LOS ANGELES — I’m going to keep a running diary of what I hear, who I bump into, what’s happening and random thoughts through Friday’s first round of the draft. Will update three or four times today…
7:05 a.m. The lobby of the J.W. Marriott, a bee-hive of drinking, schmoozing and all manner of carrying on the night before, is all but deserted, save for former Calgary tough guy Tim Hunter, now a coach with the Toronto Maples Leafs. I always though Timmy looked like Alice The Goon, a cartoon character from my childhood. I’ve, ahem, never told him so. This morning just isn’t the right time.
7:15 a.m. As great as L.A. Live at the Staples Center is, with as many restaurants and bars as you could hope to stagger in and out of in a weekend of Wanye-esque goofery, there is only one Starbuck’s in the area. I wander in to see two baristas handling a line-up of 24 people ahead of me. Yes, 24. All but two people in the line-up, an L.A. beat cop and I, are women — most of them part of this kook Twilight Bunch that is camping out at the L.A. Film Festival.
7:35: I’m blowing snot bubbles and ready to maim the next person who says, "Good morning" by the time I finally get my coffee.
7:50: Maple Leaf GM Brian Burke, like Hunter, is out of the rack early and goes hustling by with a quick "Good morning" to get a coffee. No surprise Brian is on the move.
The way things worked out in the Kessel trade with Toronto’s second overall pick going to Boston, Burke, in a crisp black suit, seems a man on a mission. He’s going to try to make a splash here in the next couple of days. Don’t bet against him.
8:00: Oilers send out a news release confirming the Colin Fraser trade with Chicago and that he cost them the 151st overall pick.
12:30: The NHL will trot out the top prospects and feed the media mob at a luncheon at the Target Terrace today, so I’ll be filing something after chatting with Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin an the rest of them before going on the air with Jason Gregor.
— We’re also getting a crack at Oilers GM Steve Tambellini later at 3 p.m., and it’ll be a chance to ask him if there’s any legs to rumours about him talking to Scott Howson in Columbus about the No. 4 pick.
12:35: The annual prospects lunch at the draft always comes out a bit staged and stiff as the kids are trotted out before reporters yet again. They’ve just about had enough of hearing the same questions and giving the same answers. And, of course, what could be more thrilling for Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin than watching a bunch of notepad-packers shove food down their gullets?
12:45: I’m told Howson and the Blue Jackets are definitely willing to move the fourth pick, but only if they can stay in the top eight or nine, because Howson thinks he can get a player he wants there. Among forwards, he likes Ryan Johansen. With D-men, it’s Brandon Gormley he’s got his eye on. If Howson can get something for moving down two or three spots and still get his man, he’ll do it. That scenario would take the Oilers out of the equation and kill any buzz that Tambellini and Howson are talking and that Ales Hemsky’s name is being mentioned — at it least in the context of Columbus moving down.
12:55: Might the Oilers like Jarred Tinordi enough to try to move up a few spots from No. 31 to get him? Vancouver has the 25th pick, and a reporter who covers the Canucks asks me that very question. Problem is, if Tinordi is still there at No. 25, the Canucks would take him.
1:15: — Talked to Hall and Seguin at the luncheon, but they didn’t offer anything more than what we heard when they visited Edmonton. Still, I’ll file something after Jason Gregor’s show this after afternoon.
2:30: I’ve been told by two reliable sources that Tambellini is making a serious bid to get the 15th pick, which Florida owns after yesterday’s deal with Boston. I’m not sure what Tambellini is offering Florida’s Dale Tallon to get it, but this is one to keep an eye on.
I’ll ask Tambellini if he’s got anything sitting there ("Sure, Robin, here’s what I’ve got…") when we get him at 4 p.m. He won’t tell us anything, but, like I said, stay tuned on this one.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS?
3:55: Owner Daryl Katz, president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and Tambellini drew a crowd in the lobby before Tambellini addressed the media — expect an item on that in the next hour or so — but Katz slipped out pretty quickly once he saw all the wags hovering around. Good idea.
4:15: Talk about Tambellini’s interest in the 15th pick, owned by Florida (from the trade with Boston) spread pretty quickly. Ryan Rishaug of TSN asked Tambellini about what it might take to move, to say 15th, and Tambellini said: "I’ve had discussions with a lot of teams, like any other manager, trying to acquire another first-round pick.
Dependent on what is there at that time, I guess we’ll see what the value is that time. Dale (Tallon) may use the pick, also. "Anything in the first round is very expensive. You’re talking either multiple picks or very good young players. It’s expensive." I’m thinking Tambellini might start the conversation with Tallon by putting Andrew Cogliano on the table. It’ll get his attention.
5:00: As always, reporters will head out for dinner, drinks and whatever else with one eye on their cell phones tonight, especially those of us who cover the Oilers. Aside from Tambellini pushing for the 15th pick, there’s going to be all kinds of GMs inquiring about what it might take to get his No. 1 pick.
I’m not saying Tambellini should move it, but it’s his job to listen. More than one draft feed or booze-up by reporters has been nixed in mid-meal because a trade comes down, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens tonight.
5:15: Gregor and I, as you might have heard, talked to centre Colin Fraser on the air today. He’s going to add some grit to Tom Renney’s bottom six forwards and he’s a fit in that mix. He’s one reason why I think Tambellini might be able to offer up Cogliano. "I’ve been talking to a lot of teams, just trying to find one, from a need standpoint, that bottom-six forward who can kill penalties and takes a lot of pride in that," Tambellini said.
"The fact that he’s a western Canadian player who understands the environment there, it’s important. We’re going to have a young team, but we want character, good people surrounding them. Colin, his character, is very strong. "We’ve talked so many times about adding people who just love to compete every night. He comes to play, and that’s what we’re looking for."
BATCAVE TIDBITS FROM TYLER
Seguin and Hall gave pretty standard answers at the prospects luncheon today, although Seguin did come up with some gems when he talked about having dinner at Katz’s house during his stop in Edmonton. "I guess the word to put on it is surreal," Seguin said of his visit to Katz’s swank joint.
"Going there, an $8-million house, two Bentleys, a Range Rover, pools in and out, a hockey rink. It was a dream house. "He had three security guards who never left the house. They all drove Cadillacs, so it was crazy, yeh."
Caddies? Sounds like an updated prairie version of Graceland and the Memphis Mafia. Seguin on his visit to Edmonton: "It was great," he said. "Edmonton is a great city. It’s beautiful there. I saw a glimpse of the fan base because I had people coming up to me in the street and stuff like that."
More later . . .