The Lottery!

Jonathan Willis
December 29 2010 06:45PM

With Ryan Whitney out of the picture for two months, the Edmonton Oilers’ already strong chance at a lottery finish just got a little stronger. The reality is that this team has had a stranglehold on a lottery position since the get-go, and this is just a little extra insurance to get them over the line.

As of today, the Oilers’ record projects them to finish 28th in the NHL, or alternately as the third of five teams with a chance at moving up into the first overall position in this summer’s NHL Draft Lottery.

Projected Lottery Teams

Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New Jersey Devils 21 56 5 47
2 New York Islanders 22 46 14 58
3 Edmonton Oilers 28 40 14 70
4 Toronto Maple Leafs 30 42 10 70
5 Buffalo Sabres 33 40 9 75

Interestingly, if we step back to the start of December (before the Oilers were hit with injuries to Horcoff and Hemsky) we see the same five teams projected to finish in the lottery.

Projected Lottery Teams, December 1

Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New York Islanders 19 44 19 57
2 New Jersey Devils 27 48 7 61
3 Edmonton Oilers 27 41 14 68
4 Buffalo Sabres 30 42 10 70
5 Toronto Maple Leafs 29 39 14 72

Naturally, the Oilers were hurt by the loss of Horcoff and Hemsky, but a turnaround in net prevented a free fall. Hemsky was lost to injury on December 1; on December 2 Nikolai Khabibulin returned from injury to post a shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a victory that marked the beginning of a very solid stretch of hockey for the Russian goaltender (from Dec. 2 – Dec. 26: 4-3-1, 0.935 SV%).

Fortunately for fans of the rebuild, while the Oilers have taken solid steps forward this is still very much a lottery team, particularly with injuries to Whitney (the team’s best player to date) and Horcoff (arguably the most important centre to the current roster). The defence is a bit of a mess even with Whitney, the depth forwards (particularly the third line) are a disaster, and the goaltending is hit-and-miss. This is actually positive news, overall: though one wouldn’t know it based on the post 2005-06 Oilers, it’s a lot easier to find a third-line centre than it is to find bona fide top-six forwards, which Eberle and Hall show every sign of being.

A lottery finish is an important part of the rebuild this season. Whether the Oilers choose to add a stud defenceman or a star centre – and I’m convinced that they’ll address one of those two needs with their first round pick this summer – they will be acquiring an important piece of the long-term puzzle, the last piece they should need before moving back towards playoff contention. Between this summer’s first round pick, the trio of rookie forwards presently on the roster, the established NHL’ers on the team, and the prospects already in the system, the Oilers should have the nucleus of a playoff team. It will be up to Steve Tambellini and his staff to flush out the roster with useful veterans up front and on the back end.

This is a team built for lottery contention, and their finish this season should reflect that. But I’m hoping that this is the last time we can say that for a long time.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 D-Man
December 30 2010, 02:08PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Like it or not this will help us greatly long term. The hockey gods smile amongst the Oiler faithful landing them that first pick again after finishing 28th overall, this is the year a team moves up in the lottery process. That is what i see through these rose colored glasses.

Hit the Islanders up with the offer of Hemsky and Gagner for their first selection this summer, don't get me wrong, Gagner will be a fine player in another 3 or 4 years, i'm not hating on Gagner, but you have to give something to get something. Gagner is the sizzle in this deal the Islanders may not pass up.

Penner plus whomever else they desire that isn't named Hall, Eberle and maybe even Paajarvi to the Bruins for that Bos/Tor first pick, or perhaps even Seguin. The Bruins are close, too close to let an opportunity like this slip by. Take some money back to make this work for the Bruins but there is an opportunity that this pick is available if Chiarelli thinks the Oilers have something that would help them get over that hump.

If one of these two possible scenarios occur that may give us 2 of the top 5 picks this coming summer and signal the end of the most difficult part of the rebuild. Some may laugh, but things may be much closer than they appear.

It's unfortunate to have to move a guy like Penner, as soon as he's gone we're going to need a player just like him within a couple years. Keep hammering away and hope the Islanders can be tempted.

The Bruins aren't that close... They'd still have to find a way to get past Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh... Penner and another player wouldn't really do that... Neither would a Hemsky/Gagner package... Hemsky and Gagner also wouldn't help NYI out of the purgatory they exist in either... Top five picks are extremely valuable; a smart GM wouldn't deal them away...

Even if Tambo could get a bite on one of your proposed deals, we'd have one more crappy year to contend with... You're suggesting we deal away somewhat proven veterans for some potential prospects... Don't get me wrong - having Larrson or Couterier next year would help the rebuild, but we should expect the same growing pains we have with the three kids we have now... In fact, if we get that stud d-man or centre, there would be more pressure on those rookies, as their respective positions are harder to learn in the NHL.

I do like your thinking 'outside the box' though... I hope you're right and Tambo could tempt one of those two teams...

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#52 misfit
December 30 2010, 02:12PM
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D-Man wrote:

Of course, Tambo isn't aware of the teams needs since he keeps Stu MacGregor on his staff(??!) Give your head a shake... We also drafted Marincin with a trade Tambo made for our second 2nd round draft pick as I recall...

In the draft, you take BPA... Perhaps in the NFL, where it's not unheard of a 3rd or 4th rounder cracking the starting lineup or playing on special teams, you can draft for need, but not in the NHL... If the Landeskog is the BPA at 3rd pick - take him... That simply makes the overall line up that much stronger and makes a couple of our veteran wingers/defensemen/centers more expendable...

As many of us are already aware, both Penner and Hemsky's contracts are up after next year... Both have some decent trade value; if you can't draft to fulfill your need you trade for it...

That's not what I was saying at all. Having MacGregor on the staff is not proof that Tambellini doesn't know what the team needs. The fact that he has done nothing to address them (and they haven't changed) in 3 years is the proof of that.

And I'm all for BPA. The fact that MacGregor took Hall and Pitlick when we needed centermen and defenesmen is a good thing (I don't see Pitlick playing center as a pro). And I say that for the same reasons you did. You always draft BPA, especially late in the draft because you don't know what your team is going to look like once these players are ready to make the jump. Plus, there's no guarantee they'll even make it, so you always take the best player.

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#53 D-Man
December 30 2010, 02:15PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

The Oilers can't afford to say no to this, i'd like to think we'll see him here soon, if not even today. It would be great to see him blossom as an Oiler. The Canucks are tempting the Oilers with the timing on this, maybe they can sweeten it and do it on re-entries. The Oilers pretty much got Craig Muni and Charlie Huddy in similar fashion, this could work out well for the Oilers with him having only a few NHL seasons under his belt.

Although he has the pedigree being a 1st round draft pick, he only has 7 point and 36 PIMS in 106 NHL games... The price is right, but he certainly sounds like another defenseman who's soft... We already have some decent puck moving defenseman in Whitney, Gilbert and potentially, Petry... I'd keep that roster spot open to see more of what we have in Petry and Plante...

The stats certainly don't show a Huddy or a Muni - which I agree is what we need to shore up our back end...

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#54 D-Man
December 30 2010, 02:21PM
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misfit wrote:

That's not what I was saying at all. Having MacGregor on the staff is not proof that Tambellini doesn't know what the team needs. The fact that he has done nothing to address them (and they haven't changed) in 3 years is the proof of that.

And I'm all for BPA. The fact that MacGregor took Hall and Pitlick when we needed centermen and defenesmen is a good thing (I don't see Pitlick playing center as a pro). And I say that for the same reasons you did. You always draft BPA, especially late in the draft because you don't know what your team is going to look like once these players are ready to make the jump. Plus, there's no guarantee they'll even make it, so you always take the best player.

Having MacGregor on staff PROVES Tambo knows what he's doing... No one would disagree with the Magnificent Bastard's track record - keeping him around when Tambo began cleaning house shows he knows a thing or two... You might also forget that Tambo put an offer down for Malholtra (who declined not wanting to be a part of the rebuild) and for Chris Neil (who we could debate is harder to play against that JFJ or Stortini)... And that's what WE KNOW OF...

I'm not saying Tambo is the greatest GM of all time (IMO - the Khabby contract was an extremely stupid move), but I think he's not getting enough credit with some of the moves he has made... The trade for Whitney, the Staios trade, buying out Nilson/Moreau, the POS trade are all good moves for the future...

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#55 andrewmk20
December 30 2010, 05:05PM
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@Ender

The reason defenceman are a bigger gamble is the same reason goalies are so hit and miss on their draft position. Forwards for the most part develop in 3-5 years from the time of their draft year. Defenceman tend to take much longer as they tend to take 5-7 years as they finish their junior career and then play 3-5 years in the AHL and any other lower pro league depending on how they progress. With such a large window in terms of development many things can happen. The player could grow 3-4 inches and become stronger and rangier. The player's skills become more effective as they get stronger and older. Or the player just clicks and their off season training and practice methods become better. Also in that window injuries can take their toll on high end defensive draft picks.

I disagree with the fact that Adam Larsson is a gamble though. I agree with other posters that if Couturier is gone and the Oilers draft anywhere from 2-4 they have to take Larsson because his physical maturity is there at 6'3 209lbs and he's supposed to be more poised and intelligent than Victor Hedman. Plus at worst he becomes a top 3 dman and the Oilers only have one of those types right now with Ryan Whitney. Having Marincin, Whitney, Petry, and Larsson on the backend would be a much improved defence. Also with the fact that many people project Larsson as the most NHL ready of the top 3 picks his window of development is much shorter and he will become relevant at the same time as Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, and the other 2009/2010 blue chip prospects.

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#57 Quicksilver ballet
December 30 2010, 07:21PM
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D-Man wrote:

Although he has the pedigree being a 1st round draft pick, he only has 7 point and 36 PIMS in 106 NHL games... The price is right, but he certainly sounds like another defenseman who's soft... We already have some decent puck moving defenseman in Whitney, Gilbert and potentially, Petry... I'd keep that roster spot open to see more of what we have in Petry and Plante...

The stats certainly don't show a Huddy or a Muni - which I agree is what we need to shore up our back end...

At that price if he doesn't work out he walks after the two years he has left. You never know, he could be one of those D'men that mature after a few years of being in the league. Whitney may be even better here than he was his first year in Pittsburgh, not many seen this coming. I had him pegged as a rental but he's made himself an irreplaceable asset on this team it seems.

We're just so thin on the back end it wouldn't be like throwing a raw rookie out there, what do we have to lose bringing another kid who may or may not pan out after only 100 or so games. Agree'd he is a little on the soft side but a couple other softies (Smid and Gilbert) are getting by here without notice.

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#58 Old Dutch Snack Attack
December 30 2010, 08:05PM
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Lowe should have blown this team up when he traded Smyth. The team would be a playoff caliber team on the upswing if he didn't waste two years after trading Smyth to do a real rebuild.

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#59 Old Dutch Snack Attack
December 30 2010, 08:21PM
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Agree on Stamkos. I like the move he did but he is a hypocrite. Besides, it was technically illegal. You can't bring the puck backwards like that.

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