There has been some significant backlash from Edmonton Oilers fans, both here and elsewhere, following a draft that fell somewhat short of Craig MacTavish’s lofty goals going in. How much is justified?
When MacTavish was introduced as the new general manager of the Oilers, there was mixed reaction, which makes sense given his long history with Edmonton’s fans and the animosity many felt during his time as coach. He did say all the right things, though, and implicitly contrasted himself to predecessor Steve Tambellini with comments like this one:
I’m an impatient guy, and I bring that impatience to this situation. I think that we’re at the stage in terms of the cycle of our hockey club right now that we have to do some bold things. We have to expose ourselves to some semblance of risk to try and move the team forward in a rapid fashion. My sense, and my analysis from watching the team over the last number of months is much the same as a lot of people’s analysis of our team. We need greater depth, we’ve got a lot of great primary pieces.
Asked if there could be as many as eight new Oilers, MacTavish said, “I think that’s fair. There’s going to be some significant and meaningful change for sure.”
Comments in that vein all down the line, combined with media- (and, yes, blog-)driven hype and rumours served to push expectations sky high. Lots of players were available for the right offer. The Oilers were linked all over, to goalies and forwards and defencemen, and the feeling going in was that the Oilers would come out of the draft looking substantially different than when they entered it.
In the larger picture, it’s worth noting that such hype was particularly strong in Edmonton, but it wasn’t confined to the Oilers; lots of teams hoped to be able to do something at the draft. But in the grand scheme of things, the draft was a dud. Cory Schneider went to New Jersey for a fraction of the cost Vancouver would have charged Edmonton. Cal Clutterbuck went to Brooklyn at the cost of former fifth overall pick Nino Niederreiter. Andrej Sekera cost both a pretty good defenceman (Jamie McBain) and the 35th overall pick.
The best, and perhaps only, bargain of the day was likely San Jose’s acquisition of Tyler Kennedy for a second round draft pick.
Should the Oilers have given Vancouver their asking price for Schneider – reportedly the 7th overall, a second round pick and a young NHL-ready player? Should they have swapped Magnus Paajarvi for Cal Clutterbuck? I’d answer an emphatic ‘no’ to both, and that’s just how it is: the trade prices were too high to get anything done.
So, while superficially the draft was a dud, in this case “dud” was likely better than the alternative.
Unfortunately, this leaves Craig MacTavish in virtually the same place he entered the draft: in need of making significant changes to his hockey team. The defence and the bottom six needs to be overhauled. Players like Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff are still on the team; if Craig MacTavish has prioritized moving them than they still need to go (though at this point, it is fair to wonder if the Oilers really are best-served by moving them). The same is true in net, where Devan Dubnyk offers Edmonton a perfectly serviceable number one goalie in the prime of his career; the Oilers appear to want an elite goaltender and if that’s a priority for them they will need to find it somewhere else. The big left winger the team covets still needs to be found as well.
There is time to do these things, but the draft was expected to be a significant opportunity, and it is definitely a bad thing for the team that the opportunity turned out to be only a mirage. The next big step is free agency, and the post-free agency trades for teams that didn’t land their preferred targets. The Oilers can’t afford to go through those periods without making significant changes.
Recently around the Nation Network
The Oilers draft may have been quiet, but the Calgary Flames’ certainly was not. The decision to pass on Hunter Shinkaruk and instead pick Emile Poirier was widely critiqued, but the Flames’ 67th overall pick drew some negative attention, too:
After round 1, there isn’t much to talk about. Feaster failed to nab any other early-to-mid picks so it’s even more baffling that the organization decided to use their lone choice between 30-100 on man mountain Keegan Kanzig. The 6’7", 240+ pound defender, by all accounts, is a guy who can’t really skate, can’t handle the puck and has no offense to speak of. He was ranked in the 190’s amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting. Corey Pronman didn’t rank him in the top-100 either.
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