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."
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.
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.