I see I’ve gotten some minor pushback on the idea that training camp and preseason shouldn’t matter for Strome. Some have argued: “Strome shouldn’t be simply guaranteed a spot!” This argument misses the point – again, remember – how much can we learn from under 7 preseason games and some drills and what not going on in camp, as compared to 37 NHL and 37 AHL games? The latter is clearly far far more impressive as a sample, and it is that which makes us pretty clear that Ryan Strome should make this team.
I also didn’t talk about the spots Ryan Strome could fill on this team. See, hockey teams have available 12 forward spots and 6 defensive spots in the everyday lineup (in theory one could play 13 and 5 or 11 and 7, but let’s stick with what’s the overwhelming majority choice for deployment). You’ll note that there is no position known as “bottom six forward” or “grinder.” (or for that matter, “3rd pair defenseman”). The reason for this is simple: those terms don’t describe positions, they describe QUALITY of players. A team doesn’t have only 6 spots for top 6 forwards – if they have 9 top 6-ers, they’re a great team, and can play ALL Nine. If a team has 12 forwards who are better than grinders, it can play all 12.*
*You’ll note I’m not separating centers and wings for the reason that it does NOT apply to Ryan Strome – while Wingers may not be capable of playing Center, which is a harder position, centers can play winger. Strome thus can certainly play in any of the 12 forward spots, and odds are he has to move to wing ANYHOW!
This is why you didn’t see any grinders on the best olympic teams last year – grinders are simply another term for hockey players who aren’t good at hockey – and so many are forced to try and do other things to minimize the damage while they’re out on the ice. Grinders exist because, with a salary cap and 30 different NHL teams, there simply aren’t enough non-grinder forwards to fill 12 forward spots on every team’s roster.
In short, Ryan Strome shouldn’t just be competing with Tavares, Okposo, Grabovski, Nielsen, Bailey, Kulemin, Grabner and Conacher – he’s should be competing for the spots of CMac, Martin, Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Skille as well! Some of these guys are amongst the very worst scorers in the NHL over the last few years (Martin, Clutterbuck), and several of those guys (Martin, Cizikas) have been shown to be massively out played while on the ice. By contrast, Strome has shown to be a good scorer, with the potential to be an excellent one, and one who isn’t outplayed while on the ice! So why should the lousy players get spots over him?!?!
Consider the case of Brock Nelson, who started last year on the 4th line. The team wasn’t harmed by him on the 4th line – in fact the fourth line played far better with him, and as this became apparent, the team moved him up in the lines so that he got more ice time. That’s how it should be for all players.
Ryan Strome is ready. He ANNIHILATED the AHL last year. He has nothing left to learn. Make use of that talent, even if it’s on the fourth line – 10 minutes of Strome on the 4th line will give the Isles an advantage over other teams’ fourth lines, of course! The same can be true of Lee and others on this team as well – there’s no point in playing lousy players on the fourth line just because you’ve done so before when you lacked the options, YOU HAVE THE OPTIONS.