(Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press)
If you're late to the party, Minnesota decided to send Brett Bulmer back to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, putting an end to the nice little storyline of a 19 year old making the team out of Training Camp. Bulmer, who had three assists and nine penalty minutes in nine games, wasn't playing badly by any stretch of the imagination: in my opinon Bulmer had been one of Minnesota's better forwards thus far, but was a healthy scratch last game (a 1-0 win over Detroit.)
A lot has been made about Bulmer's status as a 19 year old in the NHL; you have the mythical 10-game mark, in which a year of an entry-level-contract is considered spent, and the 40 game mark, where the clock to free agency begins. The Brass, for their part, always contended that a.) too much is made of the Opening Day Roster and b.) if Bulmer's play warrants it, they aren't afraid of keeping him with the big club. I was in the camp that Bulmer, because of the way he plays the game, was a lock to go past the 10 game mark.
The brash, confident, physical kid was used in just about every situation you can think off; he saw time playing with and against skilled players and grinders alike, and even got himself some power play time. Its not like he was a liability out there- maybe a bit too physically immature to truly be effective yes, but its not like he was a complete mess.
Well, if he was, he certainly didn't show it by clobbering John Tavares on the
backcheck or talking trash to Ryan Getzlaf. So why did he get a bus ticket back to the Canadian prairies?
The easy answer would be the 10 game limit, but I still don't buy that- especially when there will be copious young talent soon to be under contract in the near future: Granlund (we approaching DefCon3 on this yet?) Johan Larsson, Charlie Coyle, and Jason Zucker. It makes sense to stagger those in a way, to where you aren't faced with having to resign ALL of those guys at the same time.
It's not his play; if he wasn't cutting it, he wouldn't have made it out of Camp. In fact, his play had been praised. That being said, he could take this NHL experience back to the Dub, where his junior team desperately needs him, and will likely get an invite to Team Canada's World Junior Camp While there is fear that he could fall into bad habits playing at a speed less than he was accustomed too, it could also serve as a developmental step, in which he can round out his game.
What I think it boils down to is this: the emergence of Nick Johnson, the more heavy duty grit that Brad Staubitz brings, and the respect Head Coach Mike Yeo has for Matt Kassian.
You knew The Brass liked Nick Johnson, considering that Pittsburgh put him on waivers and within 6 hours he was essentially penciled in for a roster spot. He's proven himself to be worthy of playing time every game- I don't think Yeo will go scratch Johnson for a couple games straight again. He's a guy who can grind it out, but has enough game to contribute in the offensive end.
In a way, Johnson is just a more physically mature version of what Bulmer brought to the table, and if that is the case, then it doesn't make sense to begin the clock on Bulmer's contract. Johnson does seem to have some flexibility in that he can play with some skill guys too- I do like what he's done with Kyle Brodziak so far.
And with Bulmer now gone, this gives Staubitz and Kassian a chance to play regularly, which, uh, makes our fourth line a scary, physical, energy line centered by Darroll Powe. Kassian's been a good soldier for the franchise (I remember Tommy Thompson's quote about the 2005 Draft: "Pouliot is a diamond, and we drafted Kassian to protect that diamond") and has paid his dues; he was a vital piece of Houston's locker room, and I believe Yeo respects that and wants that in his moving forward, so he wants to give Kassian a chance to become an NHL regular.
I think its more coincidence in terms of timing in regards to the "Tenth Game"; but its more of a roster squeeze in my opinion as to why Brett Bulmer is now a Kelowna Rocket...again. This won't be the last we see of #19.