Asked to turn around a franchise buried deep in the second division for a generation, Craig MacTavish looks to make bold steps on his first draft day. Oilers Nation–tired of losing and watching the brilliant youth acclimate to it–awaits the turnaround. Based on yesterday’s rumors, this is one of the few days in organization history where "expect the unexpected" doesn’t quite cover it.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
This is Lake Louise. In my 50+ years on the planet, I have not seen anything more beautiful in nature. I love to walk around the lake, and afterward grab a hot chocolate and a blanket and then watch the world watch Lake Louise. I’ve met people from Germany, Japan, America, hell you name it folks have come to Lake Louise to see this view. In my view, it’s perfect.
Craig MacTavish is about to put his stamp on the Edmonton Oilers, create his ideal, his version of what a winning team should look like when it’s complete. Based on his conversations with the fanbase, and based on yesterday’s explosive news about Cory Schneider, I think we know a few things:
- MacT is as aggressive as we thought he might be
- MacT is as devoted to keeping the puck out of the net as we thought he might be
- MacT will leave no stone unturned
- MacT will pursue players in their mid-20s to complete the roster
- There a no mid-20s players available in this draft
- The scouting department may have a lot of time on their hands today
- We could see as many as five Oiler trades today
- The Oilers are about to get a makeover
- The only calm scene for Oiler fans today is the photo of Lake Louise
A DIFFERENT VIEW
I had planned on giving you a list of possible Oilers at the draft today, but with the top three Oiler picks in play that seems pointless. What we can talk about is MacT’s vision of this team, why he believes they’ve failed in the past and how he plans to get them to the second season as soon as possible.
- BUILDING CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS UP THE MIDDLE: In every sport, the mantra ‘strength up the middle’ holds sway, and for good reason. As good as the Oilers teams of the early 1980s were, they didn’t win any Stanley’s until the defensive side of the game received more attention, and until Mark Messier moved to center. At the same time, a young blue arrived as established NHLers and the good times began to roll. I think the idea of acquiring Cory Schneider and Braydon Coburn this weekend speaks to this desire, and perhaps we’ll see the Oilers tell us Taylor Hall is moving to the middle (and Sam Gagner to the wing) as early as this week.
- EXPERIENCE IS VITAL: Importing Cory Schneider and Coburn is likely just the beginning of a large group of players who will be 25-30 years of age and have 200+ NHL games experience. We can add names like Cal Clutterbuck, Boyd Gordon, Paul Ranger, Viktor Stalberg, Andrew Cogliano, Scott Hartnell, Keith Yandle, Dustin Penner and Tom Gilbert into the mix as well: experienced men who are also young enough to hang around for a few years and help contribute to a brand new thing: winning hockey games.
- A LOT OF SAIL ON: Today, we may be saying goodbye to Shawn Horcoff, an Oiler since 2000 fall; Ales Hemsky, who wasn’t much behind him; the 7th, 37th and 56th overall picks, which not so long ago represented ultimate value for the Oilers and the fanbase; and a plethora of other spare parts and assets of varying degree. Today could be one of the truly historic days of player movement in NHL history based on what we’ve been told–and the Oilers are front and center.
- A PERIOD OF TRANSITION: When you have enormous turnover, there’s a time (often an entire season) of adjustment. Expecting a quick turnaround is a bad idea no matter how many imports of value arrive. The new players will have to develop chemistry with the current Oilers deemed good enough to stay, and Oiler fans will have to adjust to their calendar being turned upside down: the biggest day of the year will no longer be draft day. That lesson may be learned in one day–today!
Based on what I’ve read, Craig MacTavish is so determined to create the current team in his own image that he is willing to overpay, to lose some deals, in an effort to improve areas he believes are badly in need of help. His vision is not our vision necessarily, and that fact is driven home by the Schneider deal (as rumored last night). It is entirely possible we’ll walk away from today believing the Oilers got less than 100 cents on the dollar, and it’s also possible they’ll be a better team as a matter of fact.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think we have to acknowledge that what we’re hearing from New Jersey this weekend is a half bubble off plumb compared to expectations. This happens when a powerful personality enters a situation and goes about the business of improving it. Remember when Jacques Lemaire arrived in Montreal as coach? Guy Lafleur was the established on ice power for the Habs, but Lemaire shuffled the roster and a more defensive strategy was used, effectively ending Lafleur’s career in Montreal in about 20 games.
Craig MacTavish is doing some things we may find out of line with our own vision–it appears Devan Dubnyk is not the ‘goalie of the future’, and Nick Schultz is apparently about to get a teammate who does exactly what he does, and that checking line is going to be far more physical if Clutterbuck comes over from Minnesota.
This draft day will not be similar to the last ones. The impressive first round string that began with Sam Gagner and continued through Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov is very likely to be broken this afternoon–the Oilers are poised to trade their pick at #7 overall.
The Oilers have a unique draft strategy–acquire actual NHL players this afternoon. Expect the unexpected? More like "make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Also make sure your seat belt is correctly fastened."
And there may be some turbulence.