OLESZ IN AND SMITH A PERMANENT GRADUATE?
11/18/2011 12:36 PM - Mike Peck
It’s hard to argue against Ben Smith getting a promotion to the National Hockey League. As expected by many after his healthy scratch on Wednesday in Rockford, Smith was summoned by Chicago on Thursday.
Could Smith stick in the NHL for good? I think he will. You hate to see guys lose a roster spot due to an injury, and that’s basically what happened to Smith after a concussion in the second to final preseason game against Detroit this fall. But with the Blackhawks renewed depth, there was no reason to rush Smith back into the Hawks lineup and into the NHL.
I for one, like when prospects are given more than enough time to develop in the AHL (aka. like the Detroit Red Wings). But Smith is clearly ready. He is ready and I wouldn’t expect him back in Rockford.
It’s a broken record, but I’ll say it again. They don’t come any classier than Ben Smith and he works his butt off every day and deserves to be in the NHL. You need just a minute to realize his makeup and to become a Ben Smith fan.
To make room for Smith, someone had to go in Chicago and Rostislav Olesz was the odd man out. After appearing in just six games with the Blackhawks, Olesz really didn’t seem to have a role on the team. A bulky forward with some great hands, Olesz was primarily playing on Chicago’s fourth line, kind of out of character for him.
I don’t think it was a shock that he cleared waivers with his $3.125-million salary with three seasons left on his current contract. I know, we as fans, are quick to point out that so-and-so player sucks or whatever because on the surface they aren’t producing or they are being over paid.
The thing with Olesz and with Cristobal Huet (I bet you haven’t heard that name for a while!), these players aren’t bad players and both should both probably be in the NHL right now. But because of their current contracts, their production doesn’t justify their payday.
You can’t tell me that Huet wouldn’t be playing in the NHL right now if he were making around $2-million a year. I won’t, however, fault a person for signing a huge contract because you and I would do the same thing. You reap what you sew right? This unfortunately means for Olesz that he now has to play in the AHL and try to earn his way back up to the NHL.
Although I’m certain that he’s not happy about the demotion, Olesz is happy that he will be playing every day again and since joining the IceHogs on Thursday he has been very pleasant. I hope he performs well here and he can get his career back on track in the NHL soon.
There are a few players in the AHL that are in similar situations to Olesz (Wade Redden and Jeff Finger come to mind). Burying players in the minors or overseas to get them off of the salary cap could be an interesting topic with the NHL and the players are negotiating the next CBA.
An interesting note about Olesz…he became the third player to play for the Blackhawks (and now second for Rockford) that was selected in the top seven of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Olesz was the seventh pick by the Florida Panther. Chicago selected Cam Barker #3 overall and Andrew Ladd was picked by the Carolina Hurricanes #4.
Alexander Ovechkin (Washington) was #1 followed by Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh). After Ladd, Blake Wheeler (Phoenix) was fifth followed by Al Montoya (NY Rangers).
It’s Alec Richards turn to try to turnaround Rockford’s goals against misfortunes tonight in Charlotte. Along with Kyle Beach, Ben Youds and Byron Froese are Rockford’s scratches. Justin Peters is expected to go for the Checkers tonight, another tough challenge for the IceHogs offense which has been pretty solid lately.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Oklahoma City had allowed just four third period goals in 15 games. Down 4-1 in the third, Rockford rattled off three straight markers against the red hot Yann Danis, but surrendered the game-winning tally just under a minute after tying the game.
That goal, to me, sums up the youth of the IceHogs right now though. This team is capable of beating anyone, but has to keep it even keeled. The club battled back from a three-goal deficit, but then failed to put a body on Ryan Keller on the very next shift and the winger took advantage to score the game winner.
Keller should not have been given that much time and space as there were three IceHogs players near him and they didn’t do as much as graze him before his tally.
This is our first ever trip to Charlotte, but not the first IceHogs game in North Carolina in team history. Rockford last played in the state on March 23, 2002, a 7-3 win over the Asheville Smoke in the team’s UHL days. Rockford was actually 4-1-1 in Asheville in six games.
Charlotte is a very solid town and an ideal set up for us. Plenty of good restaurants just outside the front door of our hotel and the rink is within walking distance.
The Checkers play in the same building as the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, so it’s another cavernous arena in Western Conference. As much as people in Rockford want to complain about the BMO Harris Bank Center (even though I haven’t as much lately), visiting teams typically like playing in Rockford because the BMO is a perfect size building for the AHL.
One final note: Remember the perception that the IceHogs’ black alternate Hammer jerseys were cursed? Well there is a similar sentiment here in Charlotte with their black alternate jerseys. The Checkers owner actually wouldn’t let the team wear the blacks last season because the team seemed to play so poorly in them.
Well that ban was lifted this season and in the Checkers first game wearing them on Oct. 21 against Houston, Charlotte blew a 2-1 lead late in the third period, including allowing the game-winning goal with just four-seconds left in regulation. Rumor has it that there was bonfire threatened!
Guess which jerseys the Checkers are wearing tonight? The blacks! Hey, I’m looking for anything right now.
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