DEBATE AND BLURRING THE LINES

Lively debate is the lifeblood of websites like this one, so it’s a good thing that, as the time-tested and clearly crude saying goes, "Opinions are like *ssholes. Everybody has one."

It gets interesting, however, when opinions are framed as certainties, rather than what they are — projections and guesses, educated and otherwise. On a lot of topics, the line between "I know" and "I think" gets blurred as we wade into the debate.

It seems to me there’s been a fair amount of that in the wake of my suggestion the Edmonton Oilers are intent on taking a run at another top pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota next Friday and that they might consider using their first pick in 2012 to accomplish it.

While debating the merits of GM Steve Tambellini pursuing that possibility is absolutely fair game, I’m hearing a lot talk that has me convinced the official Oilersnation crystal balls must have been delivered while I was out of the country.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

First, the original mention, the last paragraph from a June 14 item I wrote after being away for three weeks in the Philippines:

"Just Saying: Might the Oilers look at trading the 19th pick in the first round this year and their first pick in 2012, which figures to be anything from a fifth to a 10th pick, to get a second top-five pick in Minny? More on that to come."

Second, an excerpt from a follow up item, the crux of which is that the Oilers desire to move up is with an eye to landing big Swedish blueliner Adam Larsson after taking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall.

"If the Oilers covet Larsson as I believe, they’re going to have to move into the third selection slot to get him, meaning Tambellini will be talking to Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers.

"With Tallon looking to stockpile draft picks, I can see Tambellini offering the 19th pick from the Penner deal with Los Angeles and his first pick in 2012 for the third pick in Minnesota.

"That line of thinking is predicated on the Oilers being completely sold that Larsson is a better defensive prospect than anybody who will be available in 2012 and that Tambellini is confident the Oilers will improve enough this season that their first selection next summer won’t be a high lottery pick, but something in the range of 5-10."

LOTTERY AGAIN?

Unless I’ve fallen down the stairs and hit my head, I read here and elsewhere in recent months that while most Oilers fans have accepted two straight 30th-place finishes, they expect the team to at least contend for a playoff spot in 2011-12.

Now, a lot of people are speaking of the folly of trading what will be a sure lottery pick in 2012, plus the 19th pick Friday, in a deal with Tallon. That has me puzzled. Can the Oilers contend for a playoff spot and be a lottery team in 2012? I think not. My guess is the Oilers won’t be in the bottom five next season.

There’s no contradiction for those who don’t have confidence that Tambellini can put together a team capable of making, at the very least, a modest move up the standings. Fine. But if you think the Oilers can and will finish, say, 11th or 12th in the Western Conference, that doesn’t jibe with the angst about trading away the first, second or third overall pick in 2012.

Even if the Oilers are in the bottom five, are they 30th again, 28th, 26th? Is trading the 2012 pick a gamble? Yes. A reasonable gamble? Depends on how highly Stu MacGregor rates Larsson compared to the upcoming class of 2012 (in particular Ryan Murray). I don’t know the answer to that one — I’ve put in a call to MacGregor but have not heard back.

YOU’RE FIRED

Today, in reference to the possibility of trading the first pick in 2012, Lowetide wrote: "Should that happen, I believe Steve Tambellini will be fired within 12 months of the 2012 draft.

"There is no way the 11-12 Oilers finish well enough for that first round pick to be outside the top flight prospects that the (already) deep 2012 crop will provide. It might sound like a good idea, but if the pick he sends away ends up in the Nail Yakupov range I think we’ll see Kevin Lowe back in the GM’s chair by Christmas 2012."

Reasonable, and carefully worded, as I’d expect from LT. What, exactly, though, qualifies as "outside" the top flight of prospects? And what qualifies as being in the Yakupov "range?" Lastly. Tambellini might be fired within 12 months of the 2012 draft?

If the Oilers finish 30th again, that might happen even if Tambellini keeps the 2012 pick some people seem so certain about. Fans around here will certainly be demanding he gets his walking papers, no?

HYPE AND HOOPLA

Lowetide isn’t the only person to mention Yakupov, a dynamic little winger with the Sarnia Sting and a player likely to be a top-three pick in 2012.
 

Jonathan Willis wrote: "I’d trade the first overall this year if I knew I’d get a shot at Yakupov next year. 49 goals, 101 points in 65 games on a team that only managed 243 goals, minus-2 on a team that finished minus-78. 13 points in seven games at the U-18 tourney.

"That’s better overall production than Nugent-Hopkins on a far worse team, and Yakupov’s a year younger and had to deal with culture shock to boot. RNH, meanwhile, put up five points in five games at the U-17 last year. Next year’s pick is off limits. Particularly if, like I do, you believe the Oilers will be in the lottery range."

And "Fuzzy Muppet" chimes in: "If they finish with #1 overall next year, Yakupov is a generational talent. An Ovechkin/Crosby type. They rarely come along . . ."

As is the case with how Larsson projects compared to Murray and the class of 2012, I’m not as sure about Yakupov as some people here are and I haven’t had the chance to ask MacGregor and others who earn a living assessing hockey talent about him.
 

Until I do, I’ll leave the certainty to others.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

 

  • Just a note slightly on topic: the salary cap is up nearly 5 mil to 64 mil for next year. So for those worried that the Oilers might have trouble signing all their young players, I think you can put those fears to rest. Even if the Oil do end up magically picking Hopkins and Larsson and they both need new contracts the year after Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi, the salary cap will likely be pushing 70 million at that point. Meaning there will be plenty of money to go around, and with Katz running the show you can bet the Oilers will be spending close to the cap, if not right up to it. And in the very unlikely scenario that we can’t afford all of the young guns, that means they’re all very awesome. Meaning our team is very awesome, and will continue to be very awesome despite having to sacrifice one of the young guys. Food for thought…

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      There is no guarantee that Katz will spend up to or even at cap money on this team. This guy is an astute businessman/lawyer first and foremost. I also don’t think we should roll the dice on next year’s draft. There is little evidence currently to project that the Oilers will do that much better this year especially with ST’s track record. Harvard Burke taught us that first round draft picks can be very valuable indeed.

  • Justin R

    @ Brownlee:

    Do you think there is any chance that the Oilers decide to move DOWN from 19 rather than trying to make the (rather large) jump up to the top five? It seems to me like it would be a costly move to jump that high. And that stockpiling early round picks in a fairly evenly distributed draft might be a good strategy.

  • J-Dogg

    If they don’t believe Larsson is going to be a generational stud D-man I think it’s a bad idea.

    This is mostly based on Gregor’s thesis in a previous article showing that even D-men who do reach such lofty projections at the end of their longer learning curve tend to hit their stride after winding up on a new team 3 to 5 years post draft.

    In which case it’s much safer to be that second team grabbing up a blossoming stud than gambling our 2012 1st rounder on A, Larsson being as good as we hope and B, retaining his services once he does prove out.

    Bottom line, if they believe he’s Lidstrom Jr. go for it. If not, try to poach Hedman or someone down the line and save our 1st in 2012.

  • Fee Logolin

    @ Robin, is there anyway the Oilers can move up and still keep their #1 next year? LA’s pick plus roster players even if it means taking back a bad contract? Souray gets bought out soon so a bit of room.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Good article.

    I’m glad there has been some mention of next years draft class. I think that will be a major component in my grade of what Steve Tambellini (I hate calling people Mr. for some strange reason).

    Steve has to make some serious creative moves at this draft to get a positive grade. His work at last years draft was doo but to me the first overall was written in stone – Hall is and will be an excellent NHLer. Moreover, the scouting department has done an amazing job.

    The positives of the draft aside there are glaring problems on the Oilers roster that need to be addressed and will likely not be filled at the draft. The defense needs work…. as does goaltending. Quite frankly, some solid free agents, trades, and creative management is required to get better. The Oilers already have a plethora of quiality young talent that need on ice guidance…. every team needs wiley veterans to lead the charge.

    This year there is room to move and maybe trading away the first overall for a lower draft pick and a solid veteran is the way to go. I don’t mean out of the top 10 but what about a Couturier or a Landeskog. I really like RNH, and think he should and will go first overall. It is however a funny kind of draft year, generally thought of as a weaker draft class. I have a feeling that gm’s will be more playful with their first round selections. I’m not knocking this draft class, there is a ton of talent involved, and I actually think that in a few years, we’ll look back and say “wow… look at all the nhl talent…. what an amazing draft year.” There is just no runaway winner and many of the top rated draftees are coming off of not so great years. Take Sean Couturier…. likely a stud at the nhl level…. big center with size and scoring touch coming off a less than expected year and having his stock fall a bit.

    Point being RNH brings no relief next year (one more junior year coming – likely) and the Oilers need relief. We all need relief. Relief means some more veterans and some creative draft maneuvers. Time to impress me Steve Tambellini…. maybe then I’ll be will to call you Mr.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Some very interesting ideas for sure. I wonder why the thought of moving up if Couturier is still available at say 5-8 rather than taking Larsson. Oil would have potentially a number 1 and 1A center combo in Nuge and Couts with less cost than Larsson at 3. Probably take their 19th and say Gagner to make it work. Gagner will eventually become a 3rd line center at best on this team. That being said there is still huge need to upgrade the defence. The potential for deals for Bogosian or Gudbranson is high with an outside chance at Shea Weber( who would look amazing in copper and blue) just moving roster players to achieve on or two of these guys. Keep next years first rounder, even though it would be in the 10-14 range if ST can swing two of these deals and fill out the bottom end with a couple of free agent signings like Leino, etc.

  • Nice article, Robin.

    I agree with your point about certainty; there isn’t any and we’re all dealing with shades of probability.

    Personally, I figure the Oilers will be in the 24th – 28th range next season, with a decent shot at a lottery pick. I don’t know that, it’s a guess.

    Secondly, I believe Yakupov to be a more interesting player than anyone in this year’s draft. Maybe he falls off the face of the Earth next season, or suffers a nasty injury (he isn’t big). There’s also no way of guaranteeing that the Oilers get a shot at him next year.

    From what you’ve written, it’s the first point where we’re at odds. I hope you’re right; I just struggle to see how they patch enough holes to get to that level. If Steve Tambellini believes they will, than the trade you suggested makes sense.

  • If the oilers send 2012 first pick and number 19 this year, they should add Cogliano and Gagner to Florida for their number 3 this year and Gudbrandson. They can keep Gudbranson or flip him for number 4 or 5 this year and pick up Coutourier.

  • NamelessNed

    all this talk about Yakupov. From what I read he’s going to be pretty damn good. All you guys are whining about how we wont get him if we trade our pick. So your saying were coming in 30th again and not moving out of first pick overall? what if we came in 29th…or even 30th and lose the lotto? I’m sure there is other talent in the next draft as well…just don’t get the logic behind the “but we wont get Yakupov” bs.

  • What’s to say that the Oilers don’t RNH and move up to 8th in a trade with Columbus and take someone there, then tank another season without giving up their 2012, taking the Russian kid. Really is it worth tanking another season for a kid douted as the next one (ie Hall already) like come on guys? This is getting kinda rediculous. Speculation means s#it, the draft hasn’t happened and you putz’s are worrying about some kid next year? Give your head a shake. Are we to now project epic failure for five years running to built a team epic first round prospects? I’m sure securing a second spot in the top ten will not require that 2012 pick. However the top 4 that may require that pick. Is it worth it? In my opinion? No

  • It would be folly to guarantee that the Oilers are going to finish in the bottom 5, but unless Tambellini upgrades the roster it would be a sound bet.

    We’ll know a lot more around July 15th when most of the Free Agent signings and trades are done, but as the Oiler roster stands now, they are a lottery team.

    They have traded away Penner, and might trade away Hemsky.

    That leaves only 1 forward who has shown the ability to play tough competition, Horcoff, and he is getting older and slower.

    Hall and Eberle might be up to snuff for the tough minutes, they did ok last year, but hockey is a 4 line game, and as it stands they will be buried.

    Add to this the need for at least two NHL caliber Dmen (i.e. better than Vandermeer) and the hole is deeper.

    The cornerstone of all this is goaltending.

    With DD getting 55+ starts and repeats last year’s results, they might not be a lottery team if they get some decent NHL vet help in other areas.

    If Khabby takes most of the starts and repeats his results from the last two years, the Oilers might be mathematically out of it by Christmas.

    It could really go either way depending on who gets added to this year’s roster.

    If Tambellini trades away next year’s first and then doesn’t improve the team substantially, then he won’t keep his job.

    If he stays on the “5-6 year rebuild” then trading away next year’s first is a long shot.

  • VMR

    I disagree with the point of your article. The people rejecting the possibility of this trade arent doing it based on certainty but on probability. It’s based on what is most likely to happen next year it’s Steve Tambellini that has to be very sure about what will happen if he’s going to deal next years first.

    He’s got to be sure that Larsson is better than anyone he could be drafting next year plus whoever they’d get at #19. You’ve already admitted what Stu said about Larsson doesnt make that seem likely.

    The assumed increase in the standings. While it’s possible it’s also extremely optimistic. Is Tambellini really sure he’s not going to lose any top players to injury for any significant amount of time? What about sophmore slumps? How about the goaltending and the defence?

    Again I’ll say it, it doesnt look like those criticizing this possible deal are the ones that are acting overly sure about anything.

    Is it possible? Sure it could happen but it’s a move that reeks of Brian Burke giving up his two firsts to get Kessel or Milbury giving up Chara and the pick that was used to take Spezza to get Yashin. Not smart moves at all and that’s what people question.

  • VMR

    Late to the party…

    Now that the idea has been well qualified with ifs, ands, and buts, it’s still just as butt stupid as it was before.

    Thank god there is little chance of a top 3 dance partner, and thank god the lower the 2011 pick we get in return, the less sense this makes.

  • Oilers4ever

    Trade next year’s first overall pick or don’t trade the pick… Either way, I don’t think it is going to matter… if this team finishes 30th again next year, ST should be fired. If you finish dead last 3 straight years with the talent this team has coming, you are obviously doing something wrong. ST is not agressive enough with regards to trades and sometimes you have to be willing to roll the dice. Can you get burned? Sure you can… but I’d rather have a GM who is willing to roll the dice every once in awhile with the hopes of making a vast improvement than thinking straight picks is going to work. While draft picks will help, you have to be willing to make some trades for some veteran leaders as well. Thats how the Pens did it… that’s how the Hawks did it. And the Oilers org. can flap their lips all they want on how they are trying to mirror themselves after those clubs.. but until they take the chances and make some of those trades or find a way to sign some of the good 3rd and 4th line UFA’s you need, they are not even close. Personally, I don’t think ST will ever be that guy… it’s not in his nature.

  • big joe grizzley

    laughable management trades first overall picks,thats something a bum like mad mike would do… you dont trade a pick till you know where it is,and if this ”management team” pulls off a brain dead move like that,then grizzleys gonna have to start bringing the heat,big time!…bjg is out

  • Spydyr

    Do not trade an asset unless you know what it is.Trading something before you know its worth makes no sense.As Lowtide stated Sam Pollock believed that also.

    Sam Pollock won nine Stanley Cups over his 14-year tenure as GM.

    I think he might be onto something there.

  • Bucknuck

    I remember last year a lot of people lamenting that we had the wrong year because next year we will want Couturier and why oh why couldn’t we have the first pick next year.

    Well, we do. And guess what? Couturier is no longer number one. Things change.

    Trade the damn pick in 2012. Get rid of Tambellini’s safety blanket and let’s get some help now. I am pretty sure a no.5 pick this year will be about the same as a no.5 pick next year so just make it happen.

    EDIT – the Oil better not be a lottery team next year.

  • big joe grizzley

    Judging from past experience, the Oilers aren’t likely to feed us a steady diet of RNH propoganda for weeks and then surprise us with Larsson. I don’t think they like to dissapoint fans like that.
    Also, if history bears up, the Oilers will make a lot of bluster about moving up in the draft, and will end up picking #1, 19 and 31.