There’s a problem down at the Plante

Jonathan Willis
October 29 2012 04:32PM

The Oklahoma City Barons beat Texas 4-2 on Sunday. They did it without Alex Plante, who for the third time in seven games sat in the press box and watched. For a Plante, a first round draft pick, third year professional, and a guy with NHL games under his belt each year he’s been a pro, this is not a welcome development.

Oklahoma, as a development team carrying a ton of extra bodies, is going to healthy-scratch players every once in a while. On defence, four players have been a fixture in the lineup: the top pairing of Justin Schultz and Martin Marincin, and right-side options Colten Teubert and Taylor Fedun. Three others have rotated in and out of the lineup: Plante, rookie rearguard Brandon Davidson, and AHL’er Dan Ringwald.

It’s difficult to fault head coach Todd Nelson for making the decisions on the back end as he has. Each of the three scratches has done things to earn a brief break from the lineup.

Davidson has been the best of the three, and he’s only been a scratch for a single contest so far. In his first season in the AHL, Davidson has at times struggled, particularly with the speed of the game. Still, he has a nice blend of skills – he’s not a bruiser but he plays his opposition hard and at 6’2”, 205lbs he has the frame to be effective doing so. He’s also a smart player, generally making good decisions with the puck (though he sometimes fails to make them quickly enough). He needs some work and may or may not eventually make the NHL grade but in the early going he’s managed to get some clearance from Plante and Ringwald.

Dan Ringwald is Alex Plante’s direct competition for the last spot in the top-six, and so far the two are more or less neck and neck. Ringwald has some advantages – most notably that he’s a left-shooting defender, which means that when he’s dressed Taylor Fedun does not have to play on his off-side. On the other hand, Ringwald isn’t really a prospect – he’s 26, on an AHL deal, and over the last two seasons has played twice as many ECHL games as AHL games. He shouldn’t be a guy that Plante has trouble staying in front of (Plante got some help on that score on Sunday, as Ringwald was a turnover machine against Texas).

Plante should be ahead in this battle easily. He’s in his third year of AHL competition now, and has been thought of highly enough to be recalled by his NHL team. He’s a first round pick, he just turned 23, and he’s thought of highly enough by his teammates that he has a letter on his jersey. He’s a combined plus-27 over 114 games since the team moved to Oklahoma.

Instead, Plante’s basically keeping even with Ringwald. Both had dressed for four of their team’s seven games. Both have had up and down performances – reliable one night, disastrous the next. This isn’t where Plante’s supposed to be – at the very least, he’s supposed to be a dependable veteran for his AHL team. Instead his miscues have him in and out of the lineup.

The good news is that Plante will have opportunities to get back into the lineup. Ringwald’s performance on Sunday all but guaranteed that the ex-ECHL’er will take a seat when the Barons play next - a stretch of three games in three days, starting November 2. Given the compressed schedule, it would be surprising if Nelson didn’t continue to rotate his defenders.

It’s early enough – as I’ve said, Plante’s played just four games – that this could be an aberration. Perhaps Plante’s dealing with an off-season injury. Maybe he’s just a slow starter. But aberration or not, this sort of performance costs Plante – it costs him playing time now, and given that so much of the Oilers’ NHL brain trust has been watching these early season games it may cost him in the future as well, because he simply hasn’t looked like a legitimate NHL prospect to date this season.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Eulers
October 29 2012, 04:42PM
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Fists=concussions=poor Plante growth

Recommend more fertilizer...

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#2 Cutterov
October 29 2012, 04:47PM
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Hence the reason the oilers have not made the playoffs in 6 years... It is very difficult to justify picking this guy at 15th overall... Poor skater... Not overly tough... Not durable... I recall watching the 07 draft and instantly when they called plante my first words... Bad pick

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#3 Rama Lama
October 29 2012, 05:22PM
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Watching Plante is like watching a very large tree skate in slow motion.......I suggest a trade while he is still young.

Asking for Tamby to make a trade is more painful than watching Eric Belenger dangle.

The team is pretty good in spite of having the most over-rated GM in the history of the game.........he makes Gauthier look like a genius!

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#4 The Soup Fascist
October 29 2012, 05:53PM
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This is going to sound like a Monday morning quarterback but I never liked Plante as a first rounder. Was effective as a WHLer because he was 6'4" and 210 pounds - a man among boys. However, seeing several Hitmen games I noted (so presumably anyone could see it) a terrible lack of foot speed and inability to make a pivot.

Note: As a moment of full disclosure I was pissed they did not take Alex Cherepanov or Angelo Esposito with the 15th overall, so I will not be applying as a scout anytime soon.

The point is Plante had flies on him as a first rounder from the word go. To think PK Subban was available one round later .....

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#6 They're $hittie
October 29 2012, 07:07PM
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MAC962 wrote:

On an Esks Note.

Coach Reed - your reluctance to play Nichols will be your ultimate demise here. Do you not notice the rest of the team picks it up when he is in ? Joseph - Thanks for the effort Kerry but even you know you should not be playing any longer let alone starting. It is just father time has caught you.. i wish i had your career. All the best on the future K-JO

MAC962 Where is my HOCKEY GARY B ...YOU TWIRP... NHLPA- You are not much better.

Idea ? Bettman should have the average of the lost salary the players have on average deducted from his pay until this resolved..You think this would be over by now ? i do.

sorry this lock out is not bettmans fault. It is the owners and the players, not Bettmans and Fehr.

The other thing is the players want all this money for themselves; if they are too dumb to see that some of these teams need to save money or they will fold than there is going to be a lot of PA members out of jobs. If the league contracts down 5 teams that is about 125 players without salaries, 125 players not paying escrow, 125 players not paying union dues.

Im also sick of seeing Crosby, Perry, St. Louis and all these other superstars up there with their sad faces next to Fehr. Poor me, I'm not making 8 million this year.

Put up the Petrells, Wellwoods, and Kelata's that this really affects. (yes I understand losing 5-9M a year actually affects the high end guys but they will get by).

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#7 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 30 2012, 09:58AM
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So you give me flack for talking about Dannis, but then go ahead with the exact same article about Plante.

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#8 MAC962
October 29 2012, 04:56PM
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On an Esks Note.

Coach Reed - your reluctance to play Nichols will be your ultimate demise here. Do you not notice the rest of the team picks it up when he is in ? Joseph - Thanks for the effort Kerry but even you know you should not be playing any longer let alone starting. It is just father time has caught you.. i wish i had your career. All the best on the future K-JO

MAC962 Where is my HOCKEY GARY B ...YOU TWIRP... NHLPA- You are not much better.

Idea ? Bettman should have the average of the lost salary the players have on average deducted from his pay until this resolved..You think this would be over by now ? i do.

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#9 Dipstick
October 29 2012, 05:14PM
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They need a better veteran LH D. Ringwald did not deliver. He had to be a calm and sound presence in his own end. So far he has been a three alarm fire incident almost every shift. They might be able to be a bit more patient with Plante

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#10 Mantastic
October 29 2012, 05:23PM
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how bad would it be to re-sign helmer? even tho he's old as sin and plays the right side?

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#11 RexLibris
October 29 2012, 07:44PM
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So the question now becomes: how can they move off of Plante while returning something of relative value?

Every once in awhile a GM will make a small trade of an asset that has exhausted its time in an organization, for someone that addresses a need, be it a bottom six forward with size, or a depth defender.

Given the gradual improvement of Teubert and the play of Marincin, Plante would be best served being moved to another franchise. This lockout may prevent that from happening, unfortunately.

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#12 BlacqueJacque
October 29 2012, 07:55PM
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Let's just save ourselves the hand-wringing and admit he's a bust.

Plante is now 5 seasons removed from his draft. Jason Smith, an oft-cited "typical late bloomer", was in the NHL in a regular role - on the 1990s New Jersey Devils! - in his 3rd year.

Ladislav Smid, another late bloomer with whom Oilers fans are familiar, made the NHL two years after his draft.

If, at age 23, Alex Plante is having trouble staying ahead of a guy who bounces between the ECHL and AHL, the Oilers should be looking to replace his contract with someone younger and/or more effective when it expires.

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#13 Oil Vice
October 29 2012, 08:33PM
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After the first time I saw him play I thought "how could anyone think he is good enough for the NHL?!"...it was just so obvious that he is too slow for the NHL.

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#14 Oilertown
October 29 2012, 09:07PM
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Oil Vice wrote:

After the first time I saw him play I thought "how could anyone think he is good enough for the NHL?!"...it was just so obvious that he is too slow for the NHL.

That would explain why every time he has come up to the NHL he ends up with a concussion. Can't get outta the way quick enough lol

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#15 Woogie63
October 29 2012, 10:53PM
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Hang on ... 23 year old big defenseman, he made the All Star team last year, excellent plus minus, assistant captain... Baron's are a development team keep giving him minutes ... Why would Ringwald even be playing? We are missing a heavyweight on defense. Peckham has similar questions about him, I like Tuebert, but he is "just" 195 pounds., Sutton has problems, if we can get him over the lump, can he be a 6/7 dman?

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#16 Giant Squid Overlord
October 29 2012, 11:17PM
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Being not up to speed is a significant hurdle when trying to break an NHL roster. Plante is not showing well in the minors, so I understand when people kick him when he's down... but laughing about concussions is not cool.

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#17 Oiler Al
October 29 2012, 11:39PM
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Not saying much, but Plante is already better than Barker! Unless he turns his quickness around, meaning skating and moving the puck quicker, he will be' an AHL lifer, regardless of the team. The games he played with the big club he looked totally lost back there.

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#18 4plantesucks
October 30 2012, 06:02AM
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Last Friday his mistakes led to two goals for the other team. He also takes to many penalties at the most inopportune times.Here in okc we call him Doe Doe. Big, slow and dumb!

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#19 dessert1111
October 30 2012, 07:11AM
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Jonathan: Do you think Ringwald or Plante has earned a demotion, or on the flipside, has Zahn earned a callup? Still too early for something like that? As far as I can tell Zahn is playing well in the ECHL, and based on the inconsistent performances of Plante and Ringwald (and, like you said, to a lesser extent Davidson), I would welcome Zahn as a replacement. In any event I think it's another week or two before a decision like that gets made, but it would definitely come to my mind at this point.

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#20 Dman09
October 30 2012, 08:29AM
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MAC962 wrote:

On an Esks Note.

Coach Reed - your reluctance to play Nichols will be your ultimate demise here. Do you not notice the rest of the team picks it up when he is in ? Joseph - Thanks for the effort Kerry but even you know you should not be playing any longer let alone starting. It is just father time has caught you.. i wish i had your career. All the best on the future K-JO

MAC962 Where is my HOCKEY GARY B ...YOU TWIRP... NHLPA- You are not much better.

Idea ? Bettman should have the average of the lost salary the players have on average deducted from his pay until this resolved..You think this would be over by now ? i do.

On the Bettman comment, you do realize he is just doing what he is instructed to do by the owners right????? Y would you deduct Salary when he is doing what he is told.

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#21 @Oilanderp
October 30 2012, 10:00AM
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It might be interesting to note here that Yan Danis, who was considered a star in the AHL last year, is being given quite a bit of slack for his early season woes. Alex Plante, who was considered a star in the AHL last year, gets no such benefit of the doubt.

It is almost like people have been waiting for him to fail since draft day.

4 games in? SHIP HIM OUT! (they say)

Patience required here. Just sayin.

EDIT: Props to Ogden who beat me to the point.

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#26 @Oilanderp
October 30 2012, 10:29AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Which brings me to the question: what percentage of bottom pairing or 7th NHL defencemen were considered a 'top-pairing' defenceman in the AHL?

In order for e.g. Teubert or Plante to catch a ride in the NHL as defensive d-men with toughness who play on the bottom pairing or watch from the pressbox, do they have to typically have to be top-pairing options in OKC first?

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#28 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 30 2012, 11:35AM
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@Jonathan Willis

So what you want is to play both sides of the fence.

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#30 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 30 2012, 11:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

What I want is to allow for all possibilities.

Could this be an aberration? Sure. Maybe he got banged up in training camp, or whatever.

Does it matter? Yes, it does. The flood's coming and getting off to a bad start - particularly with the brass watching - could end up being costly for the player.

I think there's a gap between 'hug that fence line' and pragmatically acknowledging that this short stretch of poor play could cost Plante, justly or not.

Considering there is no end in sight for the lockout I'm sure Plante has time to rebound.

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#31 NewAgeSys
October 30 2012, 04:19PM
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There must be reasons that Plante is kept around,he is just 23 ,and for a d-man historicly that isnt to old yet to keep hoping for a late bloom.

What exactly is his problem,does he actually have below average NHL speed??Because ANYONE with below NHL aversage anything must go.Average is not good it is a requisite starting point.If you cant present average every night you just dont belong because there is no room for you to move.

If you can present average NHL physical and mental skillsets consistantly night in night out you are a perfect candidate for any system in the NHL.And we need you.

If you can present average every night but you have "problems"that prevent this then you need to be moved ASAP.not enough upside to invest in and you are not in touch with your inner self.

If you can present average every night but every third you up your game to above average but take off the fourth game as a personal reward you need to talk to a few Vets,and be given a strict timeline to develop consistancy,or you need to go.you are worth a small investment .

If you are able to present above average every night but you take every third night off,you are a serious problem and you need to see a professional sports councillor,and if that doesnt work immediatly you need to go because you represent inflated value.You are an asset we misread and you must be curbed quickly.

Where does Plante fit in??How do we handle him??

Funny thing to remember is that you just never know how any player will adjust to the NHL,maybe he hasnt had a long enough stay with the big team???

I am not worried unless he is missing a fundamental physical attribute ,one that falls below average.Concussions are known to affect this baseline.

Besides--the Oilers have a historical record of keeping d-men on the farm for a long time,one of my biggest beefs with them actually,why Schultz and not Plante???When Plante was at the stage of say 20 our team couldnt accomodate his development at all,it was a situational issue,and tiny cups of coffee are not what we need to make a final judgement on Plante.Its easy to say Schultz puts up points but five yrs ago he wouldnt have left the farm with his style of play,not at all.So whos to say that every dog doesnt get his day and that this might be Plantes year to get another chance under a new coach??If Andy really hangs them up we will need the beast dimension again--and fast.Lets put him out there,if he gets concussed again quickly then it was an awareness issue and thats that,if he manages to adjust somehow then we have filled a role we will be lacking if we lose Sutton.

All I know is that if you are a gentle beast you better have sic skills if you want to make it in the NHL.If you are a rough beast you can claw your way anywhere you set your sights on.But a beast is a beast.Look at Sutton dangle??But he is still a beast first.Just like Hall is a speedster,and Nuge is a silky playmaker and Ebbs is a finisher and MPS is a defensive specialist,Plante needs to make a mark,maybe he needs someone to show him where to pin the tail on the donkey,eh??Does he even know the roles he is open to earn in the NHL?/Or is he sorely misinformed???I think he is still stuck on his draft number and needs some help with his expectations.Unless its a lack of average NHL speed then I am out of this one--its game over so why drag it out??.Blame that one on the scouts,you cant miss the boat on average skillsets,if it aint the scouts its either the man himself or the coaches,but there are no Caramilk Secrets in real life.

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