Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish certainly set himself up for criticism by talking the talk before walking the walk prior to the NHL Entry Draft and free agency, but unless my ears have failed me completely, I heard MacT talk about making bold moves, not stupid moves.

So, while, like others, I do have some questions about his overall performance at the draft on the weekend– specifically, I’m wondering about how it came to be, exactly, that the Oilers used the seventh pick on Darnell Nurse rather than Valeri Nichushkin – I’m not unhappy with what I saw.

I’ve got no beef with picking Nurse as far as how he projects and what he brings to the table. He’s tough, is diligent in his physical training and, from all accounts, is a character kid who interviewed very well. Teams can never have too much of that. My issue, I guess, is it’s going to take three or even four years before the Oilers know what they have with him.

There’s more risk in Nichushkin, a better chance he’ll be a swing-and-a-miss rather than a homerun, but drafting that combination of size and skill would provide exactly what MacTavish’s forwards lack. He could provide a bigger bang, and sooner, than Nurse. That, framed by the fact the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, made Nichushkin the more tempting pick for me.

I’m wondering if he was also the more tempting pick for Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff and if MacT, at some point, overruled his birddogs. When I hear Nichushkin was the guy as often as I did from people in the know, not the guessers, and Nurse gets selected, I wonder.

No conspiracy theory here because MacTavish wouldn’t be the first GM to make the call on a pick regardless of the team’s scouting list, especially if two kids are rated neck-and-neck, but I’m wondering if MacT went with his gut and took the safer pick over the big swing – that does fly in the face of his talk about being bold.


What I want from a GM, MacTavish in particular, after he’s talked the talked about being bold, is that he puts himself in the middle of the mix on the draft floor instead of waiting around for his phone to ring like a wallflower. That he identifies the players he wants or needs, decides what he’s willing to give up to get them and then starts pitching.

MacTavish, it was plain to see to anybody paying attention, certainly did that in his pursuit of Braydon Coburn in multiple conversations with Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren. Homer, if reports are to be believed, put an unreasonable price tag on Coburn, so MacTavish, wisely, I say, said "no thanks."

Like MacTavish said, no deal is better than a stupid deal. If you’ve actually got a problem with that line of thinking – "But MacT promised he’d make a big deal at the draft" (no, he didn’t) – I suggest you think again.

Trades, at least those that don’t involve one of the parties involved grabbing their ankles, are difficult to make, as MacTavish alluded to on the weekend after failing to make the splash many anticipated. Sucker deals? There’s always one on the table and, more often than not, they are offered up to rookie GMs like MacTavish.

As 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer has already suggested, don’t be a bit surprised if MacTavish and Holmgren continue talking about Coburn. I’d be stunned if they don’t.


. . . Funny business, the NHL game. Everybody with a functioning brain stem knows the Oilers need more nastiness and grit on their back end, yet today the Oilers walked away from a bunch of it by not qualifying Colten Teubert, Theo Peckham and Alex Plante (as well as Philip Cornet).

The problem with the three D-men who didn’t get QO’d, of course, is that while they bring qualities the Oilers lack, none of them has proven they can play regular minutes at the NHL level and, as always, there are always a raft of younger prospects on the way.

We know what went wrong with Peckham. When his window of opportunity swing open, he showed up fat and couldn’t fit through it. Plante has tons of jam but foot speed and concussions are an issue. Teubert? I’d really like to find out what went wrong there. Seems a bit early to turn the page on him.

. . . People here know I really like pending UFA David Clarkson and think he’s be a perfect fit here because he brings leadership, toughness and pretty good skill to the dance, but heaven help the Oilers if they even think of offering the kind of money, more than $6 million a season, we heard about today. Clarkson might get that kind of cake from somebody, but it shouldn’t be the Oilers.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • petrklimashelmet

    We will look well at this draft depending on what MacT can accomplish outside of the draft this year. Plus, if even one of the late draft picks turns out as a solid 3rd liner, the media will certainly look back in approval. Call me crazy, but there is tons of potential for the Oilers to make some deals, and also in signings.

    Just consider Boston alone. Just throwing this out there: Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky for Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly? In some ways, Seguin’s game may be slightly behind Gagner’s in development. Boston gets more maturity and a well-rounded 3rd-2nd liner who can score here. Hemsky could spark from a new environment and can help fill the void left by Jagr.

    Oilers get better potential, size and better faceoff man in Seguin. Plus Chris Kelly is great at face-offs, 4th-3rd line centre that is more than a good replacement for Belanger. Plus, another centre would help take off pressure when trying to move Horcoff.

    Oilers might have to throw something else in like a 3rd-4th round draft pick and/or eat some of Hemsky’s salary to sweeten the deal.

    Oddly enough, the Oilers could benefit by signing Horton and/or Jagr as well this off-season. Jagr would be a great 3rd-2nd line veteran presence.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      It would’ve taken a Kings ransom to move Seguin last weekend, a redonkulous over payment by an interested team. Don’t think he was really even on the market as it was just an attention getter for Tyler himself. Chiarellis comment about him needing to become a better pro was really all that he had to say. He just used the media to get that message across to him. Peter never had any thoughts of really moving Seguin i’m sure.

  • GVBlackhawk

    I guess MacT. has no trades in his pockets by the sounds of it . His first attempts at what he hoped to acquire went off the rails . Getting a little antsy wondering if he will now go after lesser talents than he had intended .

  • Bonvie

    MacT set expectations when he said he was impatient and was going to make bold moves. Should he make bad deals? No.

    But there were interesting trades made at the draft. Kennedy and Bolland were traded for peanuts and both are real NHL hockey players, something the Oilers need. Both provide some semblance of secondary scoring MacT claims to crave. Both play positions that are open on the Oilers roster (3rd line centre and 3rd line RW. He walked away with nothing.

    Instead, what he has brought the Oilers since his arrival is a potential media controversy with this captain that could dog the team all next season and a potential feud with his only legitimate NHL goalie, both of which were completely unnecessary and counter productive.

    Intead of going to the Kevin Lowe school of management, maybe he should try the Ken Holland or Lou Lamoriello school.

  • OutDoorRink

    If Nuchishkin was the guy that the Oilers were supposed to take, why didn’t Buffalo jump on him with the 8th pick? Why did Vancouver take a pass with the 9th?

    The Chelyabinsk Meteor was available for all three teams, but it fell upon Dallas with the 10th before somebody decided to take a chance. Mr. Nill, I salute your gamblers mentality, but the amount of cash being thrown around the K these days makes me nervous about drafting players from the Steppes. Too many options when the negotiating gets tough.

    Nurse was a better pick than Nuchishkin, simple as that.

  • vetinari

    I have to admit, when watching the draft and MacT stepped to the podium, I was hoping VN. However as soon as they grabbed nurse I went online to read every report I could on him and I felt better about the oil taking him. However once the oilers grabbed Slepyshev later I was even happier about Nurse. I feel we may have gotten a big and skilled Russian forward after all. I just don’t understand why Slepy didn’t get taken at all last yr. What are the differences between VN and Slepy?

  • Samson Loveblast

    Great article, RB.

    On Darnell Nurse I’m in the camp of being thrilled with the pick. I’ll take his player type and intangibles any day, looks to be an absolutely superb athlete too, off the type of my head, I can’t think of another player with his size/frame that skates like he does.

    On NewAgeSys, I hope that he’s allowed back at some stage, he screwed up sure, I didn’t mind his posts at all though (I found them entertaining) and I think it’s clear that he’s a passionate fan of the Oilers.

  • vetinari

    I’m late to the commentary but Nurse was my preference heading in.

    I understood the Monahan prediction but they have been missing a multi tool defenceman as badly as they have a big center.

    I don’t actually understand why Nurse is so quickly dismissed as just muscle.

    • Í don’t think anybody is dismissing Nurse as just muscle.

      The vast majority of scouts and reports project him as a lock as a top four guy, at worst, with a likelihood he’ll be a top-pairing guy. That’s a valuable commodity.

  • The nurse pick as well as the later picks need to be viewed in the context of what the goals/timeline of macT are:

    1. he has been allowed at least 3 years of failure before he would get the hook. Thus the shorter term is not that pressing. From his perspective the crap performance of the team over the past few years is irrelevant. The fan’s perspective is completely different. And from the scouting staff’s POV they are much more in the fan’s camp than they are in MacT’s – and that would explain why they were probably leaning much more towards the Rooshin. (and how many of the scouts will remain in any case?)

    2. Making the playoffs in either of the next two years is also irrelevant to MacT. Sure it would be nice, and it would take the pressure off of Katz and put some money in Mr. K’s designer jeans, but it won’t result in MacT getting fired.

    So, for MacT, a blossoming of the team into a playoff attendee on track to contend for the cup in say 5 to 6 years IS his goal. And Nurse and the other picks look largely to have been made for that purpose. were he more motivated by short-term issues he would have traded some or all of those picks.

    Which brings us to what fate lies ahead for the starlings – RNH, TH, NY, JE and JS:

    three years from now the oil likely wont be able to afford them. and thus one or more will be traded in the next couple of years to bring in the established and more affordable – but less talented and with much less upside – role players MacT is going to need to assure a playoff berth in the 2015-16 (!!) season.

    As we near the beginning of the season it will become more clear that serious contention prospects for the oil have been pushed out to the 5+ years from now. Fan despair/depression will become ever more chronic. It remains to be seen if this will affect the gate…

    PS- MacTs timeline also jives closely with the new arena’s – not a complete co-inky dink…

  • Eddie Shore

    Robin, I agree with you comments on MacT. I’m not a big fan of his, but am willing to give some leeway as GM. My biggest issue with his hiring is that I don’t think the Oilers needed another rookie GM…we needed someone who has been through this before, knows the other GM’s, and how to wade those waters…almost a Brian Burke tuype.

    But I am willing to give MAcT a chance…but as soon as he started talking about bold move, and putting Hemsky/Horcoff names out there…I was thinking, ‘what an idiot’…now he better do something or he comes off looking like a fool.

    So far…all talk, no walk….sounds familiar in this town.