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.

  • Zarny

    And GIVING away all of these players hasn’t helped either: Jason Chimera, Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, Kyle Brodziak, Lupul/Pitkanen/Cole, Glencross.

    We having nothing in our organisation from any of these players.

    #HorrificManagement. #WhyWeAreWhereWeAre. #WhyThePlayoffsAreAtleast5YearsAway…

  • OilersDynasty

    It’s not just the 2007 draft. The entire decade, from 2000-2009 was just poor, and if you include some questionable trades, it’s the very reason we’re in the spot we’re in now.

      • OilersDynasty

        Well, the picks have been better. It’s not like we passed over a certain guy who was clearly superior in favor of another guy who we thought would be a future star, only to turn in to a bust *cough* M-A Pouliot *cough*

        • Sorensenator

          I agree, we took Hall over Seguin, Nuge over Landeskog, and Yak over Murray, either way they are all good. Same for this year, if we get one of Ekblad, Draisaitle, Bennett, or Reinhart, we are getting a quality player.

          • OilersDynasty

            Not only the 1st overall’s. Klefbom, Musil, Pitlick, we’re all chosen as the BPA’s. The only one that could be questioned and debated is Moroz, but so far he’s been a good pick and has developed at a good pace but will need more time.

  • Slapshot

    The biggest bonehead decision was Lowe picking Tambellini as the general manager of the Oilers, that move will continue to have implications on this team for years to come,how Lowe still has a job after watching dithers do nothing but sit on his hands is beyond me,just maybe Lowe doesn’t know a thing or two about winning ,his record as POHO would confirm that.

  • Bob Mac’s list from 2007 had Sam Gagner at 7.. so not really a stretch, by any means. I seem to recall being happy at the time, but honestly I don’t remember. I actually remember being pissed at the Oilers for beating Calgary in the last game of the season to slip out of the 5th spot, which is where Chicago was when they won the lotto (despite losing almost every other game in like a 20 game stretch). I later felt that was a very Oiler fan thing to do.. get mad at a team for winning.

    Anyways, I don’t mind the Gagner pick. I even was a proponent, at the time, of rushing Gagner in the league. It came at a time when we were at an all time low (little did we know, we hadn’t seen nothing yet). But hindsight also taught us that rushing Gags in the league was wrong. You kind of have to wonder what could have been if he was drafted by San Jose. I bet he’d we’d be jealous of their pick still.

    There is no question though that Plante and Nash were duds, and it’s impossible not to want to kick the Oil scouts in the nuts for what they missed (well, using hindsight here).

    • OilersDynasty

      Even if we stayed in the 5th spot, we wouldn’t have won the lottery. The lottery’s numbered balls are assigned to the teams, not the position they’re in, in the standings.

      • You are right, although the Oilers would have had more lotto balls, Chicago less, and the draft could have gone differently. Really, either way it didn’t make sense to be worried about it, and that was part of my point… it is a little silly that sometimes we get caught up in things like “what could have happened ifs”. This year, even though the Oilers were close to finishing 2nd last, I was just hoping for as much of a climb as they could get.

        • OilersDynasty

          Yeah, I hear you man. I’m not as mad as other Oilers fan with the way things are going because I know that sooner rather than later we’re going to be a better team. We’re going to make the playoffs and we’re going to win the Stanley Cup. I’d rather go through the heartache’s right now for a Detroit-esque type run of 20+ straight years in the playoffs.

    • toprightcorner

      Why do people keep thinking if we lost the last game to Calgary we would have gotten first pick instead of Chicago?

      Firstly, the balls had team names on it, not position, so if you think the it was one of the extra 3 balls Chicago had was chosen and they should have been Edmonton balls you have no concept of how odds work.

      Secondly, If Edmonton would have lost that game they would not have been sloted as the 5th last team, they would have been 4th last and Washington would have been 5th last in what ended up being Chicago’s position, so if your dumb enough to beleive the previous notion then Washington would have drafted Kane and Washington would have won 2 cups since then.

      Get it through your skulls, winning that last game did not cost us from drafting Kane so move on to the present already!

      Even if we had Kane, we don’t have Towes, Keith, Hossa, Seabrook or Hossa, we would have Kane and no Hall or Nuge or Eberle or Yak or Nurse either as we would not have had picks that early, you don’t just get to add Kane to the existing roster. We would still have had Tambo and probably worse then we are. So I suppose you could say winning that game will cost us Conner McDavid too.

  • Aitch

    Plante and Gagner are both examples of good players looking better playing with superior players. Unfortunately, the Oilers made a habit of drafting those sidekicks.

    • Sorensenator

      Yeah it was bad for a while, but its hard to argue the choices they made the last five years. Sure they could have taken Murray over Yakupov, however 9 out of 10 scouts gave Yakupov the consensus number 1.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Its obvious Sam Gagner has an albatross of a contract around his neck. 4.8m next two yrs? ouch

    That being said. If Sam can manage to have a bounce back year in 14/15 and put up 45-55 points it would go a long way to defend his value. Both in contract and draft.

    I feel bad for the kid honestly. He is far from a bust and can be a valuable contributor giving the right scenario….cough, Andrew Cogliano, cough… Dan Cleary.

    This kid is getting way to bad of rap. Much like the kids. He is not exactly put in a situation to succeed.

    • Sorensenator

      The unfortunate thing is Gagner’s contract is based on the 2012-2013 season where he put up 38 points in 48 games pro rated at 65 pts over a full season. 4.8 million is reasonable for a 65 point player however Gagner was not consistent in showing he could be that guy.

      Same deal for Shawn Horcoff, in 2007/2008, Horcoff put up a ridiculous 50 points in 53 games which earned him the gargantuan cap hit of 5.5 million.
      He never lived up those numbers.

      He is a perfect fit on a big team that needs scoring depth.

  • ubermiguel

    Not to pile on but after Nash also came Backlund, Galiardi, Benn, Gunnarsson. Amateur Scouting should be looking at these drafts and asking “What did we overlook in these guys?” and “How can we find these guys next draft?”

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Wasn’t most of the scouting team responsible for this draft fired?

    Stu has done a much better job since taking over- Eberle, Marincin, Gernat, Klefbom, etc

        • camdog

          Considering the organisational rot I do believe that Sam and Marincin isn’t all that bad. Most 1st round picks never play a game in the NHL.

          Personally I believe that the problems in Sam’s game could have been rectified by now if Sam played for a “tier 1” or even a “tier” 2 organisation. The Oilers failure to develop prospects into better hockey players is not all on the scouting staff. As to that top list Eller, McDonaugh, and Shattenkirk were all dealt before their potential was ever reached.

          • “Considering the organisational rot I do believe that Sam and Marincin isn’t all that bad. Most 1st round picks never play a game in the NHL.”

            I thought your original argument was dubious, but if you insist on sticking with it, you’ll have to approach it another way because what you just said has no basis in fact.

            Just looking at the draft years 2007-11 — it’s too early to know how the drafts of 2012 and 2013 will turn out — 127 of 150 players drafted in the first round have played in the NHL. You’ll find similar numbers through other five-year segments.

            2007 — 25/30
            2008 — 26/30
            2009 — 29/30
            2010 — 27/30
            2011 — 20/30

          • camdog

            Just curious what your take is on my other comment

            “When developing young forwards the Oilers put too much emphasis on scoring. It’s happened with multiple, young oil prospects. It’s a cultural problem within the organisation.”

            Does this comment have merit, or am I reaching?

          • Player development is just as much of a problem as poor drafting for the Oilers. One impacts the other.

            Teams with as little depth as the Oilers tend to rush prospects through the system rather than letting them round-out their games in junior and the minors.

            Marginal kids who might have made it wash out altogether and blue chip kids often become less than they could have been because they don’t immediately get results when pushed into the NHL early and confidence wanes.

          • Joy S. Lee

            This is a ridiculous comment, I mean, c’mon, really? 1st round picks are generally the FOUNDATION of most teams rosters. Do you just prefer to paddle upstream?

          • camdog

            My comment was in reference to the Oiler first round picks in 2007 being busts. As the article headline states the “2007 Entry draft the Big Miss”. Plante was the only miss of the 3. Never did I state that 1st round picks are not the foundation to most teams roster.

            I believe Gags was a good pick where he was taken. On another team with proper development I think that Gags could have become a better player. It’s easy to pick players that have become success’s and state that they would be stars on the Oilers if we had drafted them, but the reality is we don’t develop players properly.

          • Joy S. Lee

            Okay, fair enough, I misread your meaning. But I do agree that the Oilers player development has lacked a lot of… er, um… development. And Sam Gagner is the poster boy for that lacking. In almost a decade, he’s still the same player he was on day one. That falls on either the organization or the player, and probably both.

            In my own estimation at the time, I was torn over Gagner or Voracek. They should have chosen the bigger guy on that one, as it turns out, but I didn’t really know, either.

            However, what I did realize was that they should have dealt Gagner the week following his 8-point outburst. I knew that then, and I know that now. How the team hasn’t recognized it until now… that’s the part I don’t understand, because he’s just not the right fit for this team at this time.

            And that’s the real problem; How would Brodziak look here? Andrew Cogliano? This team chose other guys who disappeared shortly thereafter, or remain, but have sunk. The organization hasn’t been able to assess it’s own players in their development stages. Now THAT is a scary, scary thought…

          • I believe that in time we will see that the one thing Tambi did correctly was revamp the developmental system. What is in place now is light years ahead of his tenure.

            I 100% agree with the problem the Oilers have in assessing their own talent and making the right timely moves. Brodziak dumped for nothing, Gilbert traded for less of a player, Cogliano dumped for magic beans are examples. Gagner’s true colors were known 2-3 years ago. It was clear they should of showcased him for his strengths and traded him to a team for a different valuable piece. Properly done between coach and GM i believe a solid 2nd line player of a different makeup could of been had. Now they would likely jump at a 2nd and 3rd round pick for him. Poor poor asset management. Successful teams are so much more effective in this area then the Oilers. Apparerently this inability to assess talent or lack thereof stretches to the coaching ranks with Bucky And Smith still holding their positions.

  • Aitch

    One can excuse them for missing this player or that, but the fact that they never seem to be the ones finding these guys later… NEVER.. says they are weak at something. They haven’t found a star outside the first round since Kurri, over 30 years ago.

  • Sorensenator

    Hindsight is more then a luxury. It’s a way to learn from mistakes and a tool to judge a persons managerial mistakes. For example: in hindsight, the oilers probably wouldn’t promote Lowe to POHO