So, with the Edmonton Oilers becoming just the second team in NHL history to own three consecutive first overall picks in the Entry Draft after the balls fell their way Tuesday, will people now be calling for GM Steve Tambellini to follow the "Quebec model?" The Oilers should be so lucky.
The Quebec Nordiques, before they packed up and moved to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche, were the first team to turn the Entry Draft trifecta and the fall-out from that good luck changed the fortunes of both the Nordiques and Philadelphia Flyers for more than a decade.
After taking Mats Sundin first overall in 1989 and Owen Nolan first in 1990, Quebec stepped to the podium with first overall selection in 1991 and took Eric Lindros of the Oshawa Generals, ignoring obvious indications that the highly prized Lindros had no intention of playing in Quebec.
Lindros held true to his word, and the Nordiques dealt his rights before the 1992 Entry Draft to the Philadelphia Flyers for a package that included Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Steve Duschene, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, a first-round pick in 1993 (Jocelyn Thibault) and a first-round pick in 1994 (that eventually became Nolan Baumgartner).
Now, after consecutive 30th-place finishes landed the Oilers Taylor Hall in 2010 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011, Tambellini again holds the No. 1 pick and the right to select, most think, dynamic Russian winger Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting and the possibilities that go with it. What will Tambellini do? What should he do?
While critics point out that Tambellini’s main accomplishment as Edmonton GM has been to oversee the Oilers to finishes of 30th, 30th and 29th , thus they don’t have much faith he’ll get it right, the stroke of luck that saw him jump ahead of Columbus in picking order presents a huge opportunity.
Now, in today’s salary cap world and with nobody in the 2012 draft class, including the talented Yakupov, hyped or projected as the generational talent Lindros was coming out of Oshawa (I still have 10 or 12 of his rookie cards for sale if anybody is interested), Tambellini has no chance to trade his pick for the kind of bounty the Nordiques fleeced the Flyers for. Won’t happen.
That said, given the other wants on needs this team has, Tambellini would be a fool not to inform his peers with the 29 other teams in the NHL that he’s willing to entertain offers for the first pick and that he’d like them in hand as soon as possible. Best package wins. Let’s make a deal. That’s a message that should have been sent already. "It presents options," understated Tambellini to open his availability with reporters today.
Those options are many. Darren Dreger of TSN, for example, threw out a theoretical situation today involving the Montreal Canadiens, asking what if the Habs were willing to part with P.K. Subban? I’m guessing that is, or will be, an E5 soon enough. What else is out there? Who wants that pick?
If Tambellini doesn’t get an offer he likes, no worries. He steps to the podium in June and adds Yakupov to Edmonton’s growing talent pool with Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle and sees what happens from there. He can draft Yakupov and then trade him. Maybe Yakupov is a keeper and somebody else goes . . .
Again, Tambellini isn’t going to land the mother lode that sent Colorado on its way to a decade of dominance and the Stanley Cup and Philadelphia the other way, but if he can’t turn Tuesday’s gift from the hockey lottery gods into the turnaround fans of the Oilers have been patiently waiting for, chances are he never will.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.