THE RETURN OF THE COKE MACHINE

The Edmonton Oilers dipped into their own past for some draft philosophy yesterday and pulled out a high risk, low payoff page called ‘coke machines.’ How does it work? DOES it work? What can we expect from these young men?

 

In the early part of the decade, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men routinely belonged in the 4th or 5th round but the Oildrop plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain they’d be Oilers.

Size mattered.

In the first 5 drafts of last decade, the Oilers spent a valued pick on a player with size and some questionable offense:

  • 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
  • 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
  • 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
  • 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
  • 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
  • 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
  • 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.

This is an expensive list. Notice where these players were chosen, as high as #35 and as low as #94 (and that was in a deep draft). The two things about coke machine drafting that make it high risk are:

  1. It usually involves drafting a player out of order
  2. Said player rarely delivers a lot of offense even in junior or college.

Coke Machines are expensive and the boom bust ratio is not good.

THEN WHY DO IT?

Great question. The reason NHL teams draft these player types can be demonstrated thusly:

 

On that play (and hundreds of others) Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller because he could. He’s a big, tough player who has his way on the ice and is also good enough to play with skilled men. He helps create open ice–not as Taylor Hall does, with dashes up the ice that force back the blue and create chaos–but rather with size, force, intimidation. Milan Lucic isn’t a great hockey player, but he’s a very good one who can take and make a pass, find the puck in a crowd, intimidate opponents and take liberties whenever he pleases.

If you want to know the reason Edmonton spent so much time on big forwards yesterday, the answer is contained in any number of Milan Lucic videos.

IS THIS THE BEST WAY TO GET COKE MACHINES?

The only time a Milan Lucic comes available is when injuries begin to diminish results and playing time or via an overpay. Lucic has been surprisingly healthy so far in his career and is now showing offensive consistency. That’s a big fly in any organization, and the selections yesterday by the Oilers were an effort to find a "Lucic" or a "Lucic lite" for the current cluster.

DON’T THE OILERS HAVE ONE OF THESE GUYS ALREADY?

No. A player like Tyler Pitlick has some of the elements required but doesn’t impose his will physically often enough to be a going concern. His 28 pims in 62 OKC games this season reflect it, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence. It’s important to note that doesn’t mean Pitlick isn’t a useful player, in fact he does engage but not at a Lucic level.

The same can be said for all of the big forwards in OKC–Teemu Hartikainen, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris VandeVelde and Curtis Hamilton. I do think Anton Lander has some of the elements of a troubler but is miles from being a Lucic and doesn’t have PF size.

DID THEY GET ONE YESTERDAY?

Maybe. That’s the problem with this player type–they don’t show themselves immediately. Lucic blossomed from 9 goals to 30 with the Vancouver Giants (WHL) in the year after his draft. It’ll be interesting to see if new Oiler Mitchell Moroz gets a push on the Oil Kings in 12-13; he did play some on a line with the very talented Curtis Lazar this spring and his scoring totals could rise (he scored 16 this past season).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers have long used the third round as their gathering area for goalies, enforcers and defensemen. Yesterday’s draft tells us the coke machine column is back on the ballot and the club will be checking it off every draft until the shelves are stocked with big players who have some skill. They are even willing to use it in the second round when players who are clearly more skilled remain on the board.

Here’s hoping Edmonton finds their man in Mitchell Moroz or Jujhar Khaira. These players do have value, but the draft price is extreme.

  • Lowetide

    Sure its appropriate to analyze the draft picks in general, its nearly impossible for anyone here to suggest Moroz or any player past late 1st round will have impact for any team. Is Moroz already penciled in as a rookie this fall or is he in OKC for a year or more? I anticipate the latter.

    In the Oilers case, I suggest they are at least 3 years away from, maybe, being a West Conference finalist. Over this time frame there will be another 500 drafted players and another 591 (capgeek) UFAs to strengthen areas of weakness. To suggest Stu and crew should have taken this player over that player is lunacy unless they have no clue what they are doing. So they look at the list, know this player inside out, and say “what the hell, lets see”.

    There is build for the now, the short term and the long term. Today’s roster will look nothing like it will next year or the next 3 years….patience Mr RedtiredGuy

  • Copperblueandwhite

    “All who mentioned Ms. Tomei: Yeah. I love watching My Cousin Vinny. “You think I’m hostile now, wait ’til you see me tonight.”

    Two yutes??

  • Reg Dunlop

    @Lowetide

    I saw Clash live and when some chucklehead spat at Joe Strummer, Joe shouted ‘do that again and I’ll brain you with me guitar’. If young Mitch has that kind of vinegar…

  • The Soup Fascist

    Tom Wilson merited a 16th overall selection. We endlessly heard from the pundits as to how savvy a pick it was to get Wilson at that point of the draft. He is 6’4″ tall and 203 lbs. Wilson scored a whopping 9 goals and 27 points last year along with 141 PIMS. This was Wilson’s second year in Major Junior.

    Young Mr. Moroz scored 16 goals and 25 points and racked up 131 PIMS, in this, his first year of Major Junior. He is 6’2″ and 208 lbs. He won me over by getting in the face of Dylan McIlwrath, almost certainly the best fighter in the WHL and a very tough defender, during the playoffs. Moroz had very limited time in the playoffs, but he was extremely effective and efficient.

    Wilson had a very good playoff but appeared to get more ice time. This opens up the chicken / egg discussion of “he played better because he got more ice time / he got more ice time because he played better”. Best left for another time.

    Wilson did appear in fewer games than Moroz and had a better ppg average, however Moroz was still superior in terms of gpg. Wilson missed big parts of two seasons due to issues with MCL, wrist, and hand. Is he fragile? I am not sure.

    Wilson’s skating, while much improved over the past year is still a work in progress. According to TSN’s Final Rankings, “(Wilson) continues to improve and he gets to the necessary places”, while the same report states Moroz is “a very good skater and closes on opponents quickly”. Hardly a resounding vote for Wilson.

    I have only seen Wilson on television so I cannot claim to be anything more than an interested bystander. I will also concede Wilson appears to be a bit better prospect. My question is looking at the numbers, the skating ability, the size, toughness and the potential – why is one guy heralded as a steal at 16 and the other guy is a terrible pick (I even saw the term “joke”) at 32?

  • The Soup Fascist

    Typical chat room response. Here is why “my guy” has an opinion worth listening to and your “almost every other scout” should be ignored.

    #1 who are these “almost every other scout” guys? Are they the same guys who passed on Pavel Datsyuk? Are they the guys who felt that Colten Teubert was miles better than Justin Schultz? They are anonymous. Secondly your statement is pure hyperboe…obviously Stu was not the only guy in the war room who liked Moroz.

    #2 How about the “ill-informed opinions” of the posters here? How many times did you see Moroz play this season? I myself saw him half a dozen times not including the Memorial Cup on television. He is no Coke Machine. Anyone who uses that insult is truly ignorant.

    The point is nobody can say for sure how Moroz will develop. But he skates well and is an effective checker. He has a heavy shot and while he only scored 16 goals last year he seemed to all reports I have read as well as my own eyes to have improved significantly after Christmas. That is an educated guess on the part of professional scout…not a Coke machine.

    #3 Why can’t a team draft for need at #32 when the odds are that the safer picks will never become major contributors at the NHL level? 3rd pairing d-men (Finn) and smaller offensive fwds (Aberg) we have in spades. Big wingers who might well be on the verge of significant improvement offensively…none.

    Moroz is a risky pick but sometimes these picks work out. Lucic is not the only big guy who developed rapidly later on. Dustin Penner (undrafted) David Backes (62nd pick) Ryan Clowe (175th pick) James Neal (33rd pick)