2007 ENTRY DRAFT: THE BIG MISS

MissingTheTarget

Hindsight is a wonderful luxury. You’re never wrong. You avoid boneheaded decisions that bring nothing but regret. You look and sound really smart. It’s always been a handy tool for hockey fans and sportswriters alike.

If nothing else, sportswriters and hockey fans enjoy pontificating about what could have been while pointing out, with varying degrees of disdain and chagrin, how poorly the team they cover or cheer for has blown it by way of trade, free agent signings or the NHL Entry Draft. Easy pickings.

That said, and offering a mea culpa I’m as guilty of it as the next guy, it’s impossible not to scratch a big red circle around the 2007 NHL Entry Draft as one of the major reasons – there are many – the Edmonton Oilers have been the dregs, or close to it, of the NHL since the 2006 Stanley Cup final.

The Oilers had three first-round picks in that draft, owning the 6th, 15th and 21st selections. GM Kevin Lowe and his scouting staff came out of it with London Knights forward Sam Gagner, defenseman Alex Plante of the Calgary Hitmen and forward Riley Nash of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Three chances to get it right. Mercy.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

SamGagner

I was doing a live radio show at a local watering hole the day of that draft with Bob Stauffer, back before he left TEAM 1260 and went to work for the Oilers as their radio analyst. While Stauffer and I agreed Gagner seemed a reasonable pick, we were otherwise befuddled and we – Stauffer especially – said so loud and clear on the air.

For all our misgivings – among them, we thought that not taking a flyer on Russian Alexei Cherepanov (who would tragically die of heart failure at the age of 19 during a KHL game in October 2008) was a mistake – we had no idea at the time how badly the Oilers drafted that June. Enter hindsight.

The Oilers used the sixth pick to take Gagner, coming off a season in which he’d scored 35-83-118 with London. Despite solid totals of 101-194-295 in 481 games with the Oiler since then, he’s been a lightning rod for criticism and a polarizing figure with the fan base as the team has floundered. His fit now, as a second-line centre behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is questionable at best. The pick gets worse when you look at who was on the board in the same range as Gagner.

  • Logan Couture. The San Jose Sharks selected Couture, a centre, from the Ottawa 67s with the ninth overall pick. Couture has scored 112-108-220 in 297 games since draft day and is seen as an emerging core player with the Sharks.
  • Ryan McDonagh. The Montreal Canadiens selected McDonagh 12th overall. Swiped from the Habs by Glen Sather, the big blueliner is coming off a 43-point season with the Rangers and has nine points through 17 playoff games this post-season.
  • Lars Eller. The St. Louis Blues took Eller with the 13th pick. Traded to Montreal before the 2010-11 season, the six-foot-two, 215-pound Danish forward isn’t a prolific point-producer, with 45-58-103 in 286 games, but he’s a big body with some skill and grit. Has 11 points in 14 games for the Habs this post-season.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk. A puck-moving defenseman out of Boston University taken 14th by Colorado, Shattenkirk has had seasons of 43 and 45 points since being acquired by the Blues. How would he look in Edmonton’s top-four?

TWO MORE SWINGS

AlexPlante

The Oilers thought they were getting a big, tough defenseman with the 15th pick when they took Plante, but he never lived up to that billing after his days in Cowtown. Slowed by injuries, the plodding Plante played just 10 games for the Oilers. He’s with Dornbirn EC in the Austrian League.

With Cherepanov off the board at 17th to the Rangers, the Oilers took Nash from Salmon Arm of the BCJHL with the 21st pick. The former Cornell centre never played a game with the Oilers. Nash landed in Carolina, where he has 14-20-34 in 110 games with the Hurricanes.

The misses:

  • Max Pacioretty. The Canadiens took Pacioretty 22nd overall from the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL. The six-foot-two, 220-pounder is a two-time 30-goal scorer, including 39 this season. A combination of size, skill and the ability to skate the Oilers are lacking, Pacioretty has scored 107-106-213 in 319 NHL games.
  • David Perron. Oilers could have got the gritty Perron off the hop at the draft. Instead, he landed in Edmonton last summer, but it cost the Oilers former first-rounder Magnus Paajarvii in a deal with St. Louis. Perron had a career-high 28 goals for the Oilers this season.
  • P.K. Subban. Montreal snagged Subban from the Belleville Bulls with the 43rd pick, meaning a lot of teams passed on him, so the Oilers are hardly alone in blowing it by opting for Plante and Nash. Tough. Talented. Norris Trophy winner. Enough said.

Most NHL teams have drafts they’d rather forget, so the Oilers are hardly alone in missing the boat when it comes to assessing and projecting how teenagers might pan out. There are more misses than hits, especially beyond the first round.

That said, getting three cracks in the first 30 picks in 2007 and coming away with Gagner, Plante and Nash can’t be overlooked as a significant factor in shaping the team we see now and the ongoing ineptitude Oiler fans have endured since the Cup run of 2006.

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

  • Sorensenator

    Our current Draft control personal did not arrive in there positions from 2008 on.
    Katz; Tambellini; MacT; Howson.

    But misses?

    what is your Definition.

    In any draft you want to get the a long career player with your picks. the more productive the better.

    Sam Gagner.
    during the healthy periods the last season and a half
    is a .75PPG center. the last3 years he is top 40 cater for EVG and top 35 centre for EVP.

    The extreme change in foot speed of the game was not as evident in 2007.
    So they took a a long lean Dman.

    Riley nash is currently a 3rd line centre by EVG and EVP.

    Michael shucker looked at the possibility of getting a 200 GM player from the picks.

    #6; #15; #21 should get 1.57 players.
    Gagner is 1 and Nash played his 1st full season @ 24

    Getting 2 200gm players when yo had a 157.1% chance is above the average.

    What you want is better than average.

    Like jordon eberle a top 15 EVG and Goal scoring Forward who will have a 15 year career with a pick that had a 32.4% chance of even getting a career. he is the type you hope to get in top 2 or 3 picks.

    A pick at 6 gets you a player 70% of the time. A 15 year career player at 6 you hope for a top 130 player.

    MacT credited Tambo for a proper scouting system structure in place.
    He started it lack clear philosophy. team driven agenda’s evident in the first 3 years.

    The last 2 advised by MacT. Skill before all else. And take lower pick chances on the skipped or rejected that show inter e 18 year old seasons

    Skill:
    Yakupov best release in draft
    Nurse top 2 Dman.
    Yakipov; Slepyshev 2 of the best junior players in Russia in the 3rd round. .20 GPG and .30 PPG

    The rejected:
    Khaira;
    Muir;
    Platzer;
    Chase one of there 18 yr old FWD top 20 in G PT +/- Petan Bjorkstrand
    McCarron
    Laleggia

    WHL: scouts liked.
    Moroz;
    Houck EV production projects to 17EVG and 14 EVA
    Betker

    Draft Team now.
    Edmontons Drafting from 1998 to 2007 when Chicago built the base for there cup team.
    Yeilds Gagner and

    We have picks:
    #3;

    #91; #111; #130; #137; #153; #183
    these 6 picks have a 53% chance of finding a 200 gm player.
    I think they will do better than that.

    • Excuses, excuse. The bottom line is other teams (27, actually) do a better job then Edm. They actually find a Subban or a Benn once in a while, not never. They don’t take an employees son at 31 instead of a player that is rated higher. They don’t view small danglers as all that good.

      No matter how u slice it, from 2000 to 2009 the Oilers were probably the worst in the league at the draft and at assessing potential. It is the single biggest reason for their position as the joke of the league (tho, there are about 5 other reasons that r up there, too

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    At the end of the day the Oilers don’t have many good players because they aren’t very good at drafting them. This fall it will be year 5 into the new rebuild and the only good players we have were taken in the first round. At the rate we are going we will have to wait 10 more years for the roster to fill out with high draft picks. Where are the support players from the second and third rounds of the draft? In the last 20 years the Oilers have been really good for one season. How many of these scouts are still with the team?

  • Muji

    To put the Oilers 1st round draft picks in perspective since 2000:

    2000: Mikhnov(Bust)
    2001: Hemsky +
    2002: Niinimaki (Bust)
    2003: Pouliot (Bust)
    2004: Dubnyk (Fail.. sorta), Shremp (Bust)
    2005: Cogliano +
    2006: No Picks
    2007: Gagner +, Plante(Bust), R.Nash +
    2008: Eberle +
    2009: Paajarvi (Meh.. ok)
    2010: Hall +
    2011: Klefbom +, RNH +
    2012: Yakupov (jury still out)
    2013: Nurse (Too early to say)

    So leaving out the last 2 years there have been 15x 1st Rounders. 5 were outright busts, 2 were just ok. 8 were decent picks. I suspect this success rate is pretty good in comparison to other NHL teams. But the period of 2002-2007 inclusive with 2 first round picks that somewhat panned out stands out as a major detriment. Especially when you consider that these 2 picks are borderline 2nd line players, one of which was traded away for magic beans.

  • To some extent, it’s not fair to criticize an organization too much for missing the player who turns out to be best player available several years down the road if they still got an NHL player. Are there better options than Sam Gagner in retrospect? Yes. But he’s still an NHL player, and there were certainly worse options they could have gone with. Besides, if we were to retroactively select the best player available, it would probably be PK Subban (even if you consider him and Kane a toss-up, Subban plays a more critical position). That means every team with a first round pick passed on him at least once, including Montreal. By that measure, the whole league failed. So, you do have to grade on a curve. Getting a decent NHL player like Gagner (looking at his career as a whole, not just last year) was relatively good value.

    I think the Oilers clearly are suffering from the drafts where they were supposed to get all the players that would be in the 25-30 age range now. If you look at the 2002-2007 Oilers drafts, the only players they drafted that are still NHL players are Stoll, Greene, Brodziak, Cogliano, Petry and Gagner, and only two of them are still with the team! Not only did they deal off most of them, but they have nothing from any of those deals that is helping the current team! And it looks like they’re about to dump Gagner now too. Fantastic. No, I think the criticism has to focus on the drafting and development record of the team over that entire 2002-2007 period.

    That said, I think you can fairly criticize the 2007 draft as well. They did miss several good NHL players with their remaining two picks, and it’s important to remember they didn’t START with the 21st pick, they traded the 30th pick (Anaheim’s, they won the cup that summer) and their 36th pick to get Riley Nash. In both cases, they were at least a bit of a reach in each case. You could make the argument that one of Plante or Nash might have been available at the 30th pick. Can you imagine how differently we would look at that draft if they had drafted Gagner, Cherepanov, Nash at 30th and picked up Subban at 36? Nash would still have been disappointing, and you would feel sad about Cherepanov, but it would have had given you an elite level player, a supporting NHL player, and a player you dealt for a decent pick later on.

  • Serious Gord

    How much has big money stunted/development growth of our youth as well as their lifestyles , etc.? Is it a contributing factor ? Must be quite the adjustments to make .

  • Anton CP

    Sam Gagner wasn’t a miss, it was a case of bad development. Here’s a question, how many minor, junior, international, college league games has Gagner played since he was drafted(not counting the lockout season)? 0

    How about the list of others?

    Couture: 159 games combined.

    McDonagh: 147 games.

    Eller: 160 games.

    Shattenkirk: 124 games.

    Riley Nash is serviceable 3rd line player for Hurricanes and the return of Marincin was not a bad trade. Plante was a D, you can draw comparison between PK Subban with the choice of Plante, but 16 (out of 42, 38% of the total draft!) Ds were drafted ahead of PK so I don’t think that was a miss by Oilers. It was more of a big surprise of how PK turned out to be. Since only 4 players out of 2007 draft made to the all-star team that how about Jamie Benn were missed for 126 times?

    • Anton CP

      Whatever. Just once, and I mean once, can’t our scouts be the ones that find these gems. Can’t we be the ones that fluke off. Their record of ZERO gems found outside of nobrainer first overall picks (even Ederle was a nobrainer at 22nd) is too much to just pass off as excusable. They are terrible at drafting and developing. There’s just no way to excuse them.

      • Anton CP

        Even a diamond needs to be cut to make it perfect. How can Oilers ever find a gem if they can’t polish them? Players developments are so often underestimated and talents are often over-exaggerated.

  • Sorensenator

    I don’t understand this whole concept of retrospective look of Oilers’ draft picks. Gagner, Plante, and Nash were picks that were reasonable at the time. Although, admittedly, I wasn’t thrilled with the Plante and Nash picks, no one really could have forecasted what was to happen.

    Instead of playing the “who-we-should’ve-picked game”, perhaps we should look more closely at the inability of the Oilers organization and coaches to develop these young players into star NHL players. Guys, like Gagner, had all the potential in the world to be the No. 1 centre. Case in point, in the 2007 Super Series, he was head and shoulders above a number of fellow NHL prospects with 6 goals and 9 assists in the tournament. He had (and still has) a lot of offensive tools in his arsenal, yet he has underachieved. Why? The organization messed up his development by retaining him with the big club and not sending him down to work on fundamentals. He lost confidence in himself when the losing continued and he failed to meet expectations.

    I can only hope that they’re not doing the same to Yakupov, like they did to his predecessors (Gagner, Cogliano, Schremp). I certainly do not want to read in a couple years that we should’ve drafted Galchenyuk, Trouba, or Hertl.

  • Sorensenator

    I think signing JSchultz can easily back fire on MacT. I’m not confident he’s gonna turn into the dman I think this organization is hoping for and counting on

  • Zarny

    @RexHolez

    I don’t see how resigning Schultz back fires on MacT.

    As a rookie Schultz had 27 pt in 48 games; 1 pt less than Shea Weber and pro-rates to 46 pt over a full season. This year he dropped back to 33 PT in 74 games. putting him with Cam Fowler, Slava Voynov, Jack Johnson and Christian Erhoff offensively.

    He’s 23 with only 122 games NHL experience. Question marks about defense are expected at that stage of his development. The problem is playing Schultz above his head before he is ready. That really could be the Oilers’ motto for all of the kids in the rebuild.

    Fowler signed for 5 yr @ $4M. That’s close to what Schultz will get. Other comparables @ $4M are Voynov, Josi, Hedman and Carlson; but keep in mind TB wouldn’t have signed Hedman for $4M after this season. That’s a steal.

    You probably get Schultz a bit cheaper on a 2-3 bridge contract but I’d push for $4M over 6-7 years. Offensively Schultz will live up to that contract and he’ll get better defensively. He doesn’t have to be a Norris candidate defensively at that price.

    • Zarny

      I think the diffrence between Schultz and the guys you compare him with is they all play defence while Schultz is cheating for offense and can’t handle anything in his own end. I’m just not a fan

  • Zarny

    Sean john:
    1998 to 2007 drafts under fraser and pendergast are not great.

    2008: to now are well above average with SMB!

    what assets that were achieved in that 1998 to 2007 period was largely traded by Klowe and tambi.

    I am content with MacT giving SMB a clear agenda.

    2013:
    Nurse elite CHL Dman
    MO Roy one of the fastest skaters

    Yakimov and Slepyshev two of the Khl’s best junior players.

    Platzer underutilized skilled forward.

    Houck
    Betker
    Chase
    Skating; skill; size.

    You do not rate a team or org by work done by individuals not with or on the team.

    1-18-2 versus the best of the west with Dubnyk and Labarbera.

    you would not blame Scrivens and Fasth for that.

    Though there are some real fools on here who have tried!

    Terrible drafting from Fraser and Pendegast.

    Is not SMB fault.

    please do not be fools!

  • Zarny

    Muji: in 2007 draft SMB was not head scout!

    Know your time lines!

    I suspect you think scrivens and fasth are responsible for the full season record!

    Embarrassing!

  • Zarny

    @RexHolez

    Fowler, Voynov, Josi, Hedman etc weren’t great in their own end either after 122 NHL games. Not to mention some were paired with significantly better partners than Schultz has had.

    IMO, that is the problem. Schultz’ problems in his own end are a direct result of the Oilers’ approach to throwing kids in the deep end without a life jacket.

    If he had been playing 2nd or 3rd pair like every other D prospect not named Drew Doughty for his first 122 games the assessment would likely be very different.