Blackhawks News

Who Is Rostislav Olesz? And Will He Matter?

By Frank Rekas

As promised here’s your brief insight to Rostislav Olesz the former Florida Panther who was acquired by the Blackhawks in the Brian Campbell trade.  Known as “Rusty” in Florida, the nickname isn’t one of compliment, as far as I’m concerned.

Drafted 7th overall in the 2004 Entry Draft, Olesz was thought to be a player that had the potential to be a power forward with his style of play.  I’m not sure what the Panther scouting department saw, but when you look at his pre-draft stats, I can’t imagine that he was thought to be a first round pick.  The understatement regarding his tenure in South Florida is “Bust”.  He spent some time in the Czech Republic before making the Panther’s roster in 2005-2006 where he played 59 games accumulating 21 points on 8 goals and 21 assists.  Nothing to get excited about, but time was supposed to help him become adjusted to the North American game.

His next season was his best production wise, as he played in 75 games, the most he’s ever played in scoring 11 times with 19 assists for 30 points.  It was after that year that then general manager Jacques Martin who must have hit his head on the cement near Fort Lauderdale Beach, gave Rusty a 6 six year deal, which has 3 years remaining on it, the last two at a $4 million dollar cap hit.  Holy Crap is about all I can say about that deal, which was such a ball and chain to the Panthers, I credit Dale Tallon for finally being able to find a trade partner for his services.  However, the last place I wanted to see Olesz was in a Hawks sweater.

His career has been derailed, sidetracked and haunted by injuries.  Because of his style of play and because of some accidental injuries, Olesz has yet to play a full NHL season.  He had become sort of an enigma in Florida, where the faithful Panther fans continued to hear about his potential, and his size and his physicality.  One day it would all come together.  Yes, and when the moon and the stars align just right, the Cubs will win the World Series.  Inconsistency has been his best attribute.  One goal in 27 games last season.  Split up by an injury, but that was his claim to fame.  Whether it was talent, bad luck, or lack of talent around him, he just never was able to put it together.  He’s streaky as well.  Getting a few goals over a quick span, he then goes in droughts that make you say to yourself, Rusty, you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a boat.

He’s a likeable guy as a person, but he’s been frustrating to watch, and he ultimately became a victim of never living up to his potential. As well as the fat ass contract he was given.  He’s not first line material, at least from what I’ve seen, and is most likely suited for either the third or fourth line.  However let’s face it, that’s a pretty expensive bottom six forward to have.  It’s also possible though that a change of scenery will help, and playing with much better players than he was given the opportunity to play with in Florida might help.  I could see him getting an opportunity to play with Hossa and Sharp on the second line, but that kinda makes me cringe, and I’m thinking that experiment will be a short one.

If Olesz can stay healthy, and gets himself in shape and plays determined, it’s possible we can see a productive 15 plus goal player.  Not having him play a full season with quality players before, I’m not really sure he can do it, but I would imagine that the Hawks will give him a chance.  Burying him in the minors, buying him out, and or trading him someplace else is not entirely out of the question either.  If he doesn’t produce in some fashion he will be a target of negativity very quickly.  He’s not played in a pressure cooker either, and who knows how that will effect him as well.  With the Panthers never being a playoff contender during his time there, he was merely fighting to validate his contract.  Now the pressure will be on him to produce for a winning team and organization.  That is another whole ball of wax that he may not be prepared for.

Thanks for reading.