After developing a small amount of hope in recent years that the Edmonton Oilers had learned how to approach an NHL draft, I was yanked back from my dream world and came crashing back to reality this past weekend when the current incarnation of the Edmonton Oilers Management Team showed the world why they truly are among the very best at screwing up opportunities.
If you haven't already guessed, follow me after the jump won't you where I explain
calmly and rationally why the Oilers' draft performance could have been better.
Friday night came and went, and at the end of the day, all that needs to be said is that they got it right and selected Nail Yakupov with the #1 overall selection. Of course, that doesn't really tell the story about the rampant speculation leading right up to the start of the draft that they were leaning towards selecting Ryan "I'm-worth-more-than-all-7-NY-Islanders-draft-picks-combined " Murray.
It is entirely possible that the team decided on Yakupov well in advance of the draft and were just using the media to try and drive up the price of potential trade offers (although pushing Murray would be counter-intuitive to that goal). However, if you go back and look Steve Tamebellini's face, I personally have a different thought about the pick...
If you compare the huge poop-eating grin on his face and the enthusiasm in his voice for the Hall and Nugent-Hopkins picks with the sullen, monotone presentation he displayed while announcing Nail Yakupov's name on Friday night, something doesn't quite seem consistent.
The logical explanation could be that the team is no longer pleased about being a lottery team and while they are excited to add a potential cornerstone player, they aren't happy about being the first team on that stage for the third consecutive year. However, (and this could of course be entirely and unjustly influenced by the caricature we have created of Tambi here at Copper & Blue), the only thought I had in my head watching Steve Tambellini's performance on Friday was that he looked like a kid whose parents were standing over their shoulder and forcing them to say sorry for misbehaving...I didn't see one shred genuine, authentic positive emotion.
With Taylor Hall, Tambellini used words like "Historic" in regards to the pick and could hardly contain his excitement. Last year, with RNH, he gave a brief pre-amble before saying once again with unbridled enthusiasm that the team was "so proud" to select the Red Deer Rebels star centre.
This year, the Oiler GM simply stepped up on stage, approached the microphone, and then, in a tone comparable to a PA announcer announcing a scoring play for a visiting hockey team, he said "The Edmonton Oilers...are proud to select...from the Sarnia Sting...Nail...Yakupov". That's it, that's all. No, sense that the team was thrilled to add yet another potential franchise asset, just a "can we get this over with already" look on his face and what I perceived to be a hint of disappointment in his eyes.
I have absolutely zero inside knowledge of...well...really anything to do with the situation, but my honest assessment is that Tambellini didn't decide who to select, he was told. That kind of impression doesn't exactly enhance the already negative opinion I hold of the man entrusted to bring this franchise back to prominence.
Moving on to Saturday, Tambellini took a positive-yet-unconvincing start to the weekend, and proceeded to reinforce why so many of us in the online community lead the charge in promoting the case for his dismissal. With a top 15 talent like Matt Finn still on the board at #32 after he slipped through the first round unselected, The Oilers selected Mitchell Moroz from the Oil Kings. Some Oiler bloggers had touted Moroz as a potential late round steal, but the Oilers went ahead and selected him at least two rounds too early for my taste.
In the third round, the team selected Jujhar Khaira and Danil Zharkov. Truthfully I have very little issue with either of these picks beyond how they fit into the overall strategy, which I will comment on momentarily.
In the 4th round, the team picked Erik Gustaffson, who very few people can even find information about and was unranked by any of the pre-draft scouting services that I have seen. Gustaffson is a 6'0, 175 lbs. Defenceman. They left some very talented Russian players on the board when they probably could have had this player in round 7. This frustrates me endlessly.
In round 5, they delivered Joey Laleggia. Derek gave this pick a 'D', which I understand because of who was still out there, but it firmly fits into the boom/bust strategy in the late rounds that I am a believer in, so I can't really argue with it.
Round 6, which ended up being their final selection of the draft, brought John McCarron.
Hooray!. I'll say more about this in the next couple of paragraphs.
Overall, the team added 7 players (5 forwards, 2 defencemen, and no goaltenders). This actually fits into the strategy I spoke to prior to the draft stating that they needed to replenish their supply of prospect forwards. Why then am I so frustrated with their performance at this draft? Because the execution of this strategy quite frankly sucked pucks.
A commenter named 'Zys' said it perfectly in the comments to Derek's draft review when they said that the 2012 NHL Draft was the year that "the Oilers searched for (Milan) Lucic". With various needs within the system at forward over the long term and no real prospects of note (discounting those who have already played meaningful NHL games)beyond Tyler Pitlick, Tobias Reider and Curtis Hamilton (all of whom have their own flaws to overcome) every single one of the Oilers' post-Yakupov forward selections were essentially the same player...big body, varying levels of offensive potential, long term project to develop and a low probability of finding a significant NHL player.
The common term for these players has become known as "Coke Machines" because they are big, heavy and strong, but aren't going to move around very quickly. In a league where this type of player is becoming an endangered species, and with Cameron Abney and Travis Ewanyk already in the system, why on earth would they feel like they need FOUR more of them? I guess they are just hoping that one of the four turns into that player and whoever gets there first, wins. Frankly it makes no sense and this draft could become legendary for how ridiculous the team's strategy was.
- One no brainer pick which the GM may or may not have been happy about
- An undersized, overaged defenceman (that's right, Laleggia is 5'9" AND he is 13 months OLDER than Oscar Klefbom) who was passed over in the draft twice I believe.
- A sweedish defenceman that was not even ranked by most pre-draft scouting services (oh, and he happens to be 3 months OLDER than Laleggia!) and, if I'm correct, was also passed over in his first two years of draft eligibility.
- Four different versions of the same player who all hope to one-day be Milan Lucic. Some picks slotted reasonably, others comedic for their level of inappropriateness.
Derek gave the Oilers a grade of 'C', based heavily I imagine on the Yakupov selection and the value of getting Zharkov where they did. Personally, if not for Tambellini grumbling out Yakupov's name at #1 overall, I would have had to create a new letter grade because an 'F' wouldn't have sufficiently represented the level of my displeasure. I would have had to give them a grade of "G'...as in..."Good Gawd-Damn this draft was Garbage!"
One final note...I'll start it now because I swear I'm going to promote this until it happens...Paul Fenton for Oiler GM in 2013! Please feel free to use the twitter hashtag #Fenton2013 to support my grassroots movement for some sanity in the Oiler front office. I can't take much more of this crap.