In six hours from the time of posting, Steve Tambellini will walk onto stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. He will thank the Los Angeles Kings for hosting this year's NHL Entry Draft. He will congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks on their resounding Stanley Cup victory mere days after participating in the dismemberment of that championship team. He will go on and on, and around the continent millions of hockey fans will start looking at their watches and making snarky comments to each other. Then he will say either "Taylor Hall" or "Tyler Seguin", and a new era in Oilers' history will begin.
(There is also a chance he will say "Jarno Niinimaki". I am trying not to think about that.)
The Edmonton commentariat has been consumed by the question of Hall vs. Seguin since our position at the head of the draft table was assured. The hope that we will get one of the best players in a not particularly good draft class has been tempered by the fear that we will once again pick Steve Kelly rather than Shane Doan. Hall is the electrifying one and the old favourite, Seguin is the steady one with a late surge towards the top of the charts. Hall plays for a dynamite team, Seguin plays for a club that was dragged into the playoffs essentially because of him. They are both generally accepted to be good players, but months of being dragged through constant rehashes of the same argument has led me, and all other thinking fans, to the conclusion that one is an irresponsible knuckle-dragging buffoon who would get himself hurt so badly he'd be knocked out of the league even on the off chance his pitiful skill could get him that far, and the other is Jordan Eberle but even more clutch.
Sure, Scott Reynolds crunched the playoff numbers in a recent post, but for those of us who can't look at a calculator without wanting to type "BOOBS" on it this leaves something unanswered. So I gathered the Copper & Blue brain trust, except for Jonathan who refused to be diverted from building an earthquake machine or whatever the Score is making him do this time. We went around the horn, and we each came up with our own opinions, and collectively we reached a verdict. Our brief speeches, and the final Copper & Blue verdict, follows the jump.
Let us begin with Bruce McCurdy. Bruce is the respectable member of the Copper & Blue gang, the one we trot out when we want to look like something other than mouth-breathing over-emotional basement dwellers. Actually, I guess I'm the only mouth-breathing over-emotional basement dweller among us but all the same, Bruce is a guy who's been watching a lot of hockey. He's also the only one of us to actually attend Oiler games in person this year, so if wisdom comes through suffering as Aeschylus said he's wiser than the rest of us put together. Like the Thebians standing back and hushing their voices when Tiresias rises to speak, let us hark to Bruce's words and then completely ignore them in favour of whatever my opinion is.
I must say I've deliberately distanced myself from the whole Taylor-Tyler duality. It seems so odd for the Oilers to actually have the choice of the top prospect in all of hockeydom, and of course it had to occur in a year there were two guys who had distanced themselves from the rest. Which is much better than what the Raptors faced the year they got the first dibs, when seemingly nobody distanced himself from the pack.
Why talk myself into rooting for one guy so that the other would seem like a disappointment? Bottom line is we're going to get one of them, and I'm going to root like hell for that guy to play a major role in the revival of the Edmonton Oilers. By refraction I'm also going to root for The Other Guy to have a fine career in Boston. If he turns out to be better than Phil Kessel, I'll have no problems with that at all!
The guy that we do get will no doubt be dubbed by the ever-inventive MSM as "The Next One". But a Gretzky he will not, cannot be, so we will all need to temper our expectations somewhat.
In theory I like better the idea of the pure centre, and of a guy whose still-developing game and burgeoning potential has already overtaken that of his precocious rival in the minds of 50.0000% of all experts. But in observation I've seen much more of Hall, who while no Gretzky does have a little Messier and more than a little Anderson in his game. A little Rick Nash too; the guy is a helluva player.
One thing I know for sure is that Stu MacGregor knows >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> more than Bruce on such matters, so I'm prepared to trust his already-established expertise in wisely choosing the next great Oiler. So I'll just wait until Christmas morning to find out which sugarplum winds up under the tree. It'll be a tasty one either way.
Bruce's verdict: (the quiet hum of ambivalence)
Next comes the well-reasoned, considered opinion of our fearless managing editor, Mr. Derek Zona. Derek's been out in front of the NHL draft thing from the start. He's done most of the vast Oilers Draft Watch series, introducing us to an array of average, mostly Swedish players we might take a flyer on in some middle round. Behind the scenes, he's been largely responsible for running the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft which is somehow still shambling about like a bloated, undead literary monster. I'm pretty sure that started before the actual NHL did, but the point is that Derek has done a frankly unhealthy amount of research on this draft class. Naturally, his opinion should carry some weight:
I don't care. I really don't. I know that there are writers and bloggers that have written some cocksure articles on the choice and I can say without a doubt that I believe their articles, no matter who they support, to be bunk. The scouts have the two players in a dead heat, and we don't have detailed stats to do a proper comparison to find the difference in these two. None of them have the reams of video or expertise in analyzing that video to find separation in the two kids.
Because they are so close, I wanted to trade the pick to Boston and wedge something of value out of them. Since that doesn't seem to be a possibility, the way I figure it, I'll be happy with either kid. They may not be Sidney Crosby or Mark Messier, but they are top-shelf talents.
If the Oilers take Hall, they can take a playmaker with the thirty-first pick, someone like Jordan Weal, Stanislav Gailev or Calle Jarnkrok. If they take Seguin, they can take a big-bodied winger like Charlie Coyle, Ludvig Rensfeldt, or Tyler Pitlick if he's still around. They'll get a quality player to pair with the first overall. Being the worst team in the history of the franchise has benefits.
To sum up, I don't care and I can't wait for the pick to made so I don't have to hear about it anymore. Now, ask me about the thirty-first pick and you might get my dander up.
Derek's verdict: (the sound of a head being violently slammed into a keyboard)
The next opinion comes via Scott Reynolds. I hope you didn't click that link up there where I mentioned the research Scott did into Hall v. Seguin. Yeah, because if you did, uh, retroactive spoiler alert? Scott is numerate and relies far more on objective, logical analysis than opinion and old hockey chestnuts about what makes a player really effective, so if you're going to troll the bejeezus out of any of us he'd be the guy. Except that he's also irritatingly adept at turning a phrase so you'll probably get your rhetorical head torn off. Just... just a fair warning, there.
Whether the Oilers pick Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, they'll be getting a really good player. But they should pick Hall. When the OHL playoffs are taken into consideration, we see that the offensive gap between Hall and Seguin is substantial with Hall holding a distinct edge. We also see that Hall's numbers at EV are slightly better (though the two players are essentially equal here), and that neither player was amassing these totals against sixteen year-old schleps but against very good junior players on other teams. For me, it's the combination of Hall's superior offence and the fact that Hall is the consensus #1 among the scouting agencies that have me believing Hall should be the pick. But don't the scouts have these two players really, really close? They do, but they don't rate them equally. Bob McKenzie's list? Hall at #1. Red Line Report? Hall at #1. ISS? Hall at #1. McKeen's? Hall at #1. The Hockey News? Hall at #1. The Edmonton Oilers? If this year has shown one thing, it's that they shouldn't pretend to be smarter than everybody else.
Scott's verdict: Taylor Hall (and finally, an actual verdict at that!)
Last and least, there's me. I mancrush on players of moderate ability and my specialty is articles about my favourites so over-the-top that people start to feel uncomfortable and lawyers draft restraining orders. In lieu of research I pick players with funny names or from strange countries and conjure up imaginary fantasies in which their three points in the Slovenian ninth amateur wheelchair division make them a fit heir to Messier, Anderson, and Kurri. I don't actually watch much hockey and am a little sketchy on the collective bargaining agreement (I've tried to read it through but haven't got past the end of the file name yet). Most of my Copper & Blue posts are written under the influence of some sort of mind-altering substance. Usually laudanum. At least laudanum.
But I'm also actually going to the draft, with a press pass in my hand. That means I have access, and that means that I'm smarter, better-informed, and far more attractive than any of these other blokes. So this is the opinion you should be paying attention to.
Let's face it, as far as we can tell Seguin and Hall are pretty equivalent talents. Hall scores more but he's on a better team so he would. He looks flashier but as Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner could tell you, the glitzier player isn't always the more effective. They're so close in every category of ability that somebody who honestly says one player or the other is clearly "better" is speaking from an organ other than the brain.
So I'm going to make my pick from fear, which they say is a bad way to do it but bear with me. Taylor Hall is electrifying. If the Oilers drafted him he'd automatically be our most exciting forward of the last two decades. But he's also got the attitude of somebody who's been the best for most of his life without really trying, and when he cuts across the middle of the ice he gets cranked like he's Eric Lindros and the other player is a traction engine. Now, Kevin Lowe, who knows a lot about eating nails and throttling vishes and wearing an onion on his belt but not a lot about medicine, said that Hall recalls a young Glenn Anderson in that regard and Anderson played so many games Nicolas Mahut and John Isner think he overdid it. He doesn't mention, although perhaps he should have, that Glenn Anderson's rookie season came twelve years before Taylor Hall was born.
Is there a chance that, in trying to avoid Eric Lindros, I'm picking Pat Falloon? I don't think so. Tyler Seguin is legit and everyone knows it. But I'd rather have a guy who's an A-grade player for seventy games a year for fifteen seasons than a guy who's an A+ for forty games a year in seven seasons. I'd rather have a good attitude than a bad one. It's a small concern. It's nothing that would cause me to overlook a vast talent disparity. But that disparity isn't there in this case.
Ben's verdict: Tyler Seguin
So, where does the Copper & Blue come down? We all agree that Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin are good players. None of us would be gutted if either player was selected. But if there is one common thread through this whole adventure - if there's one decision all four of us can agree on - it's that whoever the Oilers pick, we're just glad they're picking soon.
Because we can't take much more of this.