SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers down, but not out

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Jason Smith can feel their pain.

You'd never know it now, him being a captain and a cornerstone of the Edmonton Oilers and all, but he understands all too well what it's like when they call you into the coach's office on cut-down day and tell you you're not good enough.

"When I was in Jersey I was sent to Albany," said the 10-year veteran, who sympathizes with the eight training camp prospects who were let go yesterday.

"It's a shock. Right away you start to evaluate what went wrong. But sometimes there are growing pains and getting cut is just part of the process.

"The biggest thing is to go down there with a positive outlook, because if you don't play well down there you're not going to get another chance."

PERSEVERANCE FOR SMITH

It took some time, but perseverance and hard work transformed a kid who wasn't good enough in his first couple of cracks into one of the top leaders in the NHL.

The Oilers are hoping some of that rubbed off on the players they sent down yesterday. Getting cut doesn't mean the end for Zack Stortini, J.F. Jacques, Kyle Brodziak, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Yan Stastny, Matt Greene, Mathieu Roy and Jeff Deslauriers, it just means that the beginning will have to wait a while.

"We feel very strongly that these guys are going to be NHL players, and very quickly," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who still has to cut one goaltender, two defencemen and a forward.

"But there are some things they have to work on and improve upon and they do that by getting (minor) pro experience.

"You try and frame it as positively and constructively as you can, realizing what their heartache is."

After being dispatched to shared affiliates in Iowa and Hamilton, the dejected players filed out one by one for the uncomfortable business of explaining to the media why their services are not required. They did so with remarkable poise.

"I'm only 20, so when I got the tap on my shoulder this morning I knew what it was," said Jacques.

"It was disappointing, but I'm not putting the dream away. I'm going to do whatever it takes to open some eyes in the organization."

Most of the cuts have been the best players on their team since they could skate, so being told they're not good enough is strange and painful.

"I haven't been keeping track, but this might be my first time," said Stortini. "It's not a good feeling. I wanted to be an Edmonton Oiler so bad. The guys in that room are unbelievable."

"I was cut from Team Canada, but not in junior or minor hockey ever," said Pouliot, who knew he was in tough. "I'm still young and there are a lot of good players here so I knew I might be sent back. When I heard my name I wasn't surprised.

"But I want to be back as soon as possible. I have a couple of things to work on and when I do that I'll be ready."

So will Matt Greene, who developed an immense respect for what it takes to be an NHL defenceman during his training camp stay.

"It's tough to swallow, but it's what's best for me now," he said.

"It's the best league in the world and you have to be one of the best players to make it. They have a lot of veterans who paid their dues and a lot of guys who've played for a long time.

"If you want to take away a guy's spot who's been on the team for a few years you have to play a lot better than I did."

BRODZIAK ON THE MOVE

St. Paul's Kyle Brodziak, who got to play in his backyard with the Road Runners last year, was hoping he could do so as an Oiler. Instead he's off to Hamilton.

"This is the first time I have to move away, so it's a little different. But it'll motivate me to get back home," he said. "Just being around the guys and the attitude in the room was a great experience. I'm glad I was a part of it."


Videos

Photos