Monday, September 1, 2008
By now you've heard the news that Alex Plante is not reporting to camp with the Calgary Hitmen. Plante can be seen here at the right, pulling on his Oiler sweater at the draft with Kevin Lowe and Kevin Prendergast looking stunned and maybe a little frightened by the pick they'd just made.
Of course a little over a year later and some fans are wondering if the two Oiler execs are regretting the choice they made that day, 15th overall in round one. After missing the vast majority of last season to inuries then losing his spot on the depth chart as a result, Plante left the team after the playoffs with a bad taste in his mouth.
The old adage in football when the starting quarterback gets hurt, misses some time then returns to action is: you don't lose your job due to injury. It still happens in that sport, but more often than not, the returning guy gets the chance to prove he's able to step back into the job.
Plante won't say it but others have told me that not getting the same opportunity when he returned to the Hitmen lineup last year was largely the root of the current situation. With the Hitmen in the thick of the WHL playoff race last year and getting strong performances from the 6 players GM Kelly Kisio had in the line up, Plante didn't receive that opportunity to slip back into the role he'd held the season previous. Suffice to say the player and his WHL team are having philosophical differences.
So now the question becomes, what happens next?
The Hitmen, while they likely will take a step back from last year after losing Karl Alzner (WSH), T.J. Galiardi (COL), Ryan White (MTL) and Brock Nixon (UFA) they will still be a formidable opponent. On the backend they will still have Paul Postma (ATL), Michael Stone (PHX) and Keith Seabrook (WSH) coming back and a year older. And hey, what if Alzner unexpectedly returns too? There certainly is no guarantee that Plante was going to be a top pairing guy in CGY this year.
Plante's options are pretty limited:
1) change his mind and report to Calgary with tail between legs... highly unlikely.
2) sit at home and wait for a trade - not desireable but once upon a time Brendan Witt sat out an entire season and really, it didn't seem to hurt him long term. Of course, Witt hadn't already missed the previous year's worth of development time so in Plante's case doing so would be potentially disastrous.
3) report to a MJHL team that owns his rights... whoever that is. I don't honestly even know if a team in Manitoba does own his Jr. A rights but that was an option that one WHL GM I spoke with on Sunday suggested.
4) I'm wondering if the Edmonton Oilers could sign him and put him in the minors. He's not 20 years old yet and that usually precludes the thought but Plante has played parts of 4 seasons in the WHL and, unless I'm mistaken, would make him AHL/ECHL eligible. I'll have to double check on that part though.
I expect the Hitmen are looking for a trading partner, but they're not just going to give Plante away either. Afterall, from their perspective they can boast that they're giving up a top 15 NHL draft pick so they can demand a significant return. They'll want to address their team needs which probably would mean a goalie or a scorer.
I've been saying since early June that the Brandon Wheat Kings make a ton of sense - Plante's hometown, his father and brother both played for the Wheaties, they are an up and coming team who could be contenders by adding someone like Plante, and they could possibly be hosting the 2010 Memorial Cup.
After watching day 2 of the Oil Kings tournament in St. Albert tonight I've come to believe that another team could be a reasonable trading partner with Calgary too. And no, not Edmonton.
The Regina Pats appear to have the enviable problem of having too many quality netminders. All four netminders the Pats have brought with them could legitimately play in the league and there is no guarantee that Linden Rowat (LA) is going to return as the starter, in fact, a conversation Dean Millard and I had with someone tonight suggested he won't be.
Rowat is being pushed by 18-year-old Jeff Bosch, also with the team last year, who was outstanding at times in the scrimmage tonight against Edmonton. Also in the mix is 16-year-old Regina native Derek Tendler who won accolades last year in his minor hockey league. Not to be forgotten is Damien Kelto, a BCHL standout last season who the Oil Kings would have received at the deadline last year if they had proceeded to hand Robin Figren over to the Pats.
4 quality netminders and the possibility of having Rowat as trade bait, a year after being named top goalie in the conference? Tell me how a deal between Regina and Calgary involving Rowat for Plante (plus whatever else either way if need be) doesn't make a boat load of sense.
Your thoughts would be cool.