The Odd Couple

Craig MacTavish and Rob Schremp have spent much of this summer on the outside looking in. One of them appears to have landed gainful employment. The other is still job hunting. For both men, the last several years have been a series of highs and lows.

For many Oiler fans (including me) Craig MacTavish remains a high water mark in terms of competent coaching for the town team. A solid technical coach and in game tactician, he was a big part of the Oilers Stanley run 2006 spring. His coaching strategy in that stretch (especially against the Red Wings) earned him a reputation of being a guy who could take a good team a long way.

Unfortunately for MacT, he never had the horses after the Chris Pronger deal. Coaching is a tough career because if the team loses too many games a change is required; firing the coach is easier than firing 23 hockey players–and less messy. MacT was the Oilers head coach a long time but perhaps spent "too long at the fair" in Edmonton.

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It has taken a long time for coach MacTavish to land on his feet. Recent days have revealed he’s off to coach the Chicago Wolves of the AHL (Vancouver’s farm team) and I think he’ll be coaching an NHL team (maybe the Canucks–you never know) in the next year or so. He was considered for Minnesota’s head coaching position this summer and with his credentials one would think it is only a matter of time.

Why did it take so long for MacT to get another gig? His bout with cancer must have taken him out of the running for a time, and I do think his very public comments in regard to Dustin Penner may too have cost him. Having said all of that, I expect Vancouver fans will be thrilled with their prospects progress this winter. Good for MacT, hopefully this stint in the minors ends that crazy idea that he couldn’t develop the kids.

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Which brings us to Robbie Schremp. Schremp’s fanbase (which is miles and miles) railed against MacT’s handling of him as an Oilers prospect. Robbie Schremp led the league in nicknames (Hockey Jesus, Sugartits) before he ever played a game, owing mostly to youtube and Phil Esposito length shifts in the land of legends (London).

The day I posted that Schremp had been placed on waivers, blogosphere commenter "quain" said the following:

  • You’re aware this isn’t the end right? He’s going to go 12-41-53 -29 on the Island playing top PP unit time and we’re going to have to hear how we let a complete stud go, over and over again. It never ends. Rob Schremp is like herpes, you can only hope to contain it.

Damned if Rob Schremp didn’t go to the Island and post better than expected numbers. 44gp, 7-18-25 -4 and his CorsiRel was a pleasant surprise. He needed to build on that half-season but what the hell the guy has talent, right?

Along came a guy named Michael Grabner via (once again) the waiver wire. Grabner ate Robbie’s lunch, and that coupled with a very average season (63gp, 13-13-26 -20) meant he was exposed to waivers again (end of Feb) and lost to the Thrashers. By March 24 the Thrashers were trying him at center between Evander Kane and Radek Dvorak and on the 25th he scored the GWG against the Islanders in what must have been a highlight of the season for him.

Of course, the off-season has been about change. The Thrashers became the Jets and the Jets set him free about a month ago. Schremp has been shopping for work since, but as the summer wears on one wonders if he’ll have to return to the minors (or Europe) and wait for another opportunity.

Schremp as an NHL player hasn’t been a world beater, but has been able to post some offense. That is the kind of player that often gets multiple chances; although he’s played for three NHL teams already Schremp’s NHL career likely has a few stops to come.

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Another busy edition of Nation Radio today at noon. Scheduled to appear:

  • Guy Flaming from The Pipeline Show and Coming Down the Pipe! I’ll talk to Guy about the Team Canada WJ team’s prospects camp in Edmonton this coming week and he’ll try to educate me about the NCAA/CHL border war.
  • James Mirtle, Globe and Mail writer and one of the best hockey writers on the planet. I’ll ask him about the Lombardi-Tambellini Milagro Beanfield War, Nikolai Khabibulin’s situation and the Islanders arena situation.
  • Mark Spector from Rogers Sportsnet. One of Edmonton’s most credible media people gets a one hour daily show and I’ll ask him what Oiler fans can expect when the show hits the air.
  • Jim Byers from the OKC Barons. We’ll talk about the Oilers activity this summer and how it might impact the Barons. There’s a chance players like Teemu Hartikainen and Jeff Petry return to OKC and I’ll ask him about which of last season’s prospects he considers most NHL ready.
  • Dustin Nielson from Team 1260’s Nielson and Chase morning show. A draft geek like myself and a guy who loves sports, he’s got yet another gig starting in the fall and I’ll ask him about it.

As always, email questions and comments are welcome at [email protected] and I imagine there will be a few questions about NK, the Smyth-Fraser deal and Team 1260’s brand new shows. Bring it on, we’ll answer everything we can and make sure your comments hit the air.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Interesting stat (if not slightly useless) from his junior years:

    One year he scores 90 pts and is +36… pretty good.

    Then the next year he scores 145 pts (wow) and is +17. Which is surprising with all the points he scored.

  • Wax Man Riley

    So Robbie Schremp could have been Mike Bossy…

    You gotta love the power of YouTube. A one-dimensional player with no other skill beyond fancy stickhandling pulls off a few trick shootout moves (most of which aren’t legal in regulation play) and once the highlights hit YouTube, some online hockey “experts” think he’s the next freaking Mike Bossy. I guess style means more than substance.

    I guess this means Linus Omark is the next Bryan Trottier.

  • Ducey

    I guess this means Linus Omark is the next Bryan Trottier.

    Actually, the difference between Omark and Schremp is interesting.

    Both have the sick shootout moves and Youtube highlights. Neither is a standout on defence. They both tend to look pass first.

    But Omark has shown that if he loses the puck he will aggressively try to get it back. He will go to the hard areas (corners, in front of the net) to make a play, and he will take beating and still hang onto the puck until a play opens up. Many of his Youtube highlights are pure effort.

    I think Robbie has more raw talent than Omark, (and more size) but the guy who competes harder is almost always going to win the battle.

    Schremp is an interesting case study. He fell in the draft over makeup issues. The Oilers tried to instill a higher level of compete in him, but it never took – and likely never will.

    It would seem the Oilers under Stu MacGregor have learned this lesson and now value the compete factor more than anything else in their draft picks. The only guy I can think of in recent drafts that doesn’t seem to have it is Martindale.

  • Lowetide

    Buses and more god awful buses. Thats the life. MacT is a great hire. I still think that MacT will be on someones shortlist in the very near future for an assistant GM position. Way to many hockey smarts to languish in the minors for very long. If Tambo should falter…..