Home field, home ice or home floor usually indicates some sort of advantage. It clearly isn’t that important to the Los Angeles Kings this postseason, but there is usually some extra comfort in our home surroundings.
In the next few weeks the Oilers will introduce a few of this year’s top prospects to the city of Edmonton, but mostly they will try and find out as much as they can about these kids. Nail Yakupov will be coming to Edmonton this Sunday for an interview, and some others will be in town soon after.
The Oilers did this in 2010 with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. It makes sense. Doing interview after interview at the combine can be tiring and stressful for these kids, and in many cases the interviews are rigid. Having Yakupov and a few others come to town allows the Oilers to get to know these kids a bit better, as well as introduce them to the city.
In 2010 after he was drafted first overall, I asked Hall about his pre-draft trip to Edmonton.
"It was good. I really wanted to be the first pick and wanted to make a good impression. It was a relaxed atmosphere, and thankfully they liked what they heard," said Hall.
Yakupov also wants to be the first pick. Earlier this week during an interview on The Pipeline Show with Dean Millard and Guy Flaming, Yakupov had this classic line when asked about why he wanted to be the first overall pick, "Because first is first."
Hard to argue with that simple, yet direct logic.
I’ve been told that Yakupov won’t be available to the media like Hall and Seguin were in 2010, and I’m fine with that. This will be his first visit to Edmonton, so other than asking him his thoughts about the rink, which likely would be answered with, "I really like the dressing room, and they guys treated me great," the only thing I’d really want to know is if he can play left wing.
Just like in 2010 and 2011 the Oilers can’t afford to make the wrong pick at #1, and these interviews can shed some light on the personality of these young kids. It’s a major investment and the Oilers, just like the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Islanders and Leafs will try to ensure they get a good read on the character of the kids they draft in the top-five.
Outside of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter I don’t see any homerun hitters in this year’s UFA class. Excluding a significant trade to land a legit top-four defender, the Oilers will have to look at the free agent market.
They need a guy who can play 20 minutes a night and be solid in his own zone. I’d look at a guy like Bryan Allen, who isn’t flashy but is solid in his own end.
Allen is 31 years old, played 601 NHL games and is pure defensive defender.
He can play in your top-four at EV and is a decent PK guy. Here are his advanced stats courtesy of Behindthenet.ca, if you want to take a deeper statistical look at how he matches up.
The Oilers need to solidify their backend. Of course, you’d love them to get a pure #1 guy who can play 26 minutes a night, produce offence and play against the opposition’s top-line, but that’s in a perfect world, and the Oilers don’t reside in a Utopian state right now.
Today the Oilers have five D-men under contract: Ryan Whitney ($4 million/cap hit), Nick Schultz ($3.5), Ladislav Smid ($2.25), Andy Sutton ($1.75) and Corey Potter ($750,000). Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham are RFAs. Petry will get a new deal, and like I wrote back in April the Oilers will qualify Peckham rather than just let him walk for nothing.
Just because they will have seven D-men signed or qualified before July 1st doesn’t mean they can’t go after Allen. It wouldn’t be the worst scenario if they started the season with eight D-men.
I’d look at offering Allen a three-year deal.
Back on April 20th, Taylor Hall joined me at the Pint Off Whyte for my show. We chatted about a variety of things, and it was clear he was calm under pressure when his teammate and roomate Jordan Eberle pranked called him during the show.
When we went to "Jim in St. Albert" I knew it was Eberle, but Hall thought it was a regular caller. What I didn’t expect, was to hear Eberle throwing bombs in the first 15 seconds.
Hall was very engaging during those two hours and I could sense how bad he wants to start winning. He also showed me a side of his I hadn’t seen before.
When the show was over, Hall surprised me with a generous offer. "I know you do lots for charity, and hopefully you can use this to help raise some money," he said as he handed me a signed hockey stick. "I scored a hat-trick against the Hawks with this one," he informed me.
Over the years when I’ve asked for signed stuff from players for auctions and they’ve always been very accomodating, but this was the first time a guy just handed me something without asking. It was very classy of him and showed me he understands the importance to help others. It was great to see from a young player.
I’ve had the stick in my basement for the past six weeks, and despite being tempted to fire a few shots with it, I refrained.
Today during my show I’m going to auction off Hall’s hat-trick stick to help reach my goal of raising $50,000 for the MS Bike tour. I’m at just over $44,000 so far. If you can’t afford to bid on the stick, but want to help you can make a donation here.
Have a great Friday and if you want to bid, the auction goes between 2 and 6 p.m. today. You can call 780.426.8326 or 1-800.243.1945.