BY NATE GOSSE
EDMONTON – Everything about goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers’ development has come along in line with Edmonton’s hopes and expectations. His game has matured with NHL exposure, he’s learned to make better use of his big 6-foot-4, 189-pound frame, he’s responded well to pressure and, most importantly, he’s given the Oilers legitimate reason to believe their goaltending future is as secure as any other NHL club.
Unfortunately for Deslauriers, the future isn’t here just yet for the Oilers, who’ve found themselves stuck with the best goaltending situation they could not have hoped for with neither Dwayne Roloson nor Mathieu Garon attracting trade interest. Edmonton finds itself in this crease quagmire because they are unable assign and recall Deslauriers to the American League without subjecting him to the waiver wire and lose him for nothing.
As a result, head coach Craig MacTavish confirmed after the Oilers’ 5-2 victory over Nashville Sunday that J.D., who hasn’t seen action since Nov. 30, had been sent down to American League Springfield for a conditioning stint where he will play anywhere from five to eight games over the course of his two weeks there.
Having no room for young, home-grown talent seems to be an issue for the Oilers lately, as Deslauriers will be reunited with Oilers teammate Rob Schremp in Springfield, who also finds himself back in the AHL in spite of some promising play in the NHL this season (posting three assists in just four games with the big club).
“I just want to play; it’s been a long time,” Deslauriers explained to a small media scrum gathered to hear his reaction after MacTavish’s post-game announcement.
If the mild-mannered netminder, originally drafted 31st overall by Edmonton in 2002, is frustrated by the situation, he’s not letting any of it show. It has been a lengthy development for Deslauriers, with patience and tact being two skills he’s perfected early in his young career.
“That’s the way it goes; I understand that,” said Deslauriers. “I just want to be prepared to help the team when I’m asked.”
Deslauriers is 3-2-0 in six games this season with a .915 save percentage and a 2.73 goals against average and returns to a Springfield team where he posted a 26-23 record with a .912 SP and a 2.90 GAA in 57 games with the Falcons last season.
The conditioning stint affords the Oilers two more weeks of breathing room to better sort out their goaltending situation, which has grown increasingly problematic as the weeks go by with Deslauriers accumulating rust in the press box. Although the Christmas trade freeze is now off, there’s nothing new (officially at least) to indicate the Oilers will soon resolve the uncomfortable three-way that’s lingered 34 games into the season.
One thing is clear, however. As J.D. packs for Springfield, the Oilers should be thankful they’ve landed a legitimate prospect with the maturity to handle playing musical chairs instead of hockey.