July 02 2013 04:29PM
Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish certainly set himself up for criticism by talking the talk before walking the walk prior to the NHL Entry Draft and free agency, but unless my ears have failed me completely, I heard MacT talk about making bold moves, not stupid moves.
So, while, like others, I do have some questions about his overall performance at the draft on the weekend– specifically, I'm wondering about how it came to be, exactly, that the Oilers used the seventh pick on Darnell Nurse rather than Valeri Nichushkin – I'm not unhappy with what I saw.
I've got no beef with picking Nurse as far as how he projects and what he brings to the table. He's tough, is diligent in his physical training and, from all accounts, is a character kid who interviewed very well. Teams can never have too much of that. My issue, I guess, is it's going to take three or even four years before the Oilers know what they have with him.
There's more risk in Nichushkin, a better chance he'll be a swing-and-a-miss rather than a homerun, but drafting that combination of size and skill would provide exactly what MacTavish's forwards lack. He could provide a bigger bang, and sooner, than Nurse. That, framed by the fact the Oilers haven't made the playoffs since 2006, made Nichushkin the more tempting pick for me.
I'm wondering if he was also the more tempting pick for Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff and if MacT, at some point, overruled his birddogs. When I hear Nichushkin was the guy as often as I did from people in the know, not the guessers, and Nurse gets selected, I wonder.
No conspiracy theory here because MacTavish wouldn’t be the first GM to make the call on a pick regardless of the team's scouting list, especially if two kids are rated neck-and-neck, but I'm wondering if MacT went with his gut and took the safer pick over the big swing – that does fly in the face of his talk about being bold.
What I want from a GM, MacTavish in particular, after he's talked the talked about being bold, is that he puts himself in the middle of the mix on the draft floor instead of waiting around for his phone to ring like a wallflower. That he identifies the players he wants or needs, decides what he's willing to give up to get them and then starts pitching.
MacTavish, it was plain to see to anybody paying attention, certainly did that in his pursuit of Braydon Coburn in multiple conversations with Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren. Homer, if reports are to be believed, put an unreasonable price tag on Coburn, so MacTavish, wisely, I say, said "no thanks."
Like MacTavish said, no deal is better than a stupid deal. If you've actually got a problem with that line of thinking – "But MacT promised he'd make a big deal at the draft" (no, he didn't) – I suggest you think again.
Trades, at least those that don’t involve one of the parties involved grabbing their ankles, are difficult to make, as MacTavish alluded to on the weekend after failing to make the splash many anticipated. Sucker deals? There's always one on the table and, more often than not, they are offered up to rookie GMs like MacTavish.
As 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer has already suggested, don't be a bit surprised if MacTavish and Holmgren continue talking about Coburn. I'd be stunned if they don't.
THIS AND THAT . . .
. . . Funny business, the NHL game. Everybody with a functioning brain stem knows the Oilers need more nastiness and grit on their back end, yet today the Oilers walked away from a bunch of it by not qualifying Colten Teubert, Theo Peckham and Alex Plante (as well as Philip Cornet).
The problem with the three D-men who didn't get QO'd, of course, is that while they bring qualities the Oilers lack, none of them has proven they can play regular minutes at the NHL level and, as always, there are always a raft of younger prospects on the way.
We know what went wrong with Peckham. When his window of opportunity swing open, he showed up fat and couldn’t fit through it. Plante has tons of jam but foot speed and concussions are an issue. Teubert? I'd really like to find out what went wrong there. Seems a bit early to turn the page on him.
. . . People here know I really like pending UFA David Clarkson and think he's be a perfect fit here because he brings leadership, toughness and pretty good skill to the dance, but heaven help the Oilers if they even think of offering the kind of money, more than $6 million a season, we heard about today. Clarkson might get that kind of cake from somebody, but it shouldn’t be the Oilers.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.