As such, I think it's fair to characterize his season and role so far as inconsistent. Coach Todd Nelson seems to feel that he should be getting more from the player, and he's using ice time to prove his point. That the Oilers have called up all of Chorney, Jeff Petry, and Shawn Belle before Plante suggests that the Oilers' organization agrees with this assessment.
--Scott Reynolds, in January.
Things aren't getting better for Alex Plante. If there are any defensemen out there struggling to make the NHL, sign on with the Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate. Career AHL players, fringe junior kids, one-dimensional guys have all shot by Alex Plante on the organizational depth chart and our rankings have reflected that.
Plante's decline in combined ranking was one of the largest of the 35 players returning to the list. Ben dropped him 4 slots, Jonathan 12, Bruce 13 and I dropped him 17 spots. Even Scott, who closed his spring write-up of Plante with "There's still plenty of time for Plante to close that gap; I believe he'll make it," dropped him 8 spots to 17.
To see just how far Alex Plante has fallen within the organization, check the NHL games played by AHL call-ups this season:
Chorney's stint was cut short by injury, but given the number of games he played last season, it's safe to say that he's well clear of Plante in the organization's eyes. Not only that, Jeff Petry showed up and shot right on by.
By the traditional numbers, Plante had a nice season in Oklahoma City - he was +11, third amongst all Barons' defenders, and his 138 penalty minutes led all Barons as he played the role of enforcer on the blue line. His 12 fighting majors were tops on a team chock full of pugilists. However, Plante was playing extremely soft minutes, minutes that a former first round pick playing in his fourth post-draft season should pillage.
Plante is always described as big defenseman with puck-moving ability, but that ability isn't showing up in his stats, and hasn't since he turned pro. His assists per game ratio fell behind Bryan Helmer, Belle, Anthony Aiello, Petry, Kevin Montgomery, Chorney, Colten Teubert and Petiot.
I asked our resident Barons' expert Neal Livingston for an assessment of Plante's game and 2010-11 season:
Plante is all brute but no bite. He's sturdy, strong, skilled, and persistent. These are all great, sought after attributes, and were much needed the first year on the farm in Oklahoma City. Practically speaking, his biggest downside always has been and always will be speed. Moving that large frame up and down the ice is exhausting to watch. I could nitpick about his open ice passing, hot/cold PK movements and stamina, but those have all improved over time. Having just one full (injury-free) AHL season under his belt, I'd classify Plante as "a work in progress". But in reality, how much re-tinkering will continue in his game until he's overshadowed by newcomers like Teubert, Marincin, and Davidson? In my eyes, he gets one more full season to prove his worth, and then the bell begins to toll.
Four years out and the first-rounder is still a work in progress. Given the Oilers' defensive bent in the 2011 NHL Draft, Neal's assessment about one more season is probably accurate, as is our combined ranking. With Blain, Davidson, Gernat, Klefbom, Marincin, Simpson, and Teubert all breathing down his neck, it's time for Plante to finally get the professional game and end the building phase of his game.