BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE, PLEASE

Robin Brownlee
May 28 2012 10:29AM

The question about drafting the best player available versus selecting based on organizational need isn't a tough one. The way I see it, there is no greater "organizational need" than drafting the best player available, especially when a team holds the first overall pick, as the Edmonton Oilers do.

That approach seems pretty obvious to me, and to you, too, based on all the response generated by what Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor told me May 14 when I asked him if he and his staff had come up with a clear No. 1 prospect on the team's draft list going into Pittsburgh June 22.

"We’re still working through that process," MacGregor said. "We haven’t really got to that point yet. I’m going to say it’s between a group of guys."

Really? A group of guys? (Nail) Yakupov, (Ryan) Murray and . . . Alex Galchenyuk . . . Morgan Rielly . . . Griffin Reinhart? Or is it just that you won’t tell me?

"That’s right,” MacGregor said. “But I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision . . ."

An organizational decision? Like to NOT take the BPA and instead draft based on what the roster might look like two, three or even four years from now? Say it isn't so, Stu. Say it isn't so.

IT ISN'T SO

My interpretation, and I wrote this in the comments of the May 14 item, is "organizational need" will only come into play if MacGregor and his staff have two prospects playing different positions, say Yakupov and Murray, rated too close to call based on what they've seen all season and what testing at the NHL combine in Toronto will reveal in the next few days.

That situation, a dead heat, doesn't happen very often, especially with teams holding the first pick. I do recall, however, two times over the course of the last decade when organizational need did sway who the Oilers selected with picks later in the first round. That would be 2002 and 2003. It went badly.

In 2002 after failing to move up in a bid to land defensemen Jay Bouwmeester, the Oilers moved down one spot, from 14th to 15th, and then went right off the board by taking Finn Jesse Niinimaki. Chief scout Kevin Prendergast explained the pick this way:

"He fit the bill for us as far as needing a big centreman. He's got all the tools to be there. We don't think he's that far away."

In 2003, after failing to move up in an effort to land defensemen Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn or Dion Phaneuf, the Oilers moved from 17th to 22nd by way of a trade with New Jersey rather than take Zack Parise. Edmonton opted for Marc Pouliot because, in part, organizational need had the Oilers looking for more size (they also got J.F. Jacques with the 68th pick).

"Parise would have given us another small centre," Prendergast said. "We felt we had to get a little bit bigger. Zach's skating is something that bothered us a little bit, too."

Did I mention this turned out badly?

HERE AND NOW

In both cases, organizational need – the desire to add size – influenced who the Oilers selected. And again, to be fair, the picture is not nearly as clear with mid to late picks in the first round like Pouliot and Niinimaki as it should be with the first overall pick.

If MacGregor and his staff have a dead heat atop their list in terms of the absolute BPA (I don't think they do), then position and size are fair ball as tie-breakers, just as interviews at the NHL combine can be IF they add insight or reveal character traits – for better or worse.

Outside the rare circumstance of too-close-to-call, however, weighting organizational need when selecting teenaged prospects who are years away from being a finished product and making an impact on a roster that will likely look drastically different is a sucker's game.

If Yakupov has graded out No. 1, take him. If Murray tops the chart, take him. Same for Galchenyuk or whoever sits in the top slot. Tambellini has to be able to trust his scouting staff and go with the consensus. If he can't, he needs different scouts. If he won't, he has to answer for the pick.

Take the best player available.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Oiler Country
May 28 2012, 10:49AM
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Slow clap then wild applause. Could not agree more. You take the best player available in the draft with 1st and second pick overall and then as the draft wears on, you start to pick for organizational need.

On another stream of consciousness... I don't get the FIST thing. I mean I get it, but I don't understand the draw of writing FIST when you aren't even first. Kinda makes you look like.. how you say Robin?! ..a.. gomer.

Just sayin'

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#2 Neilio
May 28 2012, 11:02AM
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Take the Yak and never look back.

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#3 The Fish
May 28 2012, 10:37AM
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Could not agree more.

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#4 Clyde Frog
May 28 2012, 10:48AM
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The reward to being one of the worst teams inn a year is the ability to take the best 18 year old in the world.

To not take that kid belies that you believe your team is good enough to not need the best kid in the world.

Which to say the least is hard for a last place team...

Trading down also implies your scouting staff is better than every other staff between you and your old pick. Not likely with our history, for if you like a kid that other teams don't you have to ask the question, why?

With league parity and the salary cap, positional strength changes way too quickly for any answer to be based solely on that need. Also the rarity of first overall picks needs consideration when you are looking at passing on them for spare second or third round picks...

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#5 Dodd
May 28 2012, 11:08AM
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Looking forward to a "Hemmer and Nail" line. Yes. I said it first.

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#6 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
May 28 2012, 10:47AM
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I think an argument can be made for a winger (Nail), center (Gal, Grigs) or a defenseman (Murray) going first overall. The only issue is that everyone and their dog is saying Yakupov is the impact player in this draft. I'll trust the pick as long as we know that Stu had the final say on who it should be.

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#7 Fresh Mess
May 28 2012, 10:57AM
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BPA is what they could trade the pick for.

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#8 jonrmcleod
May 28 2012, 11:14AM
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And only one man remains from that picture: the indestructible Kevin Lowe.

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#9 bdiddy18
May 28 2012, 12:25PM
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can we just use the summer to prepare for Yakupov's arrival

The Octane Girls are auditioning - bring in some talent from Omsk, St. Petersburg or Moscow

Appoint Khabibulin as backup goaltender and too translating the Yap from Yak

come up with better nicknames so that he feels welcomed - Hallsky Eberlianov and the Nuge (he changes for no one)

you draft first - deal with trades later. see how it pans out - see who can't deal with sharing the stardom stage. wait for the defensive depth team to struggle and trade then.

in the meantime let em loose and and sit back and enjoy triple hattrick games by Yakupov, Hallsky and Eberlianov

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#10 HallFever
May 28 2012, 12:42PM
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BPA = Yakupov

Brownlee - Any tidbits/insider goodies on the next coach? IMO, which obviously doesn't matter, is it will come down to Sutter/Nelson. I really don't think Tambust will risk his job on a rookie coach so he will go with Sutter.

Is Tambillini really on thin ice? God I hope so.

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#11 Yakkety Yak
May 28 2012, 01:26PM
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When the Oilers let KLowe and Tambi start thinking, we're all in trouble. Let Stu take over the entire organization and I think we'll start moving in the right direction.

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#12 geoilersgist
May 28 2012, 10:38AM
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If the FIST pick overall isn't used to take the BPA they are making a huge huge mistake

Edit: I read to slowly...

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#13 JB
May 28 2012, 10:40AM
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Let's not get Lowetide going on Pouliot. That kid's still going to player... :)

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#14 The Farmer
May 28 2012, 10:41AM
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Amen Mr Brownlee. Draft the best, you'll be able to trade him to another team easily for what your organizational need is. As long as your GM is competent. Hmmmm, on second thought, maybe we should draft for need. (sigh)

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#15 Homie
May 28 2012, 10:43AM
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Agreed. If they want to address organizational need, trade down and pick up another asset. Don't use the first pick to get the third or fourth player in the draft regardless of how much they need a D man.

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#16 PrimeBane
May 28 2012, 10:48AM
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In Stu we trust :)

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#17 Archaeologuy
May 28 2012, 10:52AM
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What's wrong with pulling a Tampa every now and again? Just raise the damn signs "Seen Nail?"

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#18 oilers2k12
May 28 2012, 11:00AM
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Yeah I think tambos already in panic mode, has been scared to make any significant moves in the last year and now is feeling the pressure cooker cuz he doesnt have a new contract yet.. Best player will win you the draft every time. Needs can be traded for, at least a good gm can trade for needs..

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#19 Walter Sobchak
May 28 2012, 11:00AM
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Good read RB.

Agreed.

By the way, ~whatever happened to Steve Kelly~

brother.

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#20 Rama Lama
May 28 2012, 11:09AM
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Assuming that Tamby finally does something and say trade down to pick up two first rounders for the first overall, is there no combination of players that could replace Yakapov?

I agree that Yakapov is the BPA. What if we were to get Murray and Galchenyuk........would anyone take that deal? What about Reinhart and Foresberg?

If there was ever a year where we could maximize our return........this is it.

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#21 Bushed
May 28 2012, 11:17AM
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I hope you're right on this one, Robin. I agree completely with your take--just go with BPA. This "organizational need" talk makes me very nervous; if the "expect the unexpected" cliche gets added to the discussion just before the draft, I will be in full panic mode...

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#22 Quicksilver ballet
May 28 2012, 11:38AM
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This would be real funny, if it wasn't really happening.

3rd annual attempt to sell the farm sale is imminant.

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#23 jonrmcleod
May 28 2012, 11:47AM
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@Dodd

I heard that on draft lottery night.

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#24 Sliderule
May 28 2012, 11:48AM
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I think we are going to have a "smartest guys in the room" story about the Oilers after the draft on June 22. If you like Yak be prepared to be sad and mad.

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#25 Ethan
May 28 2012, 11:56AM
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Why are you bringing up Kebin Pendergast? Thst guy was an incompetent hack. In Stu We Trust!!

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#26 Rn
May 28 2012, 11:57AM
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@Robin Brownlee ,

Don't you think if we take Yakupov first we should try to trade for Nikolai Kulemin, he would be a very good mentor for Yakupov. A big skilled left winger would also help the Oilers.

If yes who would you trade?

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#27 Shredder
May 28 2012, 12:04PM
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This whold article is based on this:

["That’s right,” MacGregor said. “But I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision . . ." An organizational decision? Like to NOT take the BPA and instead draft based on what the roster might look like two, three or even four years from now? Say it isn't so, Stu. Say it isn't so.]

This is putting words in Stu's mouth. I think it's prudent for the Oilers to keep the world guessing as to what they are going to do and who they are going to pick. If the whole world thinks we're taking Yak, and CLB wants Murray, they might as well just hang out until their name is called. If we want Murray, maybe we can get more for him by taking him with the #2 overall pick instead...

Basically what I'm getting at is, while yes we should take the BPA, why would we tell everyone we're taking Yak. If CLB thinks we might take Murray, and that's who they're targeting, maybe they'll panick and give us something and we can take Yak #2 overall...

Keeping the world guessing is just raising the value of the #1 overall pick. With a draft that has as much parity as this one, why would let everyone know who you've locked on to.

We all want to know what's going to happen, and I know we're all impatient about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was all about trading the pick for the most we possibly can, and we might have to scare a few teams in the top 5 into doing the trade because we "might" have interest in Grigorenko/Forsberg/Murray/etc...

...and let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time the Oilers lied to the media types/fans, it won't be the last, and really they're doing it in the Oilers best interest - so they can maximize value.

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#28 me
May 28 2012, 12:10PM
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Kevin Lowe was quoted by Terry Jones that for the 1st pick they are taking the best player available and will not be picking for need.

It was in the Edmonton Sun.

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#29 Reg Dunlop
May 28 2012, 12:26PM
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The oil are not good enough to compete every night. They need upgrades everywhere. Only Yak and Murray are NHL ready now, so those are the only choices for 1st overall. Yak would likely be a 16+ minute 2nd liner, Murray a 12 minute 5/6 Dman. Yak makes the biggest impact now, down the road maybe Murray proves more valuable. If the oil trade down they are likely looking for one more lotto pick next year, because I see no reason to think Stumblinni can build a line-up through trades and signings. The world according to Reg, and Reg knows hockey.

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#30 RDS
May 28 2012, 12:33PM
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From Wikipedia:

"While showing promise at the beginning of his pro career, most would regard him as the 'biggest bust' of the 1995 NHL draft.[citation needed] Many Oilers fans use Kelly as an example of the Oilers' inability to draft NHL level players.[citation needed] Most fans and media expected the Oilers to draft Shane Doan—an obvious choice who was drafted next by Winnipeg and later become the face and captain of the Jets/Coyotes franchise— or Jarome Iginla, a Edmonton native and leader with Doan on the Blazers but shocked everybody by drafting Kelly 6th overall.

After retiring, Steve Kelly joined the ranks of the Calgary Police Service in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where he is a police officer."

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#31 CaptainLander
May 28 2012, 12:46PM
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@Fresh Mess

Good point.

"That’s right,” MacGregor said. “But I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision (key word) .

This does not seem to necessarily mean drafting for organizational need.

If for whatever reason Phoenix calls and wants to trade Ekman-Larrson for the first overall. The organizational need would be getting the BPA in Ekman-Larrson.

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#32 Dman09
May 28 2012, 12:47PM
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I say take Nail, his physical play is something that is badly needed on this team. The guy plays with an edge and his PIM shows that he can be a bugger. So if he can put up similar numbers to hemsky then which would you rather have? Also you can hold on to Hemsky just to be sure.

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#33 3for2=lousy math
May 28 2012, 12:56PM
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Not sure why everybody thinks having 3 top-end RWs for 2 positions is good for the Oil...

BPA isa usually best choice, but I wonder in this situation. We need a D or big C. Even if Galchenyuk isn't quite as good as Yak, I think our best and safest bet is the C. (provided his medical checks out)

The Yak supporters talk about taking him and shifting someone from their natural position. If this happens aren't we just guessing how that turns out? Will Hall be a better C than LW? That doesn't even solve the RW puzzle - who moves between Yak, Eberle, and Hemsky? To where LW? How does that diminish their effectiveness not playing in a natural position? Big Risk, no?

There is also the take Yak then trade move? Really? With Tambo calling the shots? With a hockey team that isn't the most sought out destination for NHLers? With so many of the top players with No trades/No move clauses? Will we get value for who we trade? Hemsky is most likely the trade bait, but will he have a year that propels his value? Another huge risk!

We are trying to build a team that competes from the bottom up. In the NFL you don't draft a O-lineman if your o line is solid and you need a QB. The draft gives us the ability to pinpoint needs and fill them. Use #1 to get who we need. Yak himself said Galchenyuk has more skill than he possesses.

Big difference Stu MacGregor is rating talent now. He's our best organizational asset. Let him Robin, can you address some of these issues? I'd like to hear your take.

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#34 Capihtin Horcov
May 28 2012, 01:06PM
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Vat about me Capihtin Horcov?

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#35 Walter Sobchak
May 28 2012, 01:16PM
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@ RDS

Yes, I know about Steve Kelly.

I was being sarcastic because the Oilers took him over players such as Alberta born Doan or Edmonton born Iginla.

They drafted for need, not BPA and we ended up with Kelly and the rest is history.

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#36 Ryan2
May 28 2012, 01:17PM
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RB, you are being too hard on Pouliot. If MacT were still here he would be a regular in the line-up..... ;)

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#37 Dulock
May 28 2012, 01:20PM
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I agree with picking BPA in the first three rounds or so and organizational need and depth should factor in after that. For instance, a team can't draft seven goalies or defenceman every year. Having a place for players to develop, what player types the team is already developing and the flexibility in signing those players to contracts an when they can play pro (in which years can they play and can they become pros early/late) should factor in to those late round picks.

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#38 Dman09
May 28 2012, 02:08PM
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3for2=lousy math wrote:

Not sure why everybody thinks having 3 top-end RWs for 2 positions is good for the Oil...

BPA isa usually best choice, but I wonder in this situation. We need a D or big C. Even if Galchenyuk isn't quite as good as Yak, I think our best and safest bet is the C. (provided his medical checks out)

The Yak supporters talk about taking him and shifting someone from their natural position. If this happens aren't we just guessing how that turns out? Will Hall be a better C than LW? That doesn't even solve the RW puzzle - who moves between Yak, Eberle, and Hemsky? To where LW? How does that diminish their effectiveness not playing in a natural position? Big Risk, no?

There is also the take Yak then trade move? Really? With Tambo calling the shots? With a hockey team that isn't the most sought out destination for NHLers? With so many of the top players with No trades/No move clauses? Will we get value for who we trade? Hemsky is most likely the trade bait, but will he have a year that propels his value? Another huge risk!

We are trying to build a team that competes from the bottom up. In the NFL you don't draft a O-lineman if your o line is solid and you need a QB. The draft gives us the ability to pinpoint needs and fill them. Use #1 to get who we need. Yak himself said Galchenyuk has more skill than he possesses.

Big difference Stu MacGregor is rating talent now. He's our best organizational asset. Let him Robin, can you address some of these issues? I'd like to hear your take.

Let me ask you this, if you had your choice of taking what ever watch you wanted from a pile and there was one rolex and the rest were Timex which would you take? Take the best guy, if he ends up being a better player than Hemsky trade him and get something else you need.

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#39 Walter Sobchak
May 28 2012, 04:09PM
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I don’t understand those that say we should draft a defenseman with our first pick instead of BPA?

I get the argument a defenseman is a huge organizational need; therefore we should draft even a capable defenseman, but so is secondary scoring as is players with size that can play.

Would you waste a 1st overall pick on a bottom 6 player?

Then why waste a 1st overall pick on a 2/3 defensemen.

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#41 nunyour
May 28 2012, 04:27PM
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i can see taking yakapov if he is clearly the best player but i don't think he is,as many pro scouts do also.so if there is any dougth,or it is very close ,take the big centre this team clearly needs,as size does matter and should be factored into the selection.having three small players in your top six is not going to workout very well,and will lead to lots more injuries,and making a decent trade is easier said than done.

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#42 The Keystone Garter
May 28 2012, 04:28PM
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I guess you take the most NHL ready player. FWs ahead of D ahead of G. Physical players ahead of shrimps. NA ahead of Europe. Mentally mature players.

Err, who is the best player here? I have Murray, Grigorenko, and Yakupov, in order. All pretty close. CSB likes Yakupov.

I like Grigorenko but everyone seems to think might be a headcase. KHL for a year would be my worry. Schenn and #5 for #1 and 2nd rounder if you wanna playoff run. Note: I'm a biased Jets fan who would rather see Oilers better next year than after. You guys need a goalie; the draft is secondary.

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#43 glenn
May 28 2012, 04:37PM
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The way i see it is if the Oil know that Schutz will be an Oiler at the draft they will take Yakupov. They can talk to Schultz on June 1st they can have a deal in place "but not signed" at the time of the draft, if this happens they pick Yakupov Gagner will stay at centre and Ebs will play L.W. as he's the only guy that can play both wings. That takes care of the D if Whitney tells them his ankle is ok if not watch for them to make an offer for a UFA d man. take it with a grain of salt as i know nothing just like every other poster not named Brownlee LOL

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#44 BlacqueJacque
May 28 2012, 04:37PM
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Can someone explain to me what, exactly, testing at the combine reveals? Because like the NFL combine, it seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual draft. The best players to show at either combine are often left undrafted for a couple of rounds at least.

Did great at the VO2Max test? Great kid, just great. Let me know next time you're skating with a mouth-breathing only mask on a stationary bike in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Benched the most? Awesome, the Canadian powerlifting team is just a few provinces over...

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#45 nunyour
May 28 2012, 04:40PM
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Dman i will take the timex,the rolex is broken.

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#46 Walter Sobchak
May 28 2012, 05:29PM
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@ nunyour

Who are pro scout's who don’t have Yakupov at number 1?

I know of only one credible agency that has Yakupov at number 2. Even then there choice is a center not a defenseman.

Mackenzie who had 9 out of 10 scouts choose Yakupov with the only other being another center.

If size is a factor then tell me who has more size? Yakupov 5’11 200lbs - Grigrenko 6’2 190 lbs – Galchenyuk 6’1 185lbs

So who is bigger? All three players mentioned all had injury’s this past season, with the taller players having significant injuries.

I’ll ask you one more question, would it be easier to trade a prolific scorer or an average defensemen and who generates a better return?

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#48 @NateInVegas
May 28 2012, 06:31PM
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What is the best player available?

Is it the fastest skater, best shot, and ability to score? (Yakupov)

Or is it a player that controls the game, makes teammates better, and can play in all situations? (Galchenyuk/Grigorenko)

What about the ability to defend? Size? Injuries? IQ?

I'll still take a 75-80 point Center over a 90pt winger. Especially considering the Oilers have depth on the wing.

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#49 Mitch
May 28 2012, 07:06PM
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Robin I completely agree, take best player available, forget organizational need round 3 and up can be used for that.

It's who ever they think will make the best pro 10-15 yrs from now. Being a Oilers fan forever the possibility of adding a guy who has the ability of scoring 50 goals in consecutive seasons, I can't pass on Yakupov and there is no such thing as too much offence.

I do everything possible to make Schultz a Oiler. This summer is the most important summer for Edmonton in...well franchise history.

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#50 Mitch
May 28 2012, 07:06PM
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Robin I completely agree, take best player available, forget organizational need round 3 and up can be used for that.

It's who ever they think will make the best pro 10-15 yrs from now. Being a Oilers fan forever the possibility of adding a guy who has the ability of scoring 50 goals in consecutive seasons, I can't pass on Yakupov and there is no such thing as too much offence.

I do everything possible to make Schultz a Oiler. This summer is the most important summer for Edmonton in...well franchise history.

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