TORONTO — Sometimes, most times, when a player is called up from the minors he can tell by the numbers that he doesn’t have a chance to stick.
Not this time. Not on this team. As the Oilers attempt to change the face of their fledgling franchise, they are leaving no stone unturned in their search for fresh talent.
Starting in their own back yard.
So Chris Minard, a 28-year-old with eight minor league teams on his resume, is getting his shot. Before the Oilers try bringing in new players over the summer, they’ll be scouring their own organization for hidden gems like Ryan Potulny.
“He’s setting up for his future,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn, who wants to keep Minard in the lineup Saturday in Toronto after debuting him Thursday in Montreal. “We brought him here to look at him as part of this team going forward. So, it’s not a one-night stand type of thing. It’s an attempt to look at our organization and see where our depth lies and what potential we have for NHL players.
“Our management’s wish is to look at their personnel, people they think might have a chance.
“Clearly the elevator is down at the bottom, and we want to at least punch some buttons.”
Minard played 10:54 against the Canadiens on a line with Sam Gagner and Marc Pouliot, and assisted on a first-period power-play goal.
He’s being watched, closely, and knows it’s a great opportunity to keep their attention.
“I’m sure that’s a reason why I’m here, to give me a look and see if I can play at this level,” said Minard, who’s played minor league hockey from the Pensacola Ice Pilot to Alsaka Aces and six other spots in between.
“I think last year I was close when I was with Pittsburgh, but they picked up a couple of guys at the trade deadline. I thought I was close to becoming an everyday player. That was my goal this year, to become that.
“It’s a great chance. I think everybody in the minors would love to come up and have an audition like this. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity.”
Potulny actually took the opportunity Minard should have had in early November. Minard had been Springfield’s hottest player, but was out with a concussion when the call-up came.
“I took a bad hit and the symptoms wouldn’t go away,” said Minard, who missed 35 games. “It was the first one since my first year in junior. It was hard because I was playing really well down there and I thought I was close to coming back. The timing sucked.”
He’s been back a month now, and with Patrick O’Sullivan out with a hand injury, finally got the call. Seeing Potulny succeed makes him believe he can, too.
“It makes you feel like you never give up,” he said. “Never quit.”