DRAFTING NOT ONLY WAY TO WIN

In a week Steve Tambellini will walk up to the microphone and announce Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. Oiler fans will rejoice with the notion they finally have a true number one centre on their team, and you’ll wait patiently for him to showcase his talents in the near future. Nugent-Hopkins combined with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi will have many of you believing the Oil is finally on the road to credibility.

You are probably right, however, in the past four years Stu MacGregor and his scouts have deservingly earned your praise, but after Friday, it will be up to Steve Tambellini to build this team into a contender.

After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup everyone, including the Oilers’ brass, suggested the Blackhawks had set the model for how to build a winner; Do it via the draft. When you’ve drafted the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and a host of complimentary players like Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Adam Burish it is clear that drafting is an important building block.

It is only the first step, however, and not the only way to go.

Drafting was key for the Hawks, but free agent signings and trades put the Hawks over the top. Even though they overpaid Brian Campbell he was a key contributor in their Cup run. Same for Marian Hossa. They signed Antti Niemi as an undrafted free agent in 2008. They acquired Kris Versteeg in 2007 for Brandon Bochenski. They stole Patrick Sharp from the Flyers in 2006 for Matt Ellison and a 3rd rounder. They acquired Andrew Ladd at the deadline in 2008 for Tuomo Ruutu, and they got Ben Eager in 2007 for Jim Vandermeer.

If you look at the Boston Bruins’ roster, it seems clear that GM, Peter Chiarelli, was the main architect. He was hired on May 26th, 2006. When he signed his contract was contingent on him not being part of the 2006 draft. I have no idea how the NHL could correctly monitor that, but I wonder if he had any input when the Bruins drafted Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand in the top 71 picks.

The Bruins drafted Patrice Bergeron (2nd round, 2003) and David Krejci (2nd round, 2004) prior to Chiarelli’s arrival, but they are the only two on the Cup winning roster that didn’t involve Chiarelli.

Chiarelli had some key draft picks in 2006, but from 2007-2010 the only draft pick to play more than 25 games was Tyler Seguin. The main parts of his roster were built through free agency, trades, patience and some luck.

  • June 24th, 2006 he acquires the rights to Tukka Rask from Toronto for Andrew Raycroft.
     
  • July 1st, 2006 he signs Zdeno Chara to a five-year, $37.5 million deal. 
     
  • July 1st, 2006 he signs Marc Savard to a four-year, $20 million contract.
     
  • Tim Thomas played 20 games prior to Chiarelli taking over, but he wasn’t sold that Thomas was his goalie. In Chiarelli’s first year, Hannu Toivenen was the starter ahead of Thomas. In 2007, Chiarelli acquired Manny Fernandez and he was pegged as the starter, but he got hurt and Thomas finally got to start. Thomas won the Vezina in 2009, and signed a four-year extension, but his played dipped in 2010 and he didn’t play a game in the postseason in 2010. He bounced back this year, regained his starting job and won the Conn Smythe. (I’d say there was some luck on Chiarelli’s part here, since their belief in Thomas seemed tenuous at best.)
     
  • February 10th , 2007 he acquires Andrew Ference from Calgary. In March of 2010, he gives Ference a three-year extension worth $2.25 million per season.
     
  • May 16th, 2007 he sends a 5th round pick to Columbus for D-man Adam McQuaid.

  • June 22nd, 2007 he signs head coach Claude Julien.
     
  • July 1st, 2007 he signs Shawn Thornton at $500,000 for three years. He gave Thornton a two-year extension in summer of 2010 worth $812,500/season.
     
  • June 24th, 2008 he acquired Edmonton native, Johnny Boychuk, from Colorado for Matt Hendricks.
     
  • July 1st, 2008 he signed Michael Ryder for three years at around $4 million/year. 
     
  • March 4th, 2009 he acquired Mark Recchi and a 2nd rounder for Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff. He re-signed Recchi to a one-year deal in July of 2009, and then another one-year deal this past summer.
     
  • September 18th, 2009 he traded Phil Kessel to the Leafs for a 1st and 2nd rounder in 2010, Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight, and a 1st rounder in 2011.
     
  • On October 20th, 2009 he acquired Daniel Paille for a 3rd rounder.
     
  • March 3rd, 2010 he traded Bryon Bitz, Craig Weller and a 2nd to Florida for Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartowski. He then gave Seidenberg a four-year contract worth $13 million.
     
  • June 22nd, 2010 he acquires Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from Florida for Dennis Wideman, first rounder in 2010 and a 3rd rounder in 2011.
     
  • February 15th, 2011 he sends a 2nd round pick to Ottawa for Chris Kelly.
     
  • February 18th, 2011 he acquires Rich Peverly and Boris Valabik from Atlanta for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
     
  • February 18th, 2011 he sends Joe Colboure, a 2011 1st rounder and a conditional 2nd rounder to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle.
  • February 26th, 2011 he signs UFA D-man Shane Hnidy to a one-year deal.

Chiarelli acquired or signed 18 of the 22 players who dressed during this year’s Cup run, and that’s not including Marc Savard.

He might not have won every trade, Ference for Brad Stuart, but he added guys along the way that fit into the mold of the type of team he wanted to build. He added lots of gritty, characters guys, but he was able to fleece some GMs along the way. The Horton and Campbell deal was huge and stealing Seidenberg for basically nothing has to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory.

The Kessel deal has enabled him to re-stock his team with great picks, and it allowed him to give up a decent prospect and a 1st rounder for Kaberle. Up until the Cup final, many were saying he lost the Kaberle deal, but Kaberle led Boston’s D-men with 11 playoff points, and was quietly solid in the Cup final.

When you look at Chiarelli’s timeline, it is clear that it takes time to build a winner, and realistically the Oilers are four or five years from, maybe, being a Cup contender. Between now and then Tambellini is going to have to make some astute moves to help his team. Not every move has to be earth shattering, but if he can find a few players similar to McQuaid, Boychuk and Paille then this team might be ready to compete when the skilled guys like Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Nugent-Hopkins have matured.

Stu MacGregor has done his part, and after Friday it will be up to Tambellini to start making small, smart moves that will help make this team a contender.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    So if you trade for a UFA a deadline deal it’s concerned lopside if you end up signing the guy? I mean if Rollie re-signs with TB and they win the cup is it considred a lopsided trade?

    • Jason Gregor

      Are you saying the Seidenberg deal wasn’t lopsided? He is a top-two pairing D-man, and it cost them Bitz, Weller and a 2nd rounder.

      They got his rights and then kept them. Either way it was a steal of a deal, because you can’t say with certainty that they would have been able to sign him as a UFA. There might have been a bidding war.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I don’t really consider deals for UFA’s lopsided. Maybe it’s just me. I have my doubts that Seidenberg is a top 2 without Chara.

        I sooner consider what ATL got out of CHI last year as lopsided. Or Gagne to TB last year.

        • Jason Gregor

          I like Konopka, I’d also look at Steve Montador and James Wisniewski…JW is only 27 and he is just starting to round into form.

          They need to get some guys who they think can help today, but also good enough to be here in three or more years.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Although ya I understand the main point you were trying to make. I didn’t realize they got Recchi and a 2nd for two guys that haven’t made any sorts of impact.

  • Souby

    Good read Gregor. I think building through the draft is what gets you guys like Toews, Kane and Hall etc.but your GM needs to be able to bring in key additions via trades and free agency to make a team a playoff contender.

    The Oil were able to do this back in 2006 and almost won the Cup. Here’s to hoping that Tambo can do the same and get us in the playoffs sooner rather than later!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The only opportunity Edmonton has to drawing other key support players here is through the draft. Without that nucleous of 5-7 players who’ll grow together as a group, we’re screwed. It’ll be this group of players that others will want to compliment/be a part of. There’s no need to “chase” and bother said players till this group is in place.

    I see no reason why Tambellini shouldn’t be able to add 3 players to that group this summer. He needs to bring a little more urgency to work with him every day, a little more desire to rid this franchise of the shame of the last 3 yrs. Sitting idly by hoping your one boobie prize every year will reverse your fortunes will land us squarely next to Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders in the bleachers. Get off your idle ass and save your own job Steve.

    • Souby

      Please describe these 3 players or types of players, and how we will obtain them. Are you referring to draft picks, free agents, trades or a combination? As well, if he obtains these players, will this display the urgency and desire that you think he needs?

      I am sorry, I want to see if you are actually being unreasonable about your comments or if there is something to what you are saying.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Sorry buddy, you’re going to have to do your homework and look through the archives here. I’ve mentioned what i feel should be done here no less than 8 times in the last month or so. Get’er done.

        • D-Man

          Going to have to do your homework? Unlike you other people who read this blog have a life and don’t just sit here and dream about drafting 4 of the top 5 rated players in the upcoming draft. Quit being such an arrogant prick

          • Action Jackson

            Agreed! Toner down a notch Quicksilver. You are so arrogant that the poster named the Bloody Glove has to tell you to settle down! I think its time to sit down and reflect on life choices. It’s not healthy call in sick so you can sit in your dimly lit basement googling Gubranson photos whispering “Oh yes, he will be mine…”

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Appologies AJ. Knowing exactly what one wants sometimes does come across as arrogant. This wasn’t my intention. I just know if i put this proposal up one more time Mr.Chambers as well as a few other honorable members here will probably have an aneurysm or take their frustrations out on their PED’s.

            Haven’t had a sick day in 20 yrs AJ even though i could take one anytime i want. I’m saving the type of passion you speak of in regards to Gudbranson or Couturier for the day Tambellini gets fired. If he’d only listen to me…… he wouldn’t meet that fate.

          • Chris.

            Don’t think anyone cares you haven’t had a sick day in 20 years and good for you that you can take one whenever you want, your mom will be thrilled she can bring you soup while your on the computer in her basement.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            My plan must’ve went over really well if multiple people are demanding to see it. Like i said, do your homework BG and look in the archives, or send me $49.95 through paypal.

            The way you incorperated the term “prick” in your sentence, was it the verb version, or the noun version, i’m confused? In an effort to keep a civil tongue here i will refrain from calling you a name, even though it may take me a number of weeks to recover from the personal attack you levelled towards me…..kay?

          • Hemmertime

            Hahaha excellent response! Just because HE knows his obscure name does not mean anyone else cares that he puts a ton of dribble on this site. Who ever you are that put the original post here, no one is sitting at their computer waiting for you to bless us with your wit.

  • John Chambers

    Gregor, I think we need to go after a UFA Centre to build some depth down the middle. Regardless of whether we draft Nugent, I don’t feel comfortable with Horcoff & Gagner as our only Top-9 calibre Centres.

    In my opinion Cogliano needs to move to the wing, Lander might be ready for 4th line duties, Nuge should go back to the farm, and even if we sign Konopka he’s not exactly the answer.

    Who among the available centres: Tim Connolly, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Belanger, Brendan Morrison, or Boyd Gordon do you think might best plug this hole for 1 year?

    In my opinion we should sign Connolly for 1-year for approx $3M, let Lander play in the ‘A’ one year, and also go after Konopka. I also like the idea of adding a guy like Pascal Dupuis for depth, however this might be redundant with Hartikainen and the other Finns we just inked.

    • Jason Gregor

      Fleischmann will stay in Colorado…My concern with Connolly is you are bringing in another “wildcard” player. Injuries are a concern for him.

      The Oilers have too many wildcards as it is, I wouldn’t add another one.

  • Dan the Man

    Chiarelli has done a fine job of assessing and re-assessing his line up and then tweaking it over and over again.

    I agree that some of the smaller deals for role players are just as important as some of the bigger moves. Slats always said something to the effect of improving 12th forward on your team is still improving your team.

    The dynasty Oilers obviously had great players but they had some great role players as well.

  • ChiliChunk

    The cup is a journey, not a destination…here’s to the many drinks, yells, swears, debates, trades, signings, lop-sided losses, narrow victories, scape-goats, overtime heroes, legends created, stories told, arena’s built, retirements, draft picks, and career redemptions along the way.

  • Dan the Man

    The difference between the job Boston did versus the job Chicago did was Chicago had one crack got it and had to tear it down. Boston doesnt have any cap issues headed into next season, dont have to sell off players. I dont like the Chicago model – Boston has built this thing to last awhile. Thats a successful GM knowing what he is doing.

  • Truth

    Does Omark have any trade value?

    I cannot forsee him playing a part in the future if the Oilers keep Eberle, Hall, MPS, Gagner, Hemsky, (RNH?).

    Omark is a top 6 type player, will he pan out to be? who knows, but if he holds enough trade value why not trade him for a D prospect or 3rd line type?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There remains the possibility that Hartikainen or Curtis Hamilton could be the crashing winger we need to play in our top 6. The skill will be there with Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and RNH. But each of these teams had a guy that could go to the net and make his linemates feel a little stronger, tougher and bolder. Think Adam Deadmarsh, Ryan Malone, Byfuglien, Ladd. Canucks did not have anybody step up to the plate and their top 6 got beaten up by the physical Bruins.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Yes!

    Hopefully now some of the Tambillini appoligists will come to grips with the fact that the team will need to make some trades and UFA signings.

    • D-Man

      I don’t think anyone has been saying that Tambo shouldn’t make some trades or UFA signings. The key is to be smart about it.. Find the player and sign them to a reasonable contract… We need to avoid the dumb Horcoff like contracts… I’m hoping we can pick up Konopka or Laich; the summer of Steve Part II begins…

        • D-Man

          Very short term – like 1 year and depending on the price… There’s was talk we’d be interested in Chris Drury… That’s the type of contract we’d need to avoid… We need better NHL players, preferably under the age of 28-29 and for between $2 to $ 4 million, contingent on their skill set…

          • D-Man

            No – avoid Chris Drury because he’s on the downside of his career, is old and because of that makes too much.. The Rangers are trying to buy him out – why would you want that garbage?? The guy only managed 24 games last year and got 5 points.. He’s under six feet tall and is 34 years old… You want to take that on with a cap hit of $7.05 million?? Wow…

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            You’re the same guy that thought it was impossible to sign 5 UFA’s per year…. dispite the fact that 5+ teams do it every year

            lol lol lol

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            lololololololol

            And I didn’t think it’s a steal, I think it’s a good deal though.

            lololololololol

            They take up an extra 1.5 million in cap space for their elite goalie compared to what we pay (in cap space) for one of (if not the worst) starter in the league.

            lololololololol

          • dawgbone98

            Who cares if he makes too much? He only has 1 year left on his deal. His contract will have zero impact on the long term plans of this franchise (i.e. the ones involving Hall, Eberle, etc…).

            You can afford to overpay players. What you can’t afford to do is overpay too many players. The Oilers have $22 mil in cap space with Cogliano and Peckham as the biggest RFA’s left to sign.

            FTR, I’m not advocating getting Drury unless something else comes along with the package, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add an overpriced player for the next 1-2 years while the kids are still on their ELC’s.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Sorry, I should have been more specific.

        Avoid signing players that make more then league minimum because we are afraid we might lose an Omark or Peckham 5 years from now.

  • misfit

    I see what you’re saying, but I actually agree with Ogden Brother Jr.

    Seidenberg is an excellent defenseman whose been underrated for years, but a 2nd round pick and 2 average prospects is pretty much the going rate for that type of defenseman at the deadline.

    The fact that they were able to sign him to an extension that summer doesn’t really change the deal.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Our first and 19th pick should be good picks that will probably both stick with club well into the future . If Oilers want to trade down to get another first rounder that might be advantageous , but not so if they use up 19th spot to do so ! It never happened last year , and it’s unlikely that Tams can move to make it happen this year either . He could do it , but at what price , that won’t just make matters worse ? K.I.S.S. might be our best route to go this draft year .

    Will Hopkins turn out to be BPA this year and/or down the line ? Maybe , but he is also the biggest risk and he will not be the next Gretsky either .

  • Love Monkey

    Gregor – Jagr??? Any truth to the rumours he’s interested in playing here next year? I would do it for a year or two. That kind of world class, former-superstar-with-a-good-attitude veteran couldn’t hurt the young guys (provided the money is reasonable, although we have lots of Katz Cap Space). He’d easily be top four in points on the team behind Hall, Eberle, Ryan Jones (yikes if he’s near the top three again!), etc., etc…

    Just curious. I obviously don’t think this move would make the Oilers a contender right away, but Jagr would be good enough to be a legitimate NHLer among our in between AHL and NHL-calibre forward ranks.

  • Hemmertime

    If we don’t get our best case scenario free agent I wouldnt mind placing a call to Vernon Fiddler. From Edmonton, 31 years old. 53.9 through 1200 FO this year. 52.4 through 1121 year before, 54.1 / 612 with Minny. Been pretty consistent.

    Id prefer someone more physical but hes done wonders on PHX PK making it a top 10 one in league. Wouldn’t pay top dollar but play him with Cogs (can even have him play wing and take the faceoffs from Cogs) on a 3a/3b line.

  • Love Monkey

    well, you know, there was that one time they tried to pick up Malholtra.

    so at least they tried!

    seriously, you have to wonder what role our pro scouts have in the lack of success finding real players outside of the draft.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      The more I think about it the more pro scouting looks like the #1 area of weakness on the team.

      That and the fact that Tambillini knows little to nothing about players outside of the orginization.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    There is no doubt that Tambellini is going to need to find the right transitional players and veterans to complete the puzzle. The trick will be adding these players and getting them to play for the Oilers.

  • French Toast Mafia

    With quicksilver as GM or Tambos assistant we would have hall, seguin, gudbranson, the nug, larsson, and the toughest 3rd and 4th lines in the league playing on our squad next year. We should march down to the oilers head offices and get this guy running are squad asap! With his slick trade ideas and simple easy signings we will win cup after cup

  • Chris.

    “Slow and easy boys”(Madagascar, 2008). Winning is like a wife. You don’t hit a homerun eveynight. Sometimes you strikeout. This process that were are in is at times painful to watch. In a world of instant gratification I think we sometimes need to step back and understand that we need patience if we are to succeed longterm.Gregors article is an example of one way. Boston won this year. Good for them. First time in 40 years. I don’t want to win once every 40 years. I want to be more like the Red Wings. Able to compete for the Cup year after year.I’ll choose the hard road.