The Schremp Dossier: Views and bits on why he's an Islander

As discussed in comments yesterday, I like the Rob Schremp move: I sure wouldn't bet money on it paying off, but it's low risk, and he does possess some rare offensive talent. If it were a team in virtually any other position than the Islanders, then I'd have passed. A contender can't afford to give quality minutes to an "upside" forward who might blow assignments and cost wins for the first 30 games. But the Islanders have little pressure to win this year, plus time to experiment for the future.

Upon further reflection, I'm pretty confident he'll either learn or be shown the door by Scott Gordon. The Islanders have virtually no capital invested in Schremp -- not a draft pick, not an asset shed via trade -- so there shouldn't be any subtle organizational pressure to hang on to Schremp beyond reason if he doesn't show a new side.

This, from Gordon, is what I expect. It's just right:

"He's got incredible skill. ... He has the opportunity of a second chance. What he does with it is in his hands."

But why is Schremp here? Why is 2004's 25th overall pick now 23 and still in a Tambellini sort of state (albeit with polar opposite approaches), when he possesses puck skill that turns heads? Why were we musing about him from afar four weeks ago?

The answers are kind of funny. Or at least, the analysis by Oilers fans who have watched and agonized over Schremp the last few years is enlightening and quite entertaining. Cue the tape:

After crunching the numbers on Schremp's AHL performances, the stat-oriented Jonathan Willis concluded this a month ago:

I don't think it's a stretch to say that Rob Schremp is never likely to be an impact scorer at even-strength. That said ... [once he convinces an NHL team to put him on the roster], he can be a genuine help on the powerplay (one thing Schremp has always had is tremendous powerplay ability).

Around the same time (earlier this month), Lowetide had this as part of an elaborate dialog on what has gone wrong for Schremp:

I've always felt Rob Schremp was in need of an expansion draft. A brand new team looking to sell the game to a fresh hockey market could devote copious even-strength and special teams minutes to him in an effort to build the game.

[snip]

... Schremp has skills in a narrow view and scoring goals is the hardest thing to do. He contributes to scoring and a team like Edmonton might find him useful when injuries hit.

But wait. If he's on the cusp of a chance, what's held him back? Lowetide again:

Schremp's never gotten it through his head that he's not Gretzky. He's going to have to grab a shovel and start digging like pretty much everyone else, much like Daniel Cleary and Marty Reasoner did before him.

Oy. At least he says all the right things, right? His approach is good? He knows what the deal is and knows by this point an NHL job will not be handed to him? Well ... I mean, there was this at Hockey's Future, while he was still in Edmonton's camp:

"No one's going to roll out the red carpet for me -- they didn't do it when I got drafted, they're not going to do it now that I'm 23 years old and with three years in the minors," he said.

And this small sign of progress in understanding what an NHL job requires:

"I've gotten harder, more focused on my off-ice," he said. "... but there's more things you can do, like dieting and protein shakes. Working out with Sammy Gagner at that gym [Dave Gagner's gym in London, ON] has really helped me a lot. I feel great on the ice, I feel great off the ice. You know, last year I went out and saw Chad Morrow and I got all the weightlifting down, but I didn't have a good diet. I came in to camp... [pausing] I wasn't fat at camp [pause]. I didn't come in... I didn't get the best results that I could if I had been on track with everything. This time I knew I had to buckle down.

But in the same HF feature, there was also a lot of this:

"I just want to play my game and play how I can play. I just want to be able to play my game and play Rob Schremp hockey. Obviously there are things you have to work on, like defensive play and systems, but those are the things that every player has to work on."

Islanders fans, it is now time to introduce "Rob Schremp hockey" as a term in your lexicon. What that frightening yet I'm-Rick-Jamesian term comes to mean, only Schremp can determine. We wait in joyful hope.

Or maybe it was up until recently. Lowetide in a separate post around the same time:

"He didn't run his mouth during the first three seasons of pro hockey. Apparently he couldn't take it any longer. ... Schremp told the London Free Press that "you can take instructions on how to learn play-systems and traps, but I just hope my game can stay intact and I play the kind of hockey I played with the Knights."

What can you say to Rob Schremp? Someone has already told him "son, you can't play the way you did in London because you're not going to have the puck very much" or "long before they let you run the powerplay they're going to expect that you aren't going to kill them in 5-on-5 situations" or "Rob, you're just not good enough to do the things in the NHL that you could do blindfolded in junior."

I think someone should have told him how this sort of thing plays with coaching staffs. They don't give a rat's ass about what you want, they care about winning. Better or worse, a lot of what involves winning in hockey is defending.

Then there is this entirely different take, a near-eulogy from Copper & Blue writer Benjamin Massey:

I'll be convinced until my dying day that it wasn't lack of effort that held Schremp back. He spent his share of summers training with Chad Moreau and the other Mandelbaums, and the September story about how Schremp had taken power skating drills with one famous coach or another was practically a rite of passage for the Journal sports section. He'd become a star in the OHL with sub-par physical assets and he had worked hard to do it. His skating and defense improved palpably during his time in the minors.

He just wasn't good enough.

Oh, we do have quite the project on our hands, do we not?

The thing that so often happens with cases like this -- particularly in hockey mad markets -- is that a kid gets talked up to death before he even hits age 21. Even worse if there are YouTube videos touting circus-trick junk that has nothing to do with what happens in an actual hockey game. Young adults develop at different paces, and hype is a beast that knows no restraint.

So is it possible Schremp might figure some things out? Yes. But does he also appear to carry a level of hubris that does not befit his accomplishments thus far as a hockey player? Also, yes.

But this is his shot. He has a GM willing to give him a chance. He has a coach that likes smart, assertive play. If he comes in knowing there are a hundred hockey responsibilities at the NHL level that come before you actually touch the puck, he has a chance. If he comes in thinking "Rob Schremp hockey" shall entail mostly dangle and not-found-in-regulation shootout moves, then he won't be long for even the league's 30th place team.

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