So, it comes down to one game, eh?
If that's really the case in determining where Robbie Schremp will start this season - with the Edmonton Oilers or London Knights - my money's on The Kid against the Vancouver Canucks at G.M. Place tonight.
If that's not the deal, if the Oilers intend to send Schremp back to junior in the name of long-term development and other such big picture concerns, no matter how he performs, that's too bad.
Either way, I wouldn't bet against Schremp coming up with his best outing of the pre-season in his bid to convince coach Craig MacTavish and GM Kevin Lowe he deserves to stay. Big game?
That's right in Schremp's wheelhouse.
"I want to spark some offence. I want to make an impression," says Schremp, who'll make his sixth appearance of the pre-season. "I've had some decent games so far ... this is the last chance."
ROSTER DEADLINE TUESDAY
With the deadline for setting the 23-man roster falling Tuesday, who gets the 14th spot MacTavish has reserved for a forward is supposedly up for grabs. If who gets the job has been decided - Schremp, Jani Rita or Brad Winchester - MacT and Lowe weren't giving it up yesterday.
"I'll let you know after the game," says MacTavish, asked if tonight's tilt will decide the fate of Schremp and Rita.
Unencumbered by the big picture, my vote is to turn Schremp loose for eight or nine games to start the regular season. That gets him a look-see without using up a year of his contract, a clause that kicks in at 10 games. I want to see Schremp dangle against real NHL line-ups. I want to see him try to make things happen, warts and all.
Why Schremp? Why not?
"You want to really make sure, for Robbie, that we're doing the right thing for him," said MacTavish. "There's been a lot of instances where players have come out of junior too soon.
"What you lose when you bring young players away from their junior team is the ability for them to pick up a leadership role on their team and develop that leadership part of it."
Schremp, 19, has what the Oilers don't have enough of - offensive talent and an ability to run the power play. It doesn't hurt that he's also got pizzazz, a bit of a swagger and is gold for reporters - not that MacT and Lowe give a hoot about that. Nor should they.
"I need to prove myself," Schremp said. "I need to prove I can play at this pace and produce. That's the main thing. I have to show them that I can."
WINCHESTER DOESN'T NEED WAIVERS
With 15 forwards looking for 14 jobs, the perception is it comes down to Schremp or Rita. Not necessarily. Winchester, it should be noted, doesn't need waivers to be sent to the minors. Winchester can be demoted and recalled by the Oilers without clearing.
Rita, 24, does need waivers, and that's where things get dicey. The Finn has had a good pre-season - no goals, but 16 shots and an assist to go with a minus-4 rating. The last thing the Oilers want is to risk losing their 1999 first-round pick just when he might be blossoming.
That said, the dynamic Schremp had this team made before coming off the rails in a 5-0 loss to the Flames in Calgary. He's got one goal, 19 shots and is a minus-1 going into tonight. If Schremp is sent to London, he can only be recalled on an emergency basis.
"I might go at it more offensively and drive the net a little harder, but I'm not going to let up on my defensive responsibilities," said Schremp, who isn't the least bit bothered by having to put up or shut up.
"Pressure was a big thing with us last year in London. We had pressure games every night with the winning streak. It was like a playoff game every night. I think I can handle it."
Dangle, kid. Let the boss sort it out.