Smid, Stortini get bad news

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

There weren't a whole lot of surprises on the final day of Edmonton Oilers cuts.

Unless, of course, you were Zack Stortini or Ladislav Smid.

Both of them played plenty of good hockey for Edmonton last season, proved themselves in the NHL, won their coach's confidence, and should have had a leg up on the competition when training camp opened this season.

In a lot of years, their track records alone would have been enough to retain their spots on the team.

Not this year. True to his word, head coach Craig MacTavish wasn't having anything to do with a status quo that saw Edmonton post its worst finish in franchise history.

So the young defenceman and the young winger are bound for Kelly Buchberger's Springfield Falcons while the guys who took their jobs will be at Rexall Place tomorrow for opening night in the NHL.

"We want to stay true to our philosophy here," said GM Kevin Lowe, addressing the media after the final cuts were announced. "And the fact of the matter is there are a few guys here who had better camps than (Smid).

"Most noticeably Tommy Gilbert. So the only fair thing to do was for Laddie to go down and play some games."

NUMBERS GAME

Same for Stortini, who was up against the numbers when the likes of Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Kyle Brodziak and Marc Pouliot started showing everyone they might just be for real.

"I said almost from the inception of camp that it was a fresh slate for everybody - you have to work your way onto the team," said head coach Craig MacTavish, adding Smid seemed nervous and out of sorts all camp.

"He put the work in in the off-season. He's a lot stronger. He put on some good weight.

"It's just the confidence and inconsistency that youth brings. For him, it was an inconsistent camp."

Gilbert, meanwhile, picked up right where he left off last season, playing like a veteran.

"He had a good camp," said MacTavish. "I thought he played very well."

Still, it's not easy cutting veterans, even if they're only veterans of 77 and 29 games.

"It was mixed feelings on both those guys," MacTavish said.

"It's difficult for those kids to go through something like that, but as a coach and as an organization you want to impress upon them that it's part of the process.

"I've had the experience of going up and down in the minors through the first three years of my career, so I have a pretty good understanding of what they're feeling right now. But at the same time you want to make sure that the players are able to frame it the right way and the disappointment doesn't become debilitating to the point that they can't play their game."

It doesn't sound like it will be.

HARD WORK NEEDED

"I'm going to go down there and work as hard as I can," said Stortini. "Make the best of the situation."

It's their only choice. Besides, with a team this young, a lot of the moves made yesterday are on a trial basis.

"I know for a fact the roster you see on Thursday night won't be the roster you see for the entire season," said Lowe.

MacTavish agrees there could be a lot of traffic between Edmonton and Springfield.

"There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered with the group we have up here," he said.

"Hopefully things will go well, but (having options) and having our own minor league team are very valuable assets for us right now."


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