There’s got to be a good reason J.F. Jacques is still taking up space on the Edmonton Oilers roster and will be in the line-up against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place tonight. Must be.
We dim bulbs in the media just couldn’t figure out what it might be as we contemplated Jacques playing while Magnus Paajarvi gets a seat in the press box and Steve MacIntyre, who’d just have to yell "Boo" to make the entire Calgary bench shat itself with Raitis Ivanans still goofy from that big right hand, continues to sit with the fat guys up on the catwalk.
Are the Oilers showcasing Jacques for a trade? Has coach Tom Renney fallen down the stairs recently? Does Jacques have photos from the team Christmas party stashed in a lock box somewhere? What?
Be it a misguided plan, blackmail or an aneurysm, Jacques will play left wing on a line with Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini in the latest instalment of the Battle of Alberta while Paajarvi sits elbow-to-elbow with Big Mac up top and Linus Omark spins like a top in Oklahoma City.
This is because…
I DON’T SEE IT
Renney doesn’t have to answer to me or any wag wondering aloud this morning why Jacques continues to see the ice for reasons unclear after his first 16 games this season. Still, it’s a head-scratcher.
"I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass," said Journal columnist Dan Barnes, prefacing his question about Jacques. "What is it that Jacques does? I don’t quite get it . . . when I look at his game, it doesn’t look like he contributes to your . . ."
Renney responded before Barnes even finished the question. "That’s not being smart at all," Renney said. "That’s being observant. I don’t disagree with that.
"The bottom line is you have to put a person in a position to show me what they are really and truly capable of doing. Against a team where we need some heavy lifting, uh, lift."
Perhaps — I’m guessing — this is one last audition for Jacques before he gets sent to the minors. One last chance to show something before the Oilers move on from the big, strong, damaged winger, who has a knack of looking impressive in flashes, while accomplishing nothing.
STEP RIGHT UP
Jacques, closing in on 26, still hasn’t come remotely close to proving himself as an NHL player. Of course, he’s a hulk of a man and he skates well, and the Oilers have invested a lot of time in him since drafting him 68th overall in 2003, so he’s been given every chance to succeed.
I get that. But, with one goal this season, Jacques doesn’t score. With six penalty minutes, he doesn’t agitate or physically intimidate. Jacques has not dropped the gloves once this season, so he’s not a fighter. He doesn’t kill penalties. They used to call Jacques The Crazy Train. That came off the rails a long time ago.
A showcase? What, the Oilers have one team on the hook for a bag of pucks and another willing to part with a box of tape? They’re playing him to up the ante? A trip down the staircase? I see no bumps or welts on Renney’s cranium. Photos? No evidence.
The time has come and is, in fact, overdue, it says here, for the Oilers to move on, just like they eventually did with Marc Pouliot. That roster spot is better used on somebody else.
Paajarvi has four points in his first three games against the Flames, but Renney is sitting him.
Said Renney: "I don’t want to hide behind this, ‘It’s good to always look from up top occasionally.’ But, for a young player, it is. For a rookie it is, to see this game from up above.
"Especially with some of the things . . . I’m not going to get into the details of some of the little things we think he needs to kind of do to apply himself with more success at this level.
"I think it this gives him a chance to look at that and see how it functions through other people and then invite that from him moving forward. He’s had to try to overcome a couple of these little things from the get-go, really, and now we’re going to deal with it."
I can’t say I have an issue with Renney’s thinking when it comes to sitting Paajarvi. He seems to have been coming on in recent weeks, but there are still shifts when he seems lost. It’s part of the learning curve and he’s taking it that way.
WHILE I’M AT IT
— Macintyre will sit for the 19th time in the last 21 games, and he can’t be happy about his lot in life right now, save for the pay stub every couple of weeks.
He hasn’t complained about it, though. Of course, nobody asked him about sitting out again tonight. Funny how that happens when a guy that big looks like he wants to punch somebody in the mouth.
— Zingmeister Rob Tychkowski of The Sun had another gem this morning when we scrummed Paajarvi. "Do you think this is because Sweden beat Canada in the shootout?"
— Shawn Belle will take the warm-up tonight and might play. I’m guessing Tom Gilbert is still banged up and he’ll be a game-time decision.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.