Tencer's Blog: Off-season Uncertainty
Dan Tencer discusses potential player departures in his latest blog
A second round pick by the Oilers, 31st overall in 2002, Deslauriers' road to the NHL was a long and winding one. He battled through time in the ECHL, split AHL affiliations in Hamilton and Wilkes-Barre, before getting a shot to be an NHL starter in 2009-10. Though he started the majority of the games last season, due to Nikolai Khabibulin's injury, Deslauriers did give way to Devan Dubnyk during the latter part of the year and ended up being outplayed by the young man who is a couple years his junior. Ultimately, Dubnyk was chosen as the goaltender of the future, leaving Deslauriers to clear waivers and report to his assignment in the AHL.
Todd Nelson, the coach of the Oklahoma City Barons, told me earlier this week that Deslauriers was the main reason that the team made the playoffs. The brunt of the workload in OKC had been handled by Martin Gerber for most of the year, but Deslauriers came up clutch when pressed into action due to an injury to Gerber late in the campaign. In the regular season, Deslauriers came up with 17 wins in 35 appearances with a .906 SV%. He went 7-2-2 in the team's final 11 games of the year.
Consensus, I think, is that Deslauriers will look towards another organization with his Unrestricted Free Agency this summer. There's no room for him to be an everyday NHL goaltender here, and perhaps he can earn that nod on a low salary deal with a club that is in the market.
Gerber, incidentally, is a sure bet to move on to another organization this off-season.
Drafted 94th overall in 2003 out of Sudbury in the OHL, where he was the team captain, Stortini fought his way, literally, into the NHL in 2006-07. Consistently praised by every head coach he's had for a tremendous work ethic, Stortini has worked hard to improve the areas of his game that have been identified as weaknesses. To this day, I firmly believe that Stortini is one of the most reliable and defensively sound "tough guys" that I've seen play in the league. Problem is, Stortini didn't make it to the show because of his reliability or defensive play -- the brass tax is, he made it because he fights.
The last fight of his NHL season was in Dallas on January 26, a curiously defensive effort against Krys Barch, who had been beat up earlier in the game by Jim Vandermeer. Just days later, Stortini was waived and sent down to the AHL. For the Barons, Stortini played center ice and acted more as an agitator (assistant coach Rocky Thompson referred to him as a "rat") than as a traditional tough guy. He only fought four times, which surprised some, who figured him to be throwing down often in an effort to get noticed and punch a ticket back to the show.
Stortini is an NHL player, but he needs to excel at his niche. Only 25 years old, there's still plenty of time for development, and I expect to see Zack back in the league. But he is, quite literally, going to have to fight for it again...in Edmonton, or somewhere else.
He is, hands down, the toughest and most feared fighter in the NHL today. The problem is that everybody knows it, and nobody will fight him, rendering that aspect of his game less effective. Would you have guessed that he was third on the Oilers in fighting majors this past season? He had seven, while Theo Peckham had 10 and Zack Stortini had eight. The question then becomes, is MacIntyre able to bring the "cooler" effect to the bench when he's used sparingly?
Head coach Tom Renney isn't going to be able to play this player more than a couple of minutes a night. MacIntyre has a tremendous work ethic, but he'll be 31 when the next season starts and the old "it is what it is" cliche applies. We know his game, we know his strengths, we know his weaknesses. He's the toughest guy in the league, but also a tough guy to have on the ice in some instances. It'll be an interesting decision when the club determines its direction with this Unrestricted Free Agent.
The veteran rearguard loves to joke that he holds the NHL record for consecutive one-year contracts signed. If he plays again next season, you can bet that'll be the case once again. Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in 1994, Strudwick has been a member of five NHL teams over 674 games. He's beloved in every city, by every teammate, a reliable and tough-as-nails option on the back end. But, at 35-going-on-36, Strudwick might be looking to the next stage of his career.
Whether he's back as a player with the Oilers, or somewhere else, or involved on the player development side of things, you can bet that Strudwick will be in the NHL next season.