SUN Hockey Pool

Hardly a cup of coffee

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

CALGARY -- Rob Schremp flopped down his sticks and equipment bag and slumped into a chair in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix.

His body language said it all.

He was crushed.

While the rest of the Edmonton Oilers boarded a bus for the airport and a charter flight to Calgary for tonight's game with the Flames, he spent the rest of his day trying to catch up with the Springfield Falcons and digest the fact that his NHL audition is over.

At some point during Schremp's brief call-up, one game in Vancouver and just 3:12 of ice time in Phoenix Thursday night, head coach Craig MacTavish decided the 21-year-old first round draft pick still isn't ready, still can't help the Oilers.

"I'll just go down and keep doing the same things I've been doing," he said, biting his tongue as best he could.

"I'm not happy about it, but all you can do it go down and keep working hard."

Schremp said all the right things, which is smart, because venting isn't going to help his cause any, but you can tell this one burned him more than any of the previous demotions.

And it's easy to see why he's upset. Every player who's ever been cut will tell you he didn't get a fair shake, but in this case it might be true. One game in Vancouver and 3:12 in Phoenix can hardly be considered a good look.

"We were protecting a lead and I just don't have the confidence in his game to have him out there in those situations yet," said MacTavish, when asked about Schremp's pine ride in Phoenix.

MIND MADE UP

But the coach went on to say his mind was made up even before the Phoenix game.

"I didn't expect him to be here long term when I called him up," said the coach.

"I don't think that Robbie is ready to help us long term right now."

That a team with a power play running at 3.7% efficiency and just about the worst offence in the NHL can be this quick to dismiss an offensive power-play specialist will drop a lot of jaws among Oilers fans.

Deciding he can't help their woeful power play without even playing him on the power play in Phoenix doesn't make sense.

But MacTavish has been watching him like a hawk, in practice as well as his limited game action, and says it's not a case of beggars being choosers.

"It was just my decision," he said.

"I think what he can add on the power play is probably going to be offset by what he gives up five on five. And I don't know that his game is at the point right now that he's going to be all that productive on an NHL power play.

PART OF THE PROCESS

"(Being sent down) is all part of the process for those young players. We talked about it earlier, about players coming up and down, entry level guys. JF Jacques (recalled for the Flames game) is the same way."

MacTavish admits Schremp has improved from last year, but still isn't strong enough or fast enough to be an impact player.

"He's not ready for the NHL yet on a full-time basis. I think that's clear. I can see him coming back up, but I think the things he needs to stay up here long term are not quick fixes, they're longer-term fixes.

"He needs the strength base and the quickness. He's got to be strong enough to battle at a standstill with players because he's not going to outskate many players."


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