The Oilers, Minus Trades

Jonathan Willis
April 27 2010 12:02PM

2009 NHL Entry Draft, First Round

One way to assess the work done by the scouting staff is to go back and look at what a team would look like if they only used players taken in the NHL Draft. With news about the Oilers fairly slow at the moment, this seemed like a good time to indulge in this exercise with them.

One problem with this exercise is that the teams produced using just drafted players can be fairly unbalanced. In the Oilers’ case, this means they lack top-end defencemen (Matt Greene may be the best active defenceman drafted by the team) and a proven starting goaltender. Sometimes, teams address those holes by acquiring undrafted free agents – in the Oilers case, for example, we might add Marc-Andre Bergeron. However, since it’s difficult to track all those players, I’m going to exclude them.

Here’s the list of active NHL’ers, by position, drafted by the Oilers. I believe it to be complete, but please let me know if I’ve missed anyone.

Centre

Edmonton Oilers v Nashville Predators

  • Jason Arnott
  • Kyle Brodziak
  • Andrew Cogliano
  • Sam Gagner
  • Shawn Horcoff
  • Matthew Lombardi
  • Marc Pouliot
  • Jarret Stoll

Wing

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Troy Bodie
  • Jason Chimera
  • Mike Comrie
  • Dwight Helminen
  • Ales Hemsky
  • Jean-Francois Jacques
  • Georges Laraque
  • Kirk Maltby
  • Fernando Pisani
  • Miroslav Satan
  • Rob Schremp
  • Ryan Smyth
  • Zack Stortini
  • Brad Winchester

Defence

  • Taylor Chorney
  • Matt Greene
  • Theo Peckham
  • Tom Poti
  • Mathieu Roy
  • Danny Syvret

Goal

  • Jeff Deslauriers
  • Devan Dubnyk

That’s some ugliness on defence, a lot of quality up front and depending on how one feels about Nikolai Khabibulin anything from a big drop-off to a vastly improved situation in net.

When I look at that group of players, I feel fairly confident that if Steve Tambellini had the option to swap out his current group for that group, he would. Even if one ended up moving some combination of Horcoff/Stoll/Lombardi/Cogliano for defencemen, I think the team would be better off.

Granting that this is an indulgent, hypothetical exercise, is it fair to argue that the last 10-15 years of Oilers drafting has outpaced the last 10-15 years of Oilers management? What if we narrow it down, tossing out the late ‘Fraser in Mexico’ years and just focus on the Prendergast/MacGregor stuff?

I think it’s fair to say that. I’m not defending Prendergast here; his work with the AHL team speaks for itself (I agree with Scott Reynolds’ evalutation of Prendergast) but I think the scouting staff has probably been about NHL average or maybe a little better, and to my eye they’ve improved since MacGregor took over. Even with all the misses, they certainly put together an enviable group of forwards.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 ned flanders
April 27 2010, 12:09PM
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How about Tom Poti to 'shore up' the defense?

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#2 RossCreekNation
April 27 2010, 12:10PM
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Interesting exercise. I remember doing a "NY Islanders - What if Mike Milbury didn't exist" type exercise a few years back... kinda makes the Oilers look good in comparison.

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#5 RossCreekNation
April 27 2010, 12:28PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Yep. No link, though... old school "Robin Brownlee" notepad-type stuff. Wouldn't be too hard to put something together.

Off the top of my head:
Erase Luongo/Jokinen for Parrish/Kvasha
Erase Bertuzzi/McCabe for Linden
Erase Spezza/Chara for Yashin
Heatley instead of DiPietro
Redden instead of Berard
Torres, Brewer, etc.

They could've/should've been a consistent playoff team for the past decade.

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#6 Chris.
April 27 2010, 12:31PM
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I don't think Prendergast was a great "communicator".

I'm not trying to be a smart a$$ here... I really believe this. When listening to interviews, trolling websites, etc. there often seems to be a wide disconnect between the mindset of the prospects and that of Prendergast.

On another note, Prendergast seemed to draft an awful lot of small players with his higher picks.

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#7 Robin Brownlee
April 27 2010, 12:49PM
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Maybe I'm missing the point, but if I put together a roster of 20 players acquired by Oilers management through trades or free agency from the group of candidates below (Oilers since 2000) they'd wax the drafted group.

GOAL Roloson Salo Garon

CENTRE Weight Nedved Marchant Peca Reasoner

FORWARD Penner Guerin Samsonov Carter Sykora Dvorak Torres Cleary Cole

DEFENCE Pronger Souray Niinimaa Brewer Spacek Gilbert Staios J Smith Ulanov Tarnstrom

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@Robin Brownlee

Scouts only draft players, they have nothing to do with the acquiring of prospects or younger players.

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#9 Robin Brownlee
April 27 2010, 12:57PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Scouts only draft players, they have nothing to do with the acquiring of prospects or younger players.

Thanks for the tip.

I'll have to let the Oilers know immediately they've been wasting good money for years on their pro scouting department -- the guys who do nothing but follow players with other teams both at the NHL and minor league levels.

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#10 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 12:58PM
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Jr, jr, jr.

Tsk, tsk

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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

What? I really don't understand this article. Why would you just rank who they draft and not the acquistions of prospects/young players as well?

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#14 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:07PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

What? I really don't understand this article. Why would you just rank who they draft and not the acquistions of prospects/young players as well?

I believe the point was to give another look at the teams drafting ability.

I also believe Brownlee was probably commenting on this line:

"is it fair to argue that the last 10-15 years of Oilers drafting has outpaced the last 10-15 years of Oilers management?"

And from comparing his lists (trades) vs WIllis (drafts) I'd think you could argue the managment has actually outpaced the drafting.

I guess that leads to the conclusiong that *retention* is problem

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#15 BBOil
April 27 2010, 01:07PM
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Did a similar thing with ex - Oilers that were playing in the playoffs and have moved on to apparent greener pastures. May have missed a few guys, but not too bad of a team. Has its holes, but when you think of some of the success these guys have had it makes you wonder what if we had held on to a few.

Smyth - Stoll - Guerin Cleary - Arnott - Chimera Torres - Hecht - Grier Maltby - Satan - McAmmond

Pronger - Spacek Greene - Hamrlik Grebeshkov - Bergeron

No goalie though, so just keep Bulin in net.

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#16 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee:

I think that a fairer evaluation of management is just to look at the roster they assemble each year, don't you?

The one issue is that the scouting department gets to pick from whomever is available, while managment has to pick from whomever is available *and* will come here.

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@Jonathan Willis

Pretty sure with guys like Gilbert that are virtually an unknown to GM's that the scouting staff is the one saying who to get.

It's a combiation of tasks they have to do. I've said for awhile that we may not be the best at scouting 17-19 year olds, but we seem to do pretty good when it comes to bringing in guys with a few more years of development under their belt. Even during the Sather era, drafting sucked but always seemed to get young talent from other teams.

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#18 BBOil
April 27 2010, 01:11PM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

Agreed that retention is likely the biggest issue of the Oilers over the years. Plenty of quality players have come through, few have stayed. There's turn over on any team, but it seems that other teams have done a better job of choosing what the core of their team will look like, and then to maintain that core over a long period of time.

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#19 Robin Brownlee
April 27 2010, 01:12PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee:

I think that a fairer evaluation of management is just to look at the roster they assemble each year, don't you?

Why?

"is it fair to argue that the last 10-15 years of Oilers drafting has outpaced the last 10-15 years of Oilers management?"

If you're compiling players drafted over the past 10-15 years in terms of how scouting has performed and comparing that group to players acquired by management, why not look at those acquisitions over the same period?

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@Jonathan Willis

Cole/Smith?

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#24 Racki
April 27 2010, 01:21PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

I believe the point was to give another look at the teams drafting ability.

I also believe Brownlee was probably commenting on this line:

"is it fair to argue that the last 10-15 years of Oilers drafting has outpaced the last 10-15 years of Oilers management?"

And from comparing his lists (trades) vs WIllis (drafts) I'd think you could argue the managment has actually outpaced the drafting.

I guess that leads to the conclusiong that *retention* is problem

Maybe veering off topic, but I didn't think Lowe did all that bad when it came to trading (prepares for the flaming of a lifetime). I think he generally was able to turn nothing into something with most trades. Sure there were some stinkers in there, but there were some pretty good deals. It wasn't until after the SCF that things started to come apart in my eyes with bad signings and such.

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#25 Doogie2K
April 27 2010, 01:21PM
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I took a different tack in looking at this: I tracked down what I believe to be all the former Oilers employed in the NHL during 2009-10, irrespective of how they got to the club. I have no idea if it tells us much, or how it compares to other teams (I'd considered doing an ex-Habs and ex-Flames post at one point, because I'm most familiar with those rosters), but there it is.

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#26 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Orginal Ogden Brother wrote:

And from comparing his lists (trades) vs Willis (drafts) I'd think you could argue the managment has actually outpaced the drafting.

I don't think you can argue that at all.

For instance, both Pronger and Brewer make Brownlee's list. Yet one was dealt for the other.

Similar problems creep in throughout.

Pick one of each of the following:

Salo/Gilbert

Weight/Reasoner/Samsonov

Guerin/Carter/Dvorak

Torres/Niinimaa

Cole/Smith

etc.

Good point, I guess (in my mind)then thiers not a truely fair way to compare aquisition through managment (FA/trades) vs drafting.

That said, it was interesting to look back at the drafting

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#27 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:25PM
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Racki wrote:

Maybe veering off topic, but I didn't think Lowe did all that bad when it came to trading (prepares for the flaming of a lifetime). I think he generally was able to turn nothing into something with most trades. Sure there were some stinkers in there, but there were some pretty good deals. It wasn't until after the SCF that things started to come apart in my eyes with bad signings and such.

I'd agree 100%. To me, Lowes greatest strength was trades.

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#28 Robin Brownlee
April 27 2010, 01:26PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I'm aware some of the these players were traded for each other (likewise of the complex role of management). All the moves still fall under decisions made by management.

If I wanted to take more than 10 minutes I could put together a team with no overlap -- players dealt for each other -- based on trades and free agents that stacks up against the drafted group.

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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

There is so many variables that have to be taken into effect.

I think with management you have to look at the big picture and the big picture as of now is we haven't done well except one year when we went to the cup run.

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@Jonathan Willis

Pretty sure we could've still gotten Pitkanen without Smith. Smith wasn't the key to that trade.

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#34 Ender
April 27 2010, 01:34PM
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Interesting line of thought, JW. I admit that I didn't completely follow the line of reasoning until after reading all of the comments. In fact, I would go so far as to say the article might be incomplete without including comments 1-22.

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#35 Matt Henderson
April 27 2010, 01:35PM
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So that defense looks incredibly brutal. I can just see the Tom Poti Taylor Chorney duo getting scored on constantly in my head.

And Jarret Stoll almost shouldnt count, or at least have an asterisk, considering he was drafted first by Calgary.

Think of how powerhouse the Islanders could be though.

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@Jonathan Willis

There isn't a fair way to evaluate managers. Unless every team is playing with the exact same cap number, the exact same money for staff etc.. otherwise there will also be something that can prevent a good GM from being great.

Lets take Holland for example, take away his ownerships willingness to have the most scouts in the league and is he where he is?

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#38 BBOil
April 27 2010, 01:39PM
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Also have to consider managements role in drafting and scouting. Correct me if I'm wrong, but management chooses/hire the scouts, and in the end the scouts provide info to management so management can make informed decisions on players.

Guess what I'm saying is you cannot compare one to the other because they are intertwined.

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#39 Bucknuck
April 27 2010, 01:41PM
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Jonathan I think you are losing some of your message in this article because you took the data and used it to take a stab at management.

The exercise you performed creating a team based solely on draft picks is a great way to see how well the scouting staff is performing, and it was interesting to look at. Comparing it to management clouds the issue. I thought this article was about scouting, not managing, so the comment was distracting.

The team drafted was pretty darn fine, and as long as you are using active players it is a good measuring stick if you compare it to other existing rosters.

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#41 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:51PM
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@Bucknuck

What also clouds the issue is that mangement controls how many DP the team actually gets (ie they trade for picks and they trade away picks)

I haven't checked lately but a few years ago I ran some numbers and the Oilers had made more 1st round picks under Lowe then all but 4-5 teams.

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#42 Matt Henderson
April 27 2010, 01:53PM
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I'm actually quite surprised at how few NHL quality defensemen were drafted under the guidance of a former Defenseman.

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#43 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 27 2010, 01:55PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I'm actually quite surprised at how few NHL quality defensemen were drafted under the guidance of a former Defenseman.

No doubt, that defense is absolutly horrible.

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#44 smiliegirl15
April 27 2010, 01:56PM
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@Racki

I think Lowe came out that first year after the lockout and showed the entire league how to successfully work a salary cap. We had an amazing team - got two heralded picks (remember the Peca and Pronger billboards?) a goalie at the deadline who got us to the final round of the Cup final (thanks Vancouver for giving us the chance) and then the wheels fell off. What Lowe did after that was a colossal failure and we now have the team to show for it.

Someone pointed out in the past couple days MacTavish had better results with our current team than Quinn did. The biggest difference between last year's team and this year's has been the lack of Roli. How many games did Roli play last season, especially down the stretch? He was the difference maker because without him, we would have been pretty close to the same place we are right now.

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#45 Bucknuck
April 27 2010, 01:58PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

What also clouds the issue is that mangement controls how many DP the team actually gets (ie they trade for picks and they trade away picks)

I haven't checked lately but a few years ago I ran some numbers and the Oilers had made more 1st round picks under Lowe then all but 4-5 teams.

excellent point. It's pretty hard to take that into account, though. In 2006 we had no first rounder, but in 2007 the Oil had three. In 2008 we only picked one player in the first three rounds.

Plus there is a huge difference between the first overall pick and the sixth. Since it would be a statistical nightmare for Mr. Willis to try and figure out, much less communicate effectively I think this is as close as we are going to get.

I gotta say I would have loved a first line of Hemsky, Arnott and Smyth.

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#46 Matt Henderson
April 27 2010, 02:01PM
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@Bucknuck

Smyth parked in front of the net with Hemsky feeding Arnott in the slot = The dream that will never come true.

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#47 Bucknuck
April 27 2010, 02:12PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Bucknuck:

It was not my intention to make any comment on management here; I don't think I took any shots at them either. When I say 'the last 10/15 years' I'm including Tambellini, Lowe and Sather, so I'm not focusing on anyone in particular.

It's no secret I'm unimpressed with management, but that's not the point of this article.

No personal shots were fired. I didn't say that there were.

The question: "is it fair to argue that the last 10-15 years of Oilers drafting has outpaced the last 10-15 years of Oilers management?" is a fair one. It just turns the article into a comparison vs management instead of one about comparing our drafting to other teams.

There were two ways the article could have been discussed and that comment ensured which direction it was going to go. There is nothing wrong with that, but I thought it was worth mentioning that not everything has to be related back to the (mis)management of the Oilers the last couple of years.

It takes a decade or more to draft a good team, but only a season or two to destroy all that hard work.

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#49 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
April 27 2010, 02:40PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Scouts only draft players, they have nothing to do with the acquiring of prospects or younger players.

serious? sarcastic?

you think trades are made and nobody bothers to watch the players on opposing teams? you know, the guys who travel around a 'scout' other teams and players?

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#50 Bucknuck
April 27 2010, 02:41PM
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So the team drafted is weak on defense.

You should probably trade Stoll and greene to get Visnovsky. He's a great defenseman.

Signing a free agent defenseman is probably a good idea (Souray).

We're also a little small so let's put down an offer sheet on a big winger (Penner).

Hmm... Goaltending is a little weak. We better get a free agent (rekhabibulin).

There - NOW we have a team!!

I am probably oversimplifying here, but the way I see it the key moves that have let the team down from where it could have been were losing Arnott, Smyth, and Satan.

Arnott was traded for Guerin, Guerin for Carter, Carter for Dvorak and Cory Cross. Talk about a downgrade... ugh. Smyth turned into Nilsson and O'marra... Ugh. Satan was traded for nothing much... ugh.

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