Some perspective

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Did somebody fart or is the burning in my nostrils the stench of the long-lost package of Limburger cheese that was the Edmonton Oilers 1990 NHL Entry Draft?

As a matter of perspective, those with questions about the drafting record of GM Kevin Lowe going into the 2008 Entry Draft—he has the 22nd pick this weekend—should consider 1990, when Glen Sather and chief scout Barry Fraser whiffed so completely, you couldn’t have bungled things worse lobbing darts at names on a board.

MAS TEQUILA?

The Cabo Wabo 11, starting with Scott Allison, taken 17th overall, and rounded out by Sami “10 Thumbs” Nuutinen, the 248th pick, didn’t play a single NHL game. None. Nada.

It’s a group of grunts—Allison, Alex Crowley, Joel Blain, Greg Louder, Keijo Sailynoja, Mike Power, Roman Majzlik, Richard Zemlacka, Petr Korinek and Nuutien—virtually unmatched at the Entry Draft.

Not counting 2005, 2006 and 2007 because it’s too early to write-off prospects from those sweepstakes, only two other NHL teams since 1979 have failed to have at least one player from any given draft year play a single game.

Those collections of stiffs, taken in 2004 by the Minnesota Wild and in 2003 by the Phoenix Coyotes, might yet have somebody stumble into an NHL rink for a cup of coffee.

Under the Lowe regime, with Kevin Prendergast as vice-president of hockey operations, the Oilers haven’t come close to replicating Fraser’s 1990 Mexican Bomb Squad.

Lowe, Prendergast and head scout Stu MacGregor can use a Ouija Board Friday and do better than 1990, which marked the low point in a long string of first-round busts including Selmar Odelein, Scott Metcalfe, Kim Issel, Peter Soberlak, Jason Soules, Joe Hulbig, Nick Stajduhar, Jason Bonsignore, Steve Kelly, Matthieu Descoteaux, Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich and Jani Rita.

GETTING IT RIGHT

The fact is since 2001, the Oilers have drafted reasonably well under Lowe. Yes, taking Jesse Niinimaki in 2002 was a brain cramp of biblical proportions, but there have been fewer of those under Lowe and Prendergast in the first round. In addition, the Oilers have uncovered their share of prospects in later rounds in recent drafts.

Anyway, before looking ahead at 2008, here’s a cursory glance at first-round picks since 2001 under Lowe. I’ll leave the in-depth analysis, glowing reviews and second-guessing of later rounds to those so inclined.

THE LOWE REGIME

Lowe was the GM at the 2000 Entry Draft in Calgary, but he’d barely settled into Sather’s chair. The regrettable decision to select plodding stinker Alexei Mikhnov belongs to Sather and Fraser, in his swan song.

Lowe, in fact, made a bold debut by acquiring Eric Brewer, Josh Green and a pick (Brad Winchester) for Roman Hamrlik in a trade with the New York Islanders. He also tried to get the first pick from Mike Milbury with an eye to taking Marian Gaborik.

Anyway, a look at 2001–2007.

FIRST-ROUNDERS

2007

  • Sam Gagner (6th): 79GP, 13 G, 36 A, 49 Pts
  • Alex Plante (15th)
  • Riley Nash (21st)

Available: Keaton Ellerby (10th), Brandon Sutter (11th), Colton Gillies (16th), Alexei Cherapanov (17th).

THE SKINNY… There was no luck involved in selecting Gagner as the scouting staff liked his head for the game and had him pegged as a blue-chipper early… the beef some pundits had was with the pick of Plante ahead of Gillies and Cherapanov.

2006

  • No Pick (Jeff Petry 45th overall in second round).

Available: Shawn Matthias (47th), Milan Lucic (50th), Mike Weber (57th).

THE SKINNY… The five players the Oilers selected represents the smallest number since 1979, but they could end up with two players from this group in Petry and Theo Peckham (75th).

2005

  • Andrew Cogliano (25th): 82 GP, 18 G, 27 A, 45 Pts

Available: Matt Niskanen (28th), Steve Downie (29th), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (35th), Paul Stastny (44th), Guillaume Latendresse (45th).

THE SKINNY… With 18-27-45 in 82 games this season, Cogliano has more points than anybody in his entire draft class except Sidney Crosby (294), Paul Stastny (149) and Anze Kopitar (138).

2004

  • Devan Dubnyk (14th)
  • Rob Schremp (25th): 3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts

Available: Alexander Radulov (15th), Travis Zajac (20th), Wojtek Wolski (21st), Andrej Meszaros (23rd), Jeff Schultz (27th), Mike Green (29th).

THE SKINNY… No way the Oilers were taking Schremp with the 14th pick after he F-Bombed his way through a pre-draft interview, but when they snagged the guy they wanted, Dubnyk, and Schremp dropped out of the top-10 to 25th, they rolled the dice.

2003

  • Marc Pouliot (22nd): 78 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 19 Pts

Available: Zach Parise (17th, Oilers traded down to 22nd), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Mike Richards (24th), Corey Perry (28th), Patrick Eaves (29th).

THE SKINNY… Lowe tried to move up to get a crack at Ryan Suter (7th to Nashville), Braydon Coburn (8th to Atlanta) or Dion Phaneuf (9th to Calgary) but couldn’t swing a deal so he traded down with New Jersey, taking Pouliot and the 68th pick (JF Jacques).

2002

  • Jesse Niinimaki (15th)

Available: Boyd Gordon (17th), Denis Grebeshkov (18th), Ben Eager (23rd), Alexander Steen (24th), Cam Ward (25th).

THE SKINNY… Oilers went off the chart to take Niinimaki, who joins Jakub Koreis (19th to Phoenix), Martin Vagner (26th to Dallas) and Mike Morris (27th to San Jose) as the only 2002 first-rounders not to play an NHL game. As one coach said of Niinimaki during the 2004–05 lockout season, “He likes everything about being a pro hockey player except playing the game.”

2001

  • Ales Hemsky (13th): 349 GP, 70 G, 195 A, 265 Pts

Available: Chuck Kobasew (14th), RJ Umberger (16th), Colby Armstrong (21st), Derek Roy (32nd).

THE SKINNY… The only players drafted in 2001 who have more points than Hemsky’s 265 are Ilya Kovalchuk (1st to Atlanta) with 466 points and Jason Spezza (2nd to Ottawa) with 345 points.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

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