Organizational need is a bad way to draft players

If the Edmonton Oilers decide to make organizational need the primary criteria at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, they would be making a mistake.

As Robin Brownlee has been making clear, organizational need is part of the conversation. Here’s the quote he got from Stu MacGregor a little over a week ago:

I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision…

And here’s Brownlee this morning on the significance of that comment:

What struck me in my last conversation with MacGregor was his reference to Tambellini making it clear that organizational need is a factor that has to be considered, as opposed to taking the garden variety BPA. This is the first time I remember MacGregor making that reference regarding Tambellini or Lowe. Might "organizational need" bump Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk or defensemen Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhart ahead of winger Nail Yakupov or am I just reading between the lines and seeing something that isn’t there?

Organizational Need

Which organizational need is more pressing – defense, centre or wing? In terms of the 2012 Oilers, clearly defense is the biggest need to be addressed, followed by centre, followed by wing. Based on need alone, that top pick at the draft should be a defenseman.

But then there’s another question – how likely is the player drafted to fill the hole, and how soon will he do it?

Ryan Murray is the consensus top defender in the draft, at the lead of a tightly grouped pack that includes Mathew Dumba, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba and Griffin Reinhart. Murray’s polished, well-rounded, and mature, but lacks high-end offensive skills. If the Oilers are looking for a replacement for Chris Pronger, Murray’s probably not the guy. If they’re looking for a guy who can be Kevin Lowe (the comparable that Red Line Report uses), eventually, than maybe he is.

There’s a lot of value in that sort of player, the kind of guy who can play big minutes for 15-20 years. It typically takes a bit of time for that player to develop; certainly it would be unreasonable to expect Murray to take on that sort of load immediately. In Chicago, cornerstone defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were both older than the club’s young star forwards – does it make sense to place the hopes for the blue line on a defender younger than Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins?

On the other hand, if the Oilers opted for a centre – Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko – they could expect some significant offensive production right away. Likely, that centre would slot into the spot Sam Gagner occupies now, freeing up Gagner to be dealt as the centerpiece of a package for a young defenseman. That young defenseman would likely be better in the short-term (the next season or two) than Murray will be.  From a rebuilding perspective, drafting a centre might make more sense than drafting a rearguard.

Asset Management

But, then again, maybe it just makes more sense to take the consensus choice. Nail Yakupov, according to nearly every service out there, is the best available player in this year’s draft. Some experts have been more effusive in their praise – legendary coach Scotty Bowman went so far as to compare Yakupov to Pavel Bure.

Is Nail Yakupov’s trade value going to be higher than Ryan Murray’s a year from now if Yakupov performs as expected in his rookie season? If it is, does it perhaps make more sense to draft Yakupov, attempt to address the defense through trade or free agency this summer, and take stock in a year? If Yakupov seems compares favourably to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle a year from now, might one of the latter two players be dealt for a defenseman? If so, what caliber of defender would one of them bring back in trade?

For that reason, more than any other, I oppose drafting a player based on team need. If Yakupov turns out as good as everyone seems to think he will, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to pry a high-end defenseman out of another team in exchange for his services (or those of Hall, or those of Eberle, should that make more sense).

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  • Reg Dunlop

    Slightly off topic: the oilkings late goal in the 1st…huge. The setup by Samuelsson along with the constant stickwork and agitating, if he drops to round 2 in the draft we have to take him. But I guess that would be drafting based on need…

  • Lofty

    I wish Warren Buffet would buy a sports franchise and manage it like Berkshire. Invest in things that everyone needs and will pay for. Teams are always looking for top end talent so you should draft top end talent. Once there rolling you treat them like assets and professionally manage the positions for growth/value. Whatever player Stu and his gang think will be the best NHL’er, they should draft. Tambo needs to manage these first overall picks and then use them to fix positions of need via UFA’s and trade. You can’t draft an entire NHL line-up.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Just to clarify, as world traveller I mean I went to Calgary once; didn’t much like it. Go oil.

    If they draft Yak and somehow fill the gaping holes on the blueline, and the new coach can instill a system that works with the players already here, I will be 1st in line to buy a Yakupov jersey. If things don’t work out with Yak, I will probably be an insufferable dick about the pick.

  • There is ZERO chance the Oilers draft a player that isn’t in the NHL next year. It’s between Yakupov and Murray (two oldest players) which Is too bad because Galchenyuk and Dumba are a better fit in Edmonton.

    If Griffin Reinhart’s name wasn’t Reinhart he wouldn’t be considered a top 10 prospect. The guy doesn’t skate well at the WHL level, how can he keep up in the bigs? I don’t see it.

    1- Galchenyuk

    2- Dumba

    3- Grigorenko

    4- Yakupov

    5- Trouba

  • Reg Dunlop

    As a bon vivant and world traveller I know that Russians make the best cabbage and beet soup, as well as the best WHC teams. Mr. Soup Facist is under the impression that I may hold some unreasonable disregard for Russian players,not so I can assure you. When Cowbell Feva speaks we all would be advised to listen… Russian players sometimes lack NHL sized heart. He has my vote for new oil GM, for what thats worth(nothing,unfortunately).

    • The Soup Fascist

      So to clarify you are good with the food … Not so much the hockey players.

      Da da kobasa. Nyet nyet Soviet. As it were.

      I know I am not going to change your mind. But for every Yashin there is a Larionov and for every Messier there is a Daigle.

      You may end up being right. But Yak seems so far ahead of everyone else’s scorecard right now, I don’t know how you pass.

      All things being equal I take a Canadian too. Because of the KHL risk, not the heart. The fact is all the pundits agree … It isn’t close. Besides Russians are among the toughest people in the world. Now if Yakupov was French on the other hand …

      Just kidding Francois, don’t get your panties in a bunch.

  • 50 in 39

    Great article JW, this is how I view Yakupov too, as an asset and the most lucrative asset available despite any of the team’s apparent needs.

    @ Truth

    You are spot on, this is the business side of pro hockey. Now, can the Oiler’s management handle and manage those assets correctly?

  • The Soup Fascist

    Drafting based on BPA seems over-rated and appears to hold very litte logic.

    Hypothetically speaking, what if we finished in the middle of the pack and say drafting at the 15th spot? All those players above the 15th spot would look very appealing…… would they not?

    This argument of selecting BPA would be rock solid if there was a real skill difference between the various players, of that there is no doubt. We are told that there is a clear front-runner at this year’s draft, that being Yakapov, and not much difference between the next 10 players, or very minimal difference.

    Pundits have also suggested that Yakapov is not considered an elite talent, say like OV or Crosby, Stamkos, or Taveres…….which make selecting this best player available, even more confounding.

    If we are not getting an elite player, then selecting what you need seems logical……but only if we can trade down and get a second asset in return.

  • Truth

    If one wins a prize and can choose between a $100,000.00 boat and a $60,000.00 car, but they already own a $100,000.00 boat and no car, I think everyone (with any common sense) takes the boat and sells it or trades it for a ~$100,000.00 car or equivalent. An even better idea would be to take the boat, test drive it a bit, and then choose to keep the better one.

    Common sense, you would think.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Not sure why everyone is so worried who the Oilers draft this year…. With Tambellini still at the helm and his great decision making on trades on free agents, another top 10 pick is on the way in 2013. Maybe another lottery pick for MacKinnon or Jones… hhmmm…. could happen folks!!! We are talking about Tambellini!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Finishing last 2 times and second last once in 3yrs, speaks volumes about Oilers organizational needs.

    They have so many holes it would be hard to pin point what their biggest need is.

    Pick BPA

  • I’m just nervous as hell that Tambo has the final decision on this. I can’t imagine not picking Yakupov especially where he is the clear cut #1 choice. JW – Totally agree with you. Drafting by organizational need would be a huge mistake.

  • Mitch

    The thought of trading the pick drives me crazy. For 20 yrs the Oilers have been dying as we can see by the standings too have high end talent. So why would they pass on Yakupov because they need dmen? What if he comes here next yr and leads the team in scoring or goal scoring? Is it still gonna be said that we need dmen?

    Don’t overlook the obvious if Yakupov is the BPA, don’t second guess the pick. That would be like trading down in 03′ for Pouliot because Parise was small then in 05′ drafting Cogliano and Gagner in 07′.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  • The Soup Fascist

    @ Reg Dunlop

    With apologies to Nigel Powers …

    ~There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures…and Russians.~

    DRAFT YAK

  • Cowbell_Feva

    You would be lucky to get a bag of pucks for Hemmer right now. They overpaid him, for sure, but the key was the term. 2 yrs and then decide. Thats when the kids are off the entry levels and decisions can be made. I wouldn’t mind to see the Oil trade down and try to package Gagner & anyone but the 3 kids for a good D-man. Take Galyenchuk (or however you spell it) so we have 2 top flight centers for years to come.

    When I think of Russians, this Grigorenko is it in a nutshell. Loads of talent, not much for heart. Zherdev and Filitov are two other prime examples. Its no wonder why Russia plays well at the IIHF tourney. All their stars are out of the playoffs. Yes I now the Galyenchuk is of Russian roots, but at least he grew up in N.A. and is a big bodied Centreman.

    In a perfect world the Oil could somehow swing a deal where they get Griffin Reinhart and this Galyenchuk kid. I’ll keep drinking the Kool-aid until then.

    In a perfect world the Oil c

  • Organizational needs change all the time, unless you live in Philly, then you need a goalie.

    Drafting for need, especially at a position where even the best prospects can take 3 years before making an impact, is such a poor plan. I will be ultra pissed when Yakupov is in the running for a Calder next season and Murray is playing 12 mins a night with Cory Potter as his partner.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Trading down in the draft for a lower pick and an asset is a potential disaster. The team that gets the best player wins the deal. Trading the pick for a needed player is an option, however. Tambo will play safe and pick Yak, regardless of pre-draft rhetoric(unfortunately).

  • Reg Dunlop

    You wallow at the bottom of the barrel for 4 years or more ,get to draft high picks. and lotto picks…, and then you talk about dumping guys like Hall or Eberle.. you got to be insane to do something like that. How about trading Hemsky or Gagner instead. Hemsky should be the No.1 one guy on the premium trade list for the Oilers. His schtick is up. You go for the B P A.
    This year clearly its Yakapov, so why is Tambelini complicating things ? … Because he can’t make good choices for the team. He’s proven that much.

    • Because if you’re looking for a franchise defenseman, Taylor Hall can probably land that guy. Ales Hemsky can’t.

      I’m not saying trade Hall. I’m saying if you need a high-end young defenseman, you’ll probably get a better one by trading Hall/Eberle/Yakupov than you would by drafting Ryan Murray.

      • The Soup Fascist

        100% agree.

        Also… Not sure why some OIler fans think they know more than Bob McKenzie, Redline Report, Future Considerations, ISS, Craig Button, and Hockey Prospectus.

        Yakupov is #1 with a bullet. Unlike the past 2 years, no one person is even close, not even Kevin Lowe v2.0.

    • Bucknuck

      I believe that the point JW is making with that comment is that if people talk about picking a defenseman instead of the consensus #1 pick, it would be like trading Hall or Eberle for a defenseman now.

      Yakupov may be as good or better than those guys, so if you are going to trade an amazing winger for a Defenseman, you may as well draft Yakupov and see which of the three you like least and then trade one of those. You will probably get a better asset back in trade than if you screw around with the pick.

      JW correct me if I am mistaken

    • ItsTheBGB

      Why would you try and trade Hemsky when his value is at an all time low? The Oilers always do that… most teams do. If you sell high you end up winning trades, that’s what good teams do… trading Hemsky isn’t selling high. Gagner is probably somewhere in the middle.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers have holes throughout the roster. In goal, on D, and up front. Approximately 50% of the time (last 20 yrs) the BPA at the time of the draft isn’t the best player available in the draft. Edmonton has shown they best have this decision made for them rather than selecting who they see as a good fit. So far so good 3 yrs into this rebuild plan. I don’t trust the Oilers amateur scouts without this (BPA policy) Hockey for Dummies handbook.