Friday, November 16, 2012

Full House: Texas's 25 Roster Players Forcing Tough Decisions in Net and Up Front

Josh Robinson in Idaho (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)

As of today, the Texas Stars are carrying fifteen forwards, seven defenseman and three goalies. That's 25 players total for those keeping track. Only eighteen skaters and two goalies can suit up on any given night, so that leads to some questions for those guys on the fringe. Texas further complicated those questions over the last week as they recalled both goalie Josh Robinson and forward Austin Smith.

Josh Robinson and the goalies

Coach Desjardins firmly stated that there are no injury issues in the Stars goaltending ranks, so the callup of Robinson is definitely being used as a wakeup call for the Stars' Jack Campbell. Coach Desjardins insisted it was a reward for Robinson, who has been killing it in the ECHL at 5-0-1.

"Robinson's been playing real well," said Desjardins. "We thought we'd pull him up and give him a look."

However, with a 3.30 GAA and .868 SV%, there is no question that Campbell is not performing to the standard expected of a goaltender drafted in the first round. His work ethic is unimpeachable; he is often cited as being the hardest working goaltender in practice that many skaters have ever seen.

However, it's the in-game portion that counts. Against Lake Erie, he appeared timid, backing into the net and not challenging shooters and cutting off angles. Both Texas goaltenders have had issues with allowing "easy" goals, that is, shots with little traffic from distance. Those are supposed to be the easy ones.

Nilstorp has clearly rebounded with his two wins in a row here. Campbell last played on Saturday and is clearly a bit in the doghouse.

As to whether Robinson gets a start, Coach Desjardins was hesitant. "Nilstorp is playing well so he'll probably get a little more."

It is extremely unlikely that Robinson gets a start, despite how well he has played in the Coast. What sort of bind would White and Desjardins be in if Robinson started a game and pitched a shutout? Would they send their #11 overall pick, Campbell, to the ECHL with Tyler Beskorowany?

Coach Desjardins has shown willingness to bench players who aren't performing despite their pedigree or draft status, but that seems highly unlikely no matter how you cut the cards. The schedule is pretty spaced out for the next few games with Texas not facing back-to-back games until a 3-in-3 to start December. It is entirely believable that Nilstorp could start every one. He is used to the challenge of being the starting tender from his time in Europe.

Austin Smith and the forwards

Also on the roster are fifteen forwards. Mike Hedden, Taylor Vause and Austin Smith all were scratched last night. That combo right there could form a very nice third or fourth line for the Stars in a non-lockout year.

However, it's a numbers game. It was set to be a hard year for players like Hedden and Vause once the lockout started. The good news for those two players is that Desjardins plans to rotate them into the lineup ahead of Austin Smith.

"We have a few guys up who aren't in the lineup. It's hard to bring someone in [A. Smith] and sit the guys that have been with you all year [Hedden, Vause]. Austin looks better and is getting his confidence. The other guys will probably get a chance first though."

Again, there is no regard for pedigree or draft status from Desjardins, and that's probably a very good thing. Scott Glennie, who potted his first of the year last night, sat for eight games this season. If the first round draft pick can take a seat for underperforming, Austin Smith is definitely going to have to show that he has earned his ice in practice to bump out one of the players already in.

The play of the fourth line last night makes it harder to break up that unit. Smith was in warmups last night but was ultimately scratched. Close, but still not close enough. Would it be more beneficial for him to get ice time in the ECHL with Idaho? He had five points in six games there.

Personally, I would send Smith to the Coast until the Stars are ready to use him in the game. In that situation, he can come in warmed up and primed to go instead of not seeing game action for many games the next time he suits up for Texas.

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