Debate Night in San Jose: Will a defensive prospect make the team out of camp?

In preparation for the Sharks, which is set to begin in a little over a month, Plank and TCY got into a pretty lively debate over Gmail about the possibility of a prospect making the Sharks roster out of training camp. What follows is a transcript of that conversation.

Plank: Dude, there's just no way any rooks make it right out of camp.

TCY: Wilson wouldn't pump up the system unless he was willing to get a guy in there.

Plank: I'm not quite sure I get the thought process. Unless someone has a lights out camp, which I think is unlikely, the seven you see now are who they go with to start the year. Guaranteed management doesn't want to pay a guy NHL money if he's going to sit in the minors-- right now they have their top six, and unless a trade happens before camp begins, it seems pretty set.

TCY: I'm not saying they would necessarily send a guy directly to the minors. Regardless, I don't think Jay Leach is a lock for the seventh spot.

Plank: Why bring up a guy (Joslin, Moore, Petrecki) if he's just going to sit on the bench? Riddle me that Tom Riddle.

TCY: Because if one guy struggles, which is very possible, then it's okay to swap because of cap space. In addition, if one guy really impresses in camp, they make room for him.

Plank: I completely agree with the possibility of a prospect joining the team at a later date, but why don't you just call him up from Worcester during the season. I think you're overlooking getting playing time in the minors.

TCY: I know this is an issue, but I think they can work around that. I think if a guy impresses in camp they find a way to make it work. Either by riding him as a scratch and getting him intermitent playing time, or by rolling seven defenseman, which is something that McLellan was all for last year.

Plank: If someone struggles during the middle of the season then I call an AHL player up-- playing time is much more valuable to these guys than sitting on the bench and waiting for a guy like Huskins, Demers, or Wallin to falter. Furthermore, I don't really buy the camp argument. I think you may be putting a little too much value into having a strong camp for a blueliner this year. For the forwards it will be important because there's open roster spots. If a guy impresses he goes to the top of the list for call-ups, and then you roll into the year keeping him in mind.

TCY: I agree that could happen, but what about the camp Demers had last season? He impressed the coaches a lot, joined the team right out of the gate, and eventually was dressing for the playoffs. If Wilson was happy with this team, he wouldn't say that he was looking to make a blueline move at some point this season.

Plank: The difference with Demers was that last season there was an open roster spot during camp that he was competing for. Boyle, Blake, Vlasic, Murray, and Huskins were the five guys who had spots locked up, meaning there was an opportunity for a young guy to make the team. There's seven now, six if you disclude Leach.

TCY: Wilson must have a contingency plan of some sort, because if he really was in the running for Willie Mitchell, then he has to have a plan in place. If he's not happy with someone, who's to say he doesn't improve the team with a rookie that is exceeding expectations.

Plank: I'm not ruling out a trade to upgrade, but I'm ruling out the chance a Worcesterite makes the squad right out of camp. There's no way Joslin or Moore is ready for top-four minutes from the get go, which is what the Sharks need. They have enough depth players. The fact that Wilson signed both Wallin and Leach to fill those roles from the get go indicates to me he doesn't think a prospect will be ready to join the team right away.

TCY: I'm arguing a harder point here, and I understand that. However, I don't think you can rule out the possibility.

Plank: Now listen here buddyroo, this isn't debate club. You chose this viewpoint.

TCY and Plank use emoticons and other lowbrow language to convey their laughter

Plank: Just like mama told me, anything in this world is possible. But just like me finding out what this thing dangling between my legs is used for when it comes to a woman, some possibilities are far-fetched.

TCY: Here's another situation which I think is more realistic-- Player X has a strong camp, a stronger one than someone currently on the blueline. Wilson is in the win-now business and has identified the blueline as a need. If they falter, you can always send them to the minors. There is no reason someone should play, if they are the weaker option, just because they are earning an NHL salary. In that situation you sit Huskins on the bench or roll seven defenseman.

Plank: Kent Huskins, despite being overpaid, played all 82 games last year. I really can't see a situation where he starts the year on the bench unless a skate falls on a tendon in his hand. And yes, that's an obscure Dan Boyle reference.

TCY: I just used Huskins as an example in this case, but if Derek Joslin or Mike Moore come into camp and play lights out, you don't think that they'll find a way to play them on the NHL roster? I do.

Plank: I completely agree with the notion that someone shouldn't be given a spot just because they're making X amount of dollars-- however, that doesn't make the scenario any more likely than it is. Wilson believes in Wallin and Huskins, evidenced by their contracts and playing time. There's literally no rush to bring up Joslin/Moore right now based off a "strong camp." Give him time in Worcester to prove that he's actually ready for the prime time. If you're in the win-now business, I think the current roster gives you a better chance to do that compared to one that includes players in the minors.

TCY: I understand that Wallin and Huskins were given contracts because Wilson thinks they are pieces to a winning blueline. But if he wants improvement, and that improvement could be had in-house, it would be irresponsible to send them down if they are a better fit for the roster.

Plank: Just because someone does well in camp doesn't mean they're ready for an NHL spot-- Worcester is the proving grounds for the guys, and unless they can fill a top four role right out of the gate, which I don't believe they can, it makes more sense to give them top minutes in Worcester and sharpen their teeth.

TCY: Who's to say Joslin, Moore, or Petrecki doesn't make Huskins expendable, and he is subsequently moved?

Plank: If you're introducing the concept of a trade, which I was assuming we weren't, that actually makes less sense. I don't think you can ever make a decision like that based off of a "strong camp."

TCY: Both players have played in the AHL for two years at this point. Wilson has expressed faith in them. Who's to say they aren't ready? We're going off the assumption that the strong camp is the only factor, when in fact Wilson has watched these guys for two years now.

Plank: And subsequently offered Wallin and Leach a contract after watching them for two years, putting the blueline at seven NHL contracts. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Who cares if they've played two years in the AHL at this point. They're both not ready for top four minutes right now, which is what this team needs desperately. That's who Wilson is targeting when he's talking about upgrading the blueline, a guy who can go against the opponent's best night in, night out.

TCY: You're making it seem like if a player isn't ready for top four minutes, then they should be in the AHL. I'm saying that if a player is ready for the NHL, he should be in the NHL.

Plank: Right, and not all teams already have seven NHL defenseman on the roster, two of whom were signed this offseason. It's not that black and white. It's a decision that will be made with respect to the roster situation. Just like Demers last year-- there was an empty roster spot for that competition to take place, and as of right now, there just flat out isn't that type of spot.

TCY: There is going to come to a point where Wilson will have to realize that he has a team that will not be able to rely heavily on four guys unless he makes a move. I think it's more likely that the second and third pairings play similar minutes. And although you were a big Willie Mitchell supporter, as was I, I don't know if he would have been able to contribute 20 minutes a game.

Plank: Ah, my poor tender heart, scorned by the lash of your wicked tongue. Willie Mitchell has been healthy all summer and is one of the better defensive defenseman in the entire NHL. He's played 20+ minutes for awhile now, and that was exactly what the Sharks needed.

TCY: He has the possibility to play a high number of minutes, but concussions are no joke. He hasn't played a full season in awhile. I would have been very happy to have him on the roster because he would have been an improvement. But if you're saying that just because someone is a rookie, even if they are an improvement, they aren't making the team. I think that Wilson makes room for them.

Plank: Alright let's wrap this up-- we've pretty much hammered both our points across for the better part of twenty minutes now. I'm getting restless.

TCY: If a player has a strong camp, and I'm not saying that he plays minutes adequately, I'm saying that he plays above and beyond expectations and shows skill that would be an improvement over a current NHL defenseman, that player should be on the roster. This is, of course, coupled with the fact that both players have has two strong AHL seasons and playoff runs. If you truly believe that LA has improved, and I know that you do, then games at the beginning of the season matter just as much as games at the end of the season matter. Why limit your team at any point? Multiple NHL clubs carry seven defensemen on the NHL roster, it's not unheard of. And although playing a rookie in Worcester is better for their long term development, the Sharks are judged in the now and must succeed in the now. If a player is going to become a part of the NHL roster eventually, I'd rather have them there now so that they could gel with the team. I don't want them to be scratched, and if they are, I don't think it's a good place for them to be. But if they are only playing 10 minutes a game, I still think that they should be up with the big club. If that means playing seven defensemen, so be it. Maybe Joslin and Demers together are worth more than Jamal Mayers, which I believe to be the case. It comes down to the fact that you make room for a player who is an improvement.

Plank: I'm saying that if a player has a "strong camp," in no way does that influence my decision on who i start with out of the gate. If Joslin is better than someone in the NHL, he will prove that throughout the first month in Worcester. Then if someone is struggling at the NHL level (Huskins, Demers, Wallin), you call him up, send Leach down, and either roll seven defenseman or bench whoever is struggling. I don't think that training camp is especially relevant to our blueline at this juncture when we have seven guys signed, and top pairing minutes available down in Worcester where Joslin/Moore can grow even more. Wilson made a conscious decision to sign Wallin and Leach this offseason, which indicates to me that the youth will have to wait another year before they are fully able to compete at training camp in order to earn a roster spot. Huskins is fine in a bottom pairing role. It's a top minutes defenseman that the Sharks are in the market for, and Joslin/Moore do nothing to help fill those needs. Let them get more experience playing against the toughest competition the AHL has to offer, and if someone in the NHL is a complete bust a month into the year, promote the guy who is most deserving at that moment based off of a month of game play, not a strong camp.

Let's throw down our final predictions now and be done with it.

TCY: I may be crazy to think someone will make the team out of camp...call me optimistic but I do think Wilson will realize if a player can help the squad. My prediction depends on alot of factors, so I'll put the odds at 50/50, and I'll hope that the organization doesn't handcuff themselves if a player could really contribute immediately.

Plank: I put it at a 95% chance no prospect makes the team out of camp, and the Sharks start the year in Sweden with all seven defenseman they currently have on the roster.

*****

Essentially, we agree on one principle-- a guy should get rewarded for strong play. Both of us feel that a call-up during the season is a possibility.

The difference between us is that TCY thinks a strong camp coupled with two years of AHL play means a player could join the team, while Plank feels as if the offseason signings indicate the prospects aren't quite ready, as well as the fact that success at training camp takes a backseat to a strong month in Worcester.

Let us know how you feel in the comments, as well as in the accompanying poll.

 

Go Sharks.

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