Monday, September 28, 2015

James Sheppard and the Importance of the Looming Expansion

James Sheppard at 2015 CBJ Training Camp
During this training camp something occurred that is being repeated throughout the league.  Sometimes it is a young guy, a tweener like James Sheppard.  Elsewhere it is veterans having a hard time catching on to a team.  It just seems to me that there are more NHL caliber players out there than there are positions.

And, I have to admit to being a bit confused about what Jarmo and JD are up to.  We are going into this season with a deep, veteran, albeit young, lineup.  We are floating up near the cap, yet the talent level down at Lake Erie is as high as it has ever been.

Based on his showing in training camp, James Sheppard makes this team 5 years ago.  I thought he looked really solid to me, and stood out in all of the preseason games I watched.  But he was gone in the first series of cuts.  Five years ago, Kerby Rychal makes this team, hands down.  Probably not this year.  So why the level of veterans?  Certainly experimenting with 'making room for the young guys' last year didn't work out so well for our fourth line.  And yes, the injuries compounded the problem.  So I get not wanting to walk the same path as last year.  But a cap team?

Then it occurred to me.  This summer, or next, there is going to be an expansion draft.  Forty-six new NHL jobs, and the development systems to support them, are going to be created!  Every team is going to get bled of several players in the expansion draft.  How will the CBJ deal with.....oh.  Yeah, that's right.  Young talent safely ensconced in the AHL, abundant veteran talent to spare at the parent club come time for the expansion draft.  

So this is an important year for this group.  It is time to feel a sense of real urgency, as this group of players really only has about 2 years together.  Then there will be the tough decisions about who to protect in the expansion draft, and who you can make available, then back filling with the young talent.  This group of players needs to move the bar in Columbus, and move it hard THIS year.  In spite of the long term contracts, this group will be under assault before two years is out.

And keep skating James Sheppard.  Hook on somewhere and bide your time, and continue your development.  There will be jobs out there soon.  I thought you showed well at our training camp.  Good luck for your future!


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