It’s not often a team with the second overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft has a reasonable chance to win now like the Boston Bruins do, and that’s reason enough why Steve Tambellini should be all over Peter Chiarelli like a bad haircut.
But, thanks to Brian Burke and the Phil Kessel trade, the Bruins are a team that’s already pretty good — 91 points this season, 116 in 2008-09 and 94 in 2007-08 — and a team that holds second pick in Los Angeles, right after the Oilers pick first (and take Tyler Seguin).
Given the make-up of the Bruins, who have a core of players entering or still in the prime of their careers, would Chiarelli be better off hanging on to his selection and taking Taylor Hall, as he has already suggested he might, or is it in his best interests to at least listen when Tambellini takes up residence in his ear?
If the conversation starts with Tambellini offering, say, Ales Hemsky and Gilbert Brule or Dustin Penner for his pick and a Seguin-Hall daily-double, is there reason to keep talking?
If I’m the GM of the Bruins, if I think my team might be a Stanley Cup contender with Hemsky and Penner, and if I’m willing to admit gainful employment is a consideration, the answer is yes.
Why wouldn’t Chiarelli listen?
Here and now
Before you laugh off the possibility of Tambellini swinging a deal to land Seguin and Hall, ask yourself this: will the Bruins be a better team over the next two seasons with Hall in the line-up or with Hemsky and Penner? Yes? No? Not sure? If yes, might the Bruins be good enough before Hall turns 21 to win a Stanley Cup with Hemsky and Penner?
Before you trot out cliches about "mortgaging the future" and the like, remember, that kind of talk takes on a different tone if you’re walking in Chiarelli’s shoes, as opposed to spouting platitudes as a fan or writer.
Talk about the future is fine, but the future can be somewhat more immediate in a city like Beantown that hasn’t sipped champagne from the Stanley Cup since 1972. Dale Tallon damn sure had a hand in building the Chicago Blackhawks, but he wasn’t around to enjoy the parade.
Is it a longshot that Tambellini will be able to convince Chiarelli to part with this pick? Duh. Of course it is. Chiarelli will have a line up of eager suitors trying to separate him from a crack at Hall with attractive offers. Then, there’s the optics of giving up a potential franchise player for a shot to win here and now — with no guarantee it’ll play out that way.
Of course, it’s not nearly as hard a sell if the Bruins win something before Chiarelli starts losing bits and pieces of his roster, as is inevitable under a salary cap, and Hall becomes the stud people project him to be.
From the Oilers end of things, Tambellini won’t get the answers to any of those questions unless he asks. He damn sure better — and it should be Plan A before he settles on trying to squeeze something out of Chiarelli to lay-off Hall if he can’t hit the home run.
What’s to lose?
I’ve already written why I’d offer up Hemsky. I’m not sure he’ll be here after his contract expires in two seasons, despite his candlelight dinner with owner Daryl Katz after the season ended. I’m not convinced Penner will re-sign in Edmonton, either.
So, I start this what-if scenario with them, but feel free to change or add names you think might make a deal possible. If that includes taking a hummer contract back, like that of Michael Ryder — the Bruins already have over $46 million committed to salaries next season, so the cap is a consideration — so be it. Tweak it however you like.
The point is, there shouldn’t be anybody near untouchable on the Oilers roster, not after four straight years out of the playoffs. Tambellini isn’t giving up the chance to win something in the next two or three years by parting with Hemsky, Penner, Brule or whoever.
But, if you add a combination of those names to Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara. Johnny Boychuk and Tuukka Rask, might that put the Bruins over the top?
If I’m Tambellini, I’m asking Chiarelli that question in Los Angeles, and I’m throwing offers at him in an attempt to get Seguin and Hall until the mini-bar is empty and he tells me to get the hell out of his room.
What’s to lose?
Know your audience
There’s some sharp fans out there, but there’s a handful of dullards with slack jaws and walnut-sized brains in the mix who keep things interesting by providing laugh-out-loud material.
Every Sunday, Jim Matheson serves up one of the best reads anywhere with Hockey World in the Journal. Matheson, an Elmer Ferguson Award winner — he’s in the writer’s wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame — got people talking with his latest offering last weekend.
Among other things, Matheson asked if the Oilers might make a pitch for Chicago’s Kris Versteeg with the 31st pick at the Entry Draft, if they might be interested in free agent defenceman John Scott and if San Jose might be interested in Sheldon Souray.
Matheson’s what-ifs and speculation drew this response by somebody calling himself "Asher" over at HF Boards.
"The more I read these Matheson "speculations" the more he comes off sounding like Eklund. I’ve often thought a lot of Eklund rumours are created by him sitting down looking at rosters and saying things like, "Gee, Team A could really use a player like the one Team B has that might be available." And then he goes on to create a rumour. I know Matty was writing for Eklund’s site a while back… maybe he picked up a few of Eklund’s writing habits along the way."
Matty was writing for Eklund a while back? Uh, no. Never has. Never will. That’s the wonderful thing about the interweb. Dolts can write stupid stuff that has no foundation in fact and people will read it because it’s only a mouse click away, alongside legit offerings from journalists, fans and bloggers who aren’t uttering nonsense and lies.
The right stuff
Hall certainly passed his drive-by to Edmonton today with flying colors, saying all the right things.
"I know how crazy this city is for hockey," Hall told reporters at Rexall Place. "I was having lunch at Joey’s and the chef came out and asked me to autograph his apron. People are recognizing me, already. I think it would be pretty cool to play here."
Part of the reason some people are pitching Seguin as a better fit for the Oilers is that he’s a centre, while Hall has played primarily left wing while leading the Windsor Spitfires to two straight Memorial Cups.
"I’d be very comfortable playing centre," Hall said. "In Windsor we had a lot of true centres who were better there than on the wing, so I moved over.
"When we had injuries this year, I moved back, and I played half the year I was at centre. It’s still hockey, it’s about winning battles in the offensive zone."
Seguin will stop in Edmonton for a look-see next week.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.