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Schremp wants to make most of clean slate

Wednesday, 08.12.2009 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

By Dan Tencer - EdmontonOilers.com

Not too long ago, Rob Schremp was the latest can't-miss kid.

In 2005-06, the Edmonton Oilers' 2004 first-round draft pick had 57 goals and 145 points in 57 games with the London Knights in the OHL. Following that season, he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers and got ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Things haven't quite played out for Schremp the way he -- or anybody else -- expected.

The 23-year-old has played in just seven NHL games, was ridiculed by former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish last winter and registered a measly seven goals 69 games with the Oilers' AHL farm team in Springfield.

But it's a new year and a new coaching staff -- and Schremp is trying to put all that disappointment behind him. Training camp in September will likely settle his future with the Oilers and, quite possibly, in the NHL.

And he knows it.

"I have a lot of fire in my game and a lot of hunger in my belly to get ready for next year and prove I can have a better season," Schremp said.

To be prepared for his make-or-break camp, Schremp has been working out with teammate Sam Gagner at a gym in London. The flashy forward is pushing himself as hard as he knows how because it's the biggest summer of his life.

Why has it come to this? Why did Schremp -- as natural a goal-scorer as there was in junior hockey -- struggle so mightily to produce last season.

"We lost 55 games last year," Schremp said of his second season in Springfield. "We lost 33 games combined in three years when I played for the London Knights. I'm not used to losing.

"Things just started tail-spinning. We started losing games and losing games and losing games. We couldn't score goals, we couldn't stop from getting scored on. We weren't out there lollygagging. We weren't out there being a bunch of poor sports. We were giving an effort, we just weren't winning. You sit back now and say it makes you tougher as a player, but when you're sitting there during the season losing eight games in a row you're ready to jump off a balcony."

Schremp said the attitude within the team had soured by the time Christmas rolled around. That made it a tough atmosphere in which to produce favorable individual results.

"We were out of the playoffs by January," said Schremp, who finished with 7 goals and 35 assists for 42 points, down from 23-53-76 in 2007-08. "We played the last few months for nothing. It was one of those years that you dread and just want it to be over with."

To make matters worse, MacTavish dropped a bomb on Jan. 11. Tired of fielding questions from the media about Schremp, MacTavish sounded off.

"I guess every time we call somebody up we've got to explain why it's not Robbie, but the bottom line is it's up to Robbie to be a decent player down there," MacTavish said. "We all know what he can do, he's got decent hands, he can work a power play OK, but he's slow, he's not a physical player, he's soft at this level.

"There are a lot of things in his game he needs to address before he becomes that player who gets called up. It's getting to the point where you've gotta be honest: he's not helping them particularly down there right now and there's no reason to think he'll be able to come up here and help us."

Schremp isn't open to discussing how those comments made him feel, although he took them in stride at the time.

"It was obviously a setback," Schremp said. "Was it called for? No. Was it professional? No."

So what happens now?

"I have a lot of fire in my game and a lot of hunger in my belly to get ready for next year and prove I can have a better season." -- Rob Schremp

With a new coaching staff (Pat Quinn and Tom Renney) in place at the NHL level, it's the ultimate clean slate for Schremp, who welcomed the changes.

"My game didn't work for Craig and sometimes that's going to happen," he said. "He didn't feel like I was going to help him win. I've never been so excited for a camp, I'll say that."

For now, Schremp's working out hard to be ready for his next chance to be the player everyone thought he would be just a few short years ago.

He wishes he had an assurance that he'd be wearing an Oilers jersey next season, but he doesn't. "To be honest with you, I don't know where I stand," he says. "That's my own problem. I should have had a better year last year. But, whatever, it's over with. I have ability. They drafted me for a reason.

"Obviously, I can play the game. I'm just still trying to prove it to them."



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