Hunter, David Bolland and I came back, we ended up first overall in the league again.”
The Knights reached the OHL finals before getting knocked off, and Schremp did not take it well. From the London Free Press:
Schremp — a first-round NHL draft pick who got the call to fly to Edmonton Friday night and join the Oilers for the remainder of their Stanley Cup playoff run — blasted a puck at the Peterborough bench and threw a water bottle at the referees after the Knights were swept from the playoffs by the Petes on Thursday night at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. Schremp’s on-ice tantrum — resulting in a gross misconduct penalty — and subsequent railing against OHL officiating ran in stark contrast to his off-ice image as a community-involved player who visited the Thames Valley Children’s Centre a couple of times each month to help cheer up kids with terminal illnesses.
Again, let’s compare the numbers from Schremp’s final OHL season with those on our comparables list. Cory Stillman, Tim Taylor, Todd Warriner did not play in the OHL this season.
Allison: 75.5%* Schremp: 47.7% Cassels: 45.4% Savard: 45.3% C. Taylor: 39.3% Bonsignore: 36.6%** Dawe: 35.8% Skalde: 31.1% Convery: 26.8%
*Spent most of the season in the NHL and AHL; his totals are based on 15GP and are adjusted to his OHL team’s offense over 15 games. **Spent most of the season in the NHL and AHL; his totals are based on 18GP and are adjusted to his OHL team’s offense over 18 games.
Rob Schremp’s professional career began in 2006-07. Here are his statistics to date:
2006-07 (AHL): 69GP – 17G – 36A – 53PTS, EV 2006-07 (NHL): 1GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, EV 2007-08 (AHL): 78GP – 23G – 53A – 76PTS, -15 2007-08 (NHL): 2GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -1 2008-09 (AHL): 44GP – 6G – 26A – 32PTS, -10 2008-09 (NHL): 4GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, +2
2006-07 started with hype and a long audition in an NHL training camp, and ended with injury in a minor-league game. Randy Sportak described the camp as a “fresh start” for Schremp. He reportedly came into camp in better shape, and earned some praise from Craig MacTavish:
“We've been very happy with Robbie. I don't think there's been too many young guys who have come into the organization with as much notoriety as he. He's handled himself extremely professionally. He certainly has an element that not a lot of other players have in terms of the offence he can bring. We're definitely intrigued by that. Whether he needs some time at the American League level will remain to be seen and we'll assess that as camp goes along.”
Schremp’s debut season in the AHL did not live up to expectations. His 53 points was just a 19.2% contribution to Wilkes-Barre’s offense (it jumps to 22.2% when scratches/injury are accounted for), and he finished even on a team that scored 55 more goals than it allowed. Quotes from the Penguins’ coach, Todd Richards, weren’t especially encouraging.
First, from November 2006:
“I want more out of him. It's as simple as that. I think he knows it. His play has been too erratic. There's no consistency. I want more out of him, and the reason I say that is because I know there is more." "Right now, I think what he's doing is he's bringing his junior game. I don't mean that in a negative way. There's things he's done his whole life that he's been able to do. Now he's playing against guys that are bigger, stronger, faster. Those plays aren't there anymore."
Then, from March 2007:
"He has made some really good progress this year. I don't want to use great. I think great is too strong of a word. He is doing things right now that he wasn't doing at the start of the year.” "His defensive zone play has been better. One thing he does really well is support the puck. We ask our defencemen to be quick and physical and our support guy to come in. He has done a good job with that.”
Schremp tore the MCL in his left knee in April of 2007, and underwent surgery for it early in May. The surgery and its associated rehab were frustrating for Schremp, and likely had ramifications for the 2007-08 training camp.
Let’s run Schremp’s 2006-07 AHL season against our list of comparables:
Stillman: 41.1% Savard: 37.5% Allison: 34.3% Cassels: 33.3% Convery: 28.4% Hull: 28.2% Bonsignore: 25.2% C. Taylor: 23.0% Schremp: 22.2% Dawe: 21.7% T. Taylor: 20.9% Skalde: 19.3% Warriner: 11.9%
We see the future NHL talents grouped near the top, all ranging between 33% and 42% of their team’s offense. Schremp’s numbers are down in the bust/career checker range at this point.
Schremp took big steps forward in 2007-08, although he once again failed to make the Oilers out of training camp. It’s likely that his knee injury had some effect on the outcome, but the simple fact is that all of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini established themselves as NHLers this season, and there are only so many roster spots for young players.
In camp, the article that has become a fall tradition for the Oilers reared its head again; Rob Schremp is improving, he’s getting the message. He found himself in the minors, and his game improved under Kelly Buchberger, who had kind words for his play:
“On the ice he has great, great hockey skill. He has great vision, he can transport the puck, find the openings ... he can do everything well.”
The Falcons were a bit of a mess, scoring only 214 goals while allowing 257, but Schremp improved, posting 76 points and an average-ish -15 rating. The 76 points represented a 36.4% contribution to Springfield’s offense. Again, here is the comparison between Schremp and the remaining players on the list (Stillman, Savard, Allison, Cassels, Hull, Bonsignore and Todd Warriner all jumped to the big leagues):
Schremp: 36.4% Dawe: 27.9% Convery: 25.5% Skalde: 25.0% C. Taylor: 17.1% T. Taylor: 11.6%
Schremp here is the “best of the rest”, but given who “the rest” are, that’s damning by faint praise more than anything. With the exception of a pair of grinders (Taylor and Skalde) the only player left on the list who would have any kind of impact on the big league was Jason Dawe, who managed 42 NHL games that season. The fact that Schremp didn’t make the jump in 2007-08 was a very bad indicator for his NHL career.
We all know the story this season. The usual stories about Rob Schremp “getting the message” were circulated, this time with an emphasis on his work at Chad Moreau’s California workout camp. Schremp was cut late in camp and then sent to the AHL. He had trouble scoring goals in the AHL, but put up decent point totals prior to a recall before Christmas. With some points early on, columnists put out (more) puff pieces, and he seemed slated for more games. After a lackluster performance, he was sent to the minors, where he’s been brutally ineffective (along with much of the team), and has put as much distance between himself and the Oilers’ roster as possible.
I watched every game Schremp played with the Oilers on his last call-up, and I really didn’t think much of him. His first game with the team I was shocked at his level of progression; he was hitting, getting in on the forecheck, and making smart plays seemingly every time he had the puck. After the first game, though, his play noticeably tailed off, and by the fourth game he looked like was floating.
Despite the flashy point and +/- totals, Schremp simply wasn’t that impressive. The advanced stats back that up too; by the Corsi measure he was +21/-32; in other words, for every 100 shots taken while Rob Schremp was on the ice, 60 of them were directed at the Oilers’ net. His play in the AHL hasn’t been terribly good; his -10 is tied for second-worst among forwards with Carl Corazzini, and his 32 points represent 31.7% of Springfield’s offense (again, adjusted for games played). We can also be reasonably sure that Schremp is playing sheltered minutes. For the record, let’s compare that performance with the rest of the players on our comparables list that were playing in the AHL:
Convery: 33.8% Schremp: 31.7% C. Taylor: 26.3% Skalde: 25.0% T. Taylor: 24.7% Hull: 23.7% Bonsignore: 22.2%
Schremp finishes second among this particular group of nobodies, and we can see that his level of offense has been stable for a pair of seasons now. The level it’s been stable at (roughly 33%) is the same level that Andrew Cassels was at when he made the jump, but below the level of the other players in this group. Likely then, his offense is good enough for the NHL, but his defensive weakness isn’t enough to make up for it on a team with other, better options for the sheltered minutes.
Because of his level of offense, I’m content saying that Schremp is still likely to show up on an NHL team somewhere. It’s likely to be a team that needs offense at all costs; a team willing to put up with the many weaknesses in Schremp’s game because of his proven abilities on the powerplay and in sheltered minutes.
The Oilers have almost certainly handled Schremp badly. Once he was passed by so many younger players in need of sheltered offensive minutes, a trade would likely have been in the interests of both Schremp and the Oilers, because he’s rotting on the vine in Springfield.
That said, the folks who feel that Schremp’s an excellent player who isn’t being allowed to succeed because of Craig MacTavish’s distaste for him need to wake up. Schremp’s been benched and scratched by his OHL coach, passed over repeatedly by the coaches on the American U-20 teams, as well as scratched and publicly criticized by his first AHL coach. Craig MacTavish made some classless public statements, but Schremp has always run into trouble with his coaches because of the limits to his game. He isn’t a wunderkind; he’s a useful offensive player in tightly controlled situations, but he needs to land on a team that needs him so much they’re willing to overlook his deficiencies, or on a team that can stick him with capable and responsible linemates who can compensate for those deficiencies. Edmonton is neither.
NHL Contract Status: $781K for 2008-09, pending RFA AHL Performance Compares To: Doug Weight Projection: 2nd-liner/power-play specialist