Once upon a time, in September of 2009 to be exact, the New York Islanders claimed Rob Schremp off of waivers from Edmonton. The then-23-year-old hadn’t stuck with the club that had drafted him, but was rumored (or rumoured, if you will) to have a slick, sick pair of hands. He played 89 games altogether over two seasons for the Isles, tallied 47 points for the club, and was then put on waivers again. Atlanta took him, but let him go during their relocation to Winnipeg, and he was… never heard from again.
No, honestly, I had almost forgotten the man existed until I saw him post something on Twitter last night, and then I read his bio and saw that he was in Sweden. SWEDEN? Yup. Turns out the man Brendan Witt had dubbed “Bob the Builder” (for his extensive set of “tools” when it came to shootout moves) made the leap from the US of A to MODO of the Elitserien in Sweden (Swedish Elite League), referred to by Wikipedia as “the most evenly-matched professional ice hockey league in the world.” HockeyDB.com reports Schremp as having scored 41 points in 55 games with MODO (19 G, 22 A), while in the NHL he scored 20 goals and 34 assists in 114 games.
Then, my friend Emma tweeted a link to me with news on Schremp’s most recent whereabouts: as of June 1, Bob the Builder has taken his tools to the KHL. Schremp signed a two-year deal with Dinamo Riga, no doubt making a bigger chunk of change. It prompted a tweet from Danny Syvret about Schremp one day having “the entire Rosetta Stone library.” (ha.)
Clearly, Europe has been kinder to Schremp than North America, and there could be a couple of reasons why. First, while Schremp seemed to have the hands and vision to be a dangerous NHL forward, multiple reports suggested his defensive play was poor and his skating needed work. Not only that, but there have been multiple indications that Schremp isn’t coachable, which makes your career in the NHL very brief if you don’t figure out that you need to work within a system that might not have you front and center. (These are all old examples, of course, but seeing as he hasn’t stuck in the NHL, I figured they were still relevant.)
Recalling his play on the Island, I remember him being excellent on the power-play and in the shootout (of course, since it’s a skill-heavy part of the game), but nothing pointed to him being able to contribute regularly. Maybe that was a result of him not being able to play a two-way game. Maybe it’s because he still views the game as “Rob Schremp hockey” and not hockey in a team sense. Maybe it’s just because he was, in my opinion, one of those guys who thought a lot more of himself than was appropriate — not that he wasn’t talented, sure he was, but you can’t think you’ve hit your peak at 23. Players have to be willing to accept criticism, work on the weaker aspects of their game and change to fit the team — not the other way around.
The comments on this post on Lighthouse Hockey about Schremp in particular are worth noting; one commenter remarked that Matt Moulson, a player with “mediocre” talent, has been more successful in the NHL than Schremp has, and I think it’s because Moulson is a more complete package. He has a defensive edge to his game that Schremp lacks (or lacked), and he works tirelessly on both ends of the ice during his shift. Because of that (and having excellent chemistry with linemate John Tavares), he’s been successful. (Though I don’t know how fair it is to compare a left wing to a center, but I digress).
Whatever the case may be, Rob Schremp didn’t stick around. It’s a shame, but it happens. Best of luck to him in Latvia and beyond.