AT RANDOM: ABOUT LEON . . .

Robin Brownlee
May 09 2014 12:50PM

LeonDraisaitl

When it comes to discussions about the need for the Edmonton Oilers to add size and edginess to their line-up, I've often said you can't go by size alone because big players can play small and small players can play big.

That's probably why I've got mixed feelings that the Oilers will likely have the opportunity to select Prince Albert's Leon Draisaitl with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Draisaitl is big. He's skilled. He's a centre. The question about Draisaitl, at least among many fans, is his competitive nature. Does he play with enough passion? Does he have enough edge to his game? Or, is he a soft, passive player in a big body without the fire of slightly smaller Sam Bennett?

That's the question, and I don’t have a definitive answer. Jason Gregor just posted an in-depth interview he did with Draisaitl on the show last week, so I won't go over too much of the ground he's already covered, but for me, the money quote from the interview is obvious.

WHAT HE SAID

Draisaitl

GREGOR: "Some suggest that you’re not maybe a fireball, you’re not highly competitive. From games I’ve seen, I don’t agree with that. How do you respond to those who suggest that maybe you’re not a highly competitive player?" 

DRAISAITL: "I know I’m a really, really competitive person. I want to win every single game. I know people say that about me but you know, I think it’s the style of game I play. In my opinion, that’s why people say that a lot.

"I like to control the game rather than speeding it up all of the time. And I know that I have to learn to speed it up too and that’s something that I’m working on right now, and I know that’s one of my weaknesses. I think that’s what people say because I like to control the game. I like to have the puck on my stick and then make things happen and you know. But I know that I have to work on it for sure, it’s definitely one of my weaknesses."

Playing big doesn't necessarily mean running opponents through the boards (not that doing so is a bad thing in my books) or dropping the gloves at every sideways glance from an opponent (ditto). It's about willingness to compete. It's about hating to lose. It's about being hard on the puck. It involves cliché stuff about being at your best when the chips are down. It's about becoming more engaged rather than backing off when it gets nasty. 

I've seen countless big players without the first clue about what it takes to truly compete and play with an edge (hello, Jason Bonsignore) and I've seen just as many small players with spit-in-your-eye brass and gumption that far outstrips their physical size (Doug Gilmour comes to mind). 

The old axiom tells us it's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. I've always believed that. Whether that trait comes in a bigger body like Draisaitl or somebody like Bennett or Sam Reinhart, that's the player the Oilers need when they take the podium in Philadelphia.

WHILE I'M AT IT . . . 

ToddNelson

. . . Jonathan Willis has done a couple of items of late about Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. On merit, I believe Nelson deserves a promotion to the NHL, but I question the wisdom of adding a coach without considerable NHL coaching experience to the Edmonton staff, given its make-up now

Dallas Eakins has one season as an NHL head coach on his resume. He needs an experienced addition to his staff, not somebody learning on the fly. Eakins needs help in the form of a seasoned veteran coach, not a newbie, so the timing isn't good. That's not Nelson's fault, but it is his problem.

. . . I'm not the first to mention this, but I wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers and Craig MacTavish might re-visit the possibility of getting a deal done at the draft in June. The Flyers are always open for business and I can see new GM Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren wanting to move up in draft order. 

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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#51 Only Us
May 09 2014, 03:38PM
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Geoff wrote:

Toronto just fired all their assistants and kept their head coach. Maybe we should do the same since it's one of the two only areas we haven't purged in a while. The other being Kevin Lowe of course.

Not that I'm all over the Kevin Lowe/assistant coaches gravy train of hate but results are results :(

Seems like every team that is now done for the season (except the Oilers) have made some management/coaching change. Good to see we are on the right path with who we have, and we will continue on this path (sarcasm font. I guess it is all the players fault.

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#52 Ed in Edmonton
May 09 2014, 04:11PM
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gravis_82 wrote:

completely agree. I form my own opinions, I don't need to know the opinions of someone who has no influence on the team whatsoever, nor has any inside knowledge over and above what I have myself. Mac T's opinions - yes, K-Lowe - yes, Eakins - yes. I want to see numbers and analysis that will help me grow my understanding of this team and the game as a whole. Something that might make me think about something in a different light, something that challenges convention etc etc. An opinion piece such as this is always disappointing. Only reason I open it and read it is that I am hoping it contains those evidence based conclusions that I am looking for. Then I read, and it does not. But, you got your page view. One faithful readers opinion.

Agree that an opinion piece like this one is pretty thin.

As a wise man once said "opinions are like ***holes, everyone has one".

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#53 Total Points
May 09 2014, 05:20PM
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if the Edmonton Oiler or any other NHL team do not know if Leon plays aggressive, hard, competitive, etc, every night then the NHL scouts really suck.

After I work with a guy or play casual sports against a guy for six months I know if he is aggressive, works hard, etc.

Good grief

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#54 Lochenzo
May 09 2014, 01:29PM
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Gregor brought up an interesting note about Draisaitl. He's very new to the North American game, and Leon's made huge strides just in his second year over. Makes you wonder how much more progression there may be.

That being said, on this discussion about compete and fight level, certain styles of play are more obvious to the naked eye than others. Banging and crashing is not only more obvious to fans, but maybe also to the team watching from the bench. There was many a night last year where we've seen this team come out flat. I wonder if having a top 6 guy with some mash and moxy would get these guys going. The old lead by example cliche.

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#55 vetinari
May 09 2014, 01:40PM
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Basically, it seems like most would generally prefer that we use our pick on someone in the mold of a Lucic who is willing to cross the line from time to time to make a point or to avenge a wrong and this is not Draisaitl... that being said, I would love to fill the 2C spot with a puck possession type of player like Draisaitl and find a coke machine who can skate and play the wing instead.

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#56 djc
May 09 2014, 01:45PM
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ColourMeImpressed wrote:

... you think that polite, considered post, where I make allowance for the limitations of freelance writers, was a troll?

OK then.

There is a segment of the Oilernation readers who believe if you don't agree with a certain opinion, you are a troll or work for the Oilers or both.

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#57 ColourMeImpressed
May 09 2014, 01:53PM
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djc wrote:

There is a segment of the Oilernation readers who believe if you don't agree with a certain opinion, you are a troll or work for the Oilers or both.

I'm not even disagreeing with Robin's opinion (not necessarily in agreement with it either). I simply recognize it as merely his opinion and as someone who was involved in his line of work for 10 years, I think it's more or less mandatory these days to back an opinion up a little better. As I said, opinions are cheap these days - with the internet anyone can have a large audience.

I'm also not expecting Robin to be a fortune teller or be able to correctly predict that Bennett or Reinhart will be better than Draisaitl - because if he was that good, there are head scouting jobs in the NHL that pay a whole lot better than freelance writing does.

I just dislike being called a troll when I put a lot of effort into sounding neutral while I attempt to explain that position.

Like, if I were to write an opinion piece about Bennett vs Draisaitl, and I didn't have access to first-hand sources like coaches and scouts, I'd probably dig up that bit about 48 points in the final 22 games, contrast that with how the other guys finished the season, maybe compare to Monahan (who is another big centre who played for a bad team), and perhaps compare Reinhart to Nuge and Bennett to Brule or some other smaller firecracker type. Flesh things out a little.

I hate coming across as critical of a writer as a person, because I don't want to threaten Robin's livelihood. I'm not envious of a career as a freelance writer, even if he is lucky enough to cover sports, because I know freelancing is a tough gig with not a lot of stability to it. If anything I'm trying to encourage him to see that there are ways he can add value to an article like this beyond just his opinion in and of itself.

Anyway, I'm going to leave this thread now before I derail it completely.

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#58 The artist formerly known as Harry
May 09 2014, 02:08PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Fair point, but if you add two coaches, who goes?

Heres a crazy thought, why not ALL OF THEM. The fact that Buckburger is still employed by this team makes me sick

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#59 Randaman
May 09 2014, 02:48PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Fair point, but if you add two coaches, who goes?

Smith & Bucky... Ya right what was I thinking. Sorry Kevin

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#60 baggedmilk
May 09 2014, 03:05PM
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@Andrew

I always find it amazing how many people have given up on Yakupov already. #OFDTO

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#61 Geoff
May 09 2014, 03:20PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Fair point, but if you add two coaches, who goes?

Toronto just fired all their assistants and kept their head coach. Maybe we should do the same since it's one of the two only areas we haven't purged in a while. The other being Kevin Lowe of course.

Not that I'm all over the Kevin Lowe/assistant coaches gravy train of hate but results are results :(

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#62 madjam
May 09 2014, 04:04PM
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As long as Draisaitl does not turn into Drycycle next year , maybe it would be advantageous to draft him if available . Id be satisfied even with Virtanen , Ekblad, Bennett or Reinhart .

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#63 Trenton
May 09 2014, 08:19PM
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I'm surprised Brownlee hasn't deleted any of these comments. Colour me impressed!

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#64 Derian Hatcher
May 09 2014, 08:42PM
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Here is my 2 cents…(not even worth that)…but I find ON highly entertaining. Both the articles and the comments challenge me to think about things in a different way…. Rarely does my personal opinion change (Eakins hire was a mistake), but I really enjoy the writers, all of whom provoke thought. There are always excellent points and debate in the comments section - compared to the quantity and quality of comments on other NATIONS, the stuff here is Bill Shakespeare! There is nothing like a good discussion or debate regarding coaching, players, trades, draft picks, etc.

Writers - keep up the excellent work. Commenters - keep it up, and don't get personal. Eakins - for the love of Kenny Baird (remember him? he's in the WHA Hall of Fame !) find some humility and get an experienced asst coach. The REAL smartest man in the room knows what he doesn't know.

And Kevin….I actually do have a concern….uhg ..nevermind….

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#65 I tried it at home
May 09 2014, 09:17PM
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Nothing to do with anything above, but Im loving watching Minny and Chicago go at it. No one running into thier teammates on breakways, people in position when and where theyre supposed to be.... Wow. I wish we had professional hockey in Edmonton. And that Brodziak guy, good guy, character player. * pours rum, sobs*

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#66 Ryan
May 10 2014, 08:49AM
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Wow the full courts press is on for Leon . This feels like a situation where the oilers are trying the out smart every one. Just figure out what you want in a player and draft that guy but you can't make a guy more aggressive

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#67 hallsyoilerforever5
May 10 2014, 12:11PM
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Whether the oilers draft Bennett or Draisaitl ; assuming Ekblad goes 1 or 2. The best path is not to rush them and let them at least have another year in the juniors.

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#68 Oilfan69
May 09 2014, 02:02PM
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while I don't normally browse the other nation sites much there is an interesting article up on flames nation about drafting/drafting records that is worth a read if anyone is bored.

http://flamesnation.ca/2014/5/9/drafting-for-success

(it is also applicable to the Oilers)

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#69 Will
May 09 2014, 02:20PM
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Oilfan69 wrote:

while I don't normally browse the other nation sites much there is an interesting article up on flames nation about drafting/drafting records that is worth a read if anyone is bored.

http://flamesnation.ca/2014/5/9/drafting-for-success

(it is also applicable to the Oilers)

Thanks for this. The previous article with the interview is getting some good traction int he comments. Some fun ideas being thrown around.

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#70 Will
May 09 2014, 02:44PM
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Oilfan69 wrote:

while I don't normally browse the other nation sites much there is an interesting article up on flames nation about drafting/drafting records that is worth a read if anyone is bored.

http://flamesnation.ca/2014/5/9/drafting-for-success

(it is also applicable to the Oilers)

Damn, that was a good article.

I think though he missed the boat when looking at Chicago. In terms of draft success it was neat to see Detroit is a good model for development, but haven't pulled an elite player out of the draft in forever.

I don't mind the conclusion that Boston has been the best at the draft table over the last decade, but I would argue no team even touches Chicago's drat ability. In addition to Elite talent like Kane, Towes, and Keith, they also drafted Buflygn, Seebrook, Saad, Shaw, Bickle, Versteeg, Crawford, Hjalmarsson, and Smith.

That is an entire team basically built through the draft with only Oduya and Hossa being other real big impact players on the team.

Main difference between the Oil and Chicago in terms of successful rebuild through the draft, Chicago's ability to draft actual NHL talent, or at least develop into talent instead of washing it out of the league or sending it away before becoming a useful player (Greene, Cogliano, Brodziak, Nash)

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#71 Oilers john
May 09 2014, 02:45PM
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I am from Prince Albert and over the last two years have watched Leon countless times. He has put the Raiders on his back and carried them many times. He in my humble opinion is just what the Oilers need. He is very coach able and extremely determined.

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#72 Geoff
May 09 2014, 03:13PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

I always find it amazing how many people have given up on Yakupov already. #OFDTO

Maybe the people who haven't given up on Yakupov just don't post much :P

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#73 baggedmilk
May 09 2014, 03:18PM
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Geoff wrote:

Maybe the people who haven't given up on Yakupov just don't post much :P

That's all I can hope for! #TeamYak

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#74 Geoff
May 09 2014, 04:24PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

What I'd like to see happen and what I think will happen are two distinctly different matters.

Buchberger's tenure here under multiple head coaches speaks for itself. I think he should have been gone long ago. I don't suspect that will happen, given his relationship with Lowe and Katz. As for Smith, I haven't heard much negative about him, but you could also argue he could/should be gone because head coaches should pick their assistants.

Nelson looks like a fine young coach to me and I'd have no problem adding him and an experienced NHL coach, but unless somebody goes that's not going to happen.

Hiring an NHL experienced coach might not want to just be an assistant and may want the associate title. What that title really means I have no idea in the pecking order of things. So I guess it would put the spotlight on Acton as to what he brings as the associate coach is his spot.

Personally I think if you make changes you change them all. This may or may not be dumb lol. Not a hockey know it all and never will be but the blunt observation for me is that Eakins needs better help if he is going to stay in Edmonton. The combo of Eakins head coach / NHL experienced associate coach insert here / Nelson as assistant would be good.

Eakins record for the Marlies in his first season was pretty terrible. The later 2 however.... :)

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#75 HardBoiledOil
May 09 2014, 07:14PM
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Total Points wrote:

if the Edmonton Oiler or any other NHL team do not know if Leon plays aggressive, hard, competitive, etc, every night then the NHL scouts really suck.

After I work with a guy or play casual sports against a guy for six months I know if he is aggressive, works hard, etc.

Good grief

they don't suck, but they haven't set the world on fire either at the draft table. wouldn't bother me if they were replaced one day.

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#76 Oil Can
May 09 2014, 08:21PM
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Hall Awaits wrote:

Robin, would you trade the 3rd overall to Philly for Brayden Schenn and the 16/17th overall pick?

I myself would not but I think this is the kind of deal they're going to try to pull if they move the pick.

I think that might not be a bad trade if it went a little further, and was for Schenn, the 17 pick and Scott Laughton for the third pick and Sam Gagner.

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#77 HockeyYodaDotcom
May 10 2014, 10:15AM
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Will wrote:

Damn, that was a good article.

I think though he missed the boat when looking at Chicago. In terms of draft success it was neat to see Detroit is a good model for development, but haven't pulled an elite player out of the draft in forever.

I don't mind the conclusion that Boston has been the best at the draft table over the last decade, but I would argue no team even touches Chicago's drat ability. In addition to Elite talent like Kane, Towes, and Keith, they also drafted Buflygn, Seebrook, Saad, Shaw, Bickle, Versteeg, Crawford, Hjalmarsson, and Smith.

That is an entire team basically built through the draft with only Oduya and Hossa being other real big impact players on the team.

Main difference between the Oil and Chicago in terms of successful rebuild through the draft, Chicago's ability to draft actual NHL talent, or at least develop into talent instead of washing it out of the league or sending it away before becoming a useful player (Greene, Cogliano, Brodziak, Nash)

Boston is good at drafting no doubt. But I think it's important to factor in the draft number they were picking those elite players. If you're picking top three or four -some years you can't miss. Two of Boston's three elite players were top five picks. What impresses me more is when teams are able to find gems in the second or later rounds. As you've pointed out, this is what Chicago has done so effectively. Montreal is also very good at finding gems. (Subban 2nd rd). While teams like Florida have had a lot of misses with high picks and the result is obvious.

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