THE WAY I SEE IT

Draisaitl

The good news is Leon Draisaitl brings the combination of size and skill the Edmonton Oilers have been lacking down the middle in their mix of top-six forwards for several seasons.

The bad news, unless GM Craig MacTavish gets something done on the free agent or trade front to acquire a pivot with the stature and skill to bring the same dimensions Draisaitl does, is the big German from the Prince Albert Raiders might be pressed into that role when the 2014-15 season begins.

I’m not saying Draisaitl doesn’t have the ability to step into the line-up the season after his draft day, the way Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov have, because we don’t know that yet. But if MacTavish can’t find another centre, the options are limited.

While Draisaitl looks like he’ll complement Nugent-Hopkins as a second-line centre, providing the size and skill Sam Gagner can’t, I’d rather see how that unfolds after another WHL season or, at the very least, with him starting next season here playing more protected minutes as a third-line centre.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?

Options

Preaching patience in the wake of the Entry Draft is a common refrain in every NHL city. Don’t rush the kids. Let them develop. It makes all the sense in the world. Putting it into practice is much more difficult, especially with a forward mix that shapes up the way the Oilers does. 

If Gagner is moved to the wing after his epic struggles of last season, and I suspect Jason Gregor is right when he says he expects that to happen, then there’s two open spots behind RNH — assuming Boyd Gordon is bumped down to fourth-line duty with added minutes on special teams.

I thought MacTavish would get something done to fill at least one of those holes leading into the draft or in Philadelphia – wrong again. Unless that changes in coming weeks, and MacTavish has given every indication he will be aggressive trying to make that happen, the likelihood is we’ll see Draisaitl next season, ready or not.

I’m all for Draisaitl being given the chance to compete for a roster spot, and if he earns it on merit, that’s fine by me. If he gets it because there’s no other real options in the middle and he’s force-fed into the No. 2 centre spot, not so much. Draisaitl has looked like a fit to me for several weeks, he was the obvious pick in my books, but now the player development phase kicks in.

That means surrounding yet another blue chip prospect with the right veteran support, and we know the Oilers have been less than stellar in the regard far too often in recent seasons. The results we know. They need to get it right this time.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . . 

whats-next

. . . I thought MacTavish might have a trading partner in Philadelphia, which will be up against the cap even when Chris Pronger comes off the books, because MacT and Paul Holmgren spoke at length last summer, but didn’t see much happening with new GM Ron Hextall. What about now?

. . . MacTavish has plenty of salary cap space even after the $9-million deal he handed Nikita Nikitin, so he’s got the luxury of overpaying in a UFA market that always commands top dollar. I hope MacTavish finds a way to spend some of it on Brian Boyle, who’ll test the UFA waters at the end of a three-year, $5.1 million contact with the New York Rangers. He’s a fit here.

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

  • Will

    Everyone gets down on Lowe for obvious reasons, but look at it this way. You’re Katz, the guy you hired to make the team profitable has iced an inferior product for nearly decade. In that time Rexall has sold out every night, ticket prices are high, and merchandise sales are up. On top of that player salary is down. From Lowe’s boss’ perspective, Lowe must be the best businessman on the entire planet. Lowe has nothing to do with making sure the team is good, he’s there to make sure its profitable. And in that regard, he’s knocking it out of the park. So as fans, if you really think Lowe is the problem and you want him fired, stop complaining online. Stop buying the products, going to the games, and watching the programming. Lowe’s position is dependant on the bottom line, not the wins.

      • Will

        Good for you. Keep up the fight. After purchasing a mini pack and watching the Oilers get shut out at home no less than 5 damn times last year, I also will not be going to many games.

        However, it’s hard to look at teams like the Pens and Boston, whose windows are closing, and who are now going to have to bleed players to get under the cap, and not think Edmonton has a golden opportunity, and young enough talent to capitalize for many years to come. If you really think Lowe has that much influence, then he also had it over Tambillini. You can say a lot about that guy, but not without recognizing the Oiler development system is completely revamped and is now basically providing a pipeline of development to continually feed the big club. They also got Nuge, Ebs, and Hall all on 6 mill contracts for years to come. Kane and Toews are asking for 12 mill each and that is going to have drastic effects on the team Chicago can ice after their superstars. Same situation in Pittsburgh as they now have no money to resign players like Niskanin, and have to let him walk for nothing. In two years time, When Draisaitl is coming into his own, Yakimov, Nurse, and Klefbomb are all ready to go, and the Oilers are in a good cap position. I think fans are going to start throwing a little bit more credit back in hindsight. They are in a tough spot in that no players wanted to come here. As a manager, how do you make your team better when you can’t get players to play here? Incrementally. I am as mad as you I’ve had to sit through this crap, but looking at the ever growing assets the team has, and the dire position of other contenders, it is becoming clear Oilers management might just not be as incompetent as all the short sighted fans think. But I could be flat wrong.

      • Good for you. Keep up the fight. After purchasing a mini pack and watching the Oilers get shut out at home no less than 5 damn times last year, I also will not be going to many games.

        However, it’s hard to look at teams like the Pens and Boston, whose windows are closing, and who are now going to have to bleed players to get under the cap, and not think Edmonton has a golden opportunity, and young enough talent to capitalize for many years to come. If you really think Lowe has that much influence, then he also had it over Tambillini. You can say a lot about that guy, but not without recognizing the Oiler development system is completely revamped and is now basically providing a pipeline of development to continually feed the big club. They also got Nuge, Ebs, and Hall all on 6 mill contracts for years to come. Kane and Toews are asking for 12 mill each and that is going to have drastic effects on the team Chicago can ice after their superstars. Same situation in Pittsburgh as they now have no money to resign players like Niskanin, and have to let him walk for nothing. In two years time, When Draisaitl is coming into his own, Yakimov, Nurse, and Klefbomb are all ready to go, and the Oilers are in a good cap position. I think fans are going to start throwing a little bit more credit back in hindsight. They are in a tough spot in that no players wanted to come here. As a manager, how do you make your team better when you can’t get players to play here? Incrementally. I am as mad as you I’ve had to sit through this crap, but looking at the ever growing assets the team has, and the dire position of other contenders, it is becoming clear Oilers management might just not be as incompetent as all the short sighted fans think. But I could be flat wrong.

    • Spydyr

      @Will: Actually Patrick LaForge is the guy that was hired to make the team profitable and you are 100% correct – he is a hell of a businessman. Average attendance has been 16774 since he took over in 2000.

      Kevin Lowe is the guy that was hired to make the team successful on the ice. In the 13 years KLowe has been at the top, the team has a 0.491 average winning percentage and made the playoffs only 3 times (getting out of the first round ONCE).

      Kevin Lowe’s record indicates he’s proven to be very inept at running hockey operations.

    • Wax Man Riley

      You are an idiot. The strong attendance is not the doing of Kblowe. This team is incredibly fortunate that the great people of this city are die hard hockey fans and continue to support any and all hockey in this city despite of the incompetence of Kblowe. Give your head a shake – 2 tiers of fans!!! What moron would ever say that? How does that help sell the team? If it weren’t for the great fans in this city Rexall would be less than half full. And as much as the fans are loyal if things don’t change with the attitude in the front office there eventually will come a time when they take their hard earned money and spend it else where. That day is probably sooner than Katz realizes. I am starting to think you must be getting paid by Katz to try and defend the image of his buddy on the fan sites. This is supposed to be a place for fans to express themselves. Not the katz pr team talking stupid. And just so you know Kblowe has said himself in recent interviews that MacT runs things by him and they discuss it, he is still a part of the hockey / player decisions.

  • boyo’s, it’s time to rejoice! for once we didn’t pick a small body, did anyone see the size of draisatl’s shoulders! he’s a great asset. Mac is done very well in his first full year. We shall see what free agency and summer trades will do for the oil.

    • Grant

      Did not expect a bunch of trades on draft day but I do think Mact will be hard charging on free agency day to address needs.Another big centre and a winger and another dman or 2.
      He has made some nice moves so far, and I think he is a smart hockey man. So let’s see what he does with UFA’s

  • Spydyr

    Same old, same old. I could have picked Draisaitl with the 3rd overall selection.
    The rest of the ’14 draft was a walkover highlighted by gross indifference. It didn’t take long for commentors to pan the seeming lack of planning for the remainder of the Oiler’s draft. What the hell have MacGregor and the rest of the sciuts been doing all tear. Is this best they ciuld come up with.

    Now I can see first-hand why the Oiler’s draft record is laughably bad. I would have kept Bryz and shopped for one of the free agent goalkeepers in the off season. They could have used the draft pick. It certainly wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the season.

  • Lando

    Draisaitl was the right pick. I like his upside given he has only played 2 years of hockey against real competition and really excelled. Some say his skating is an issue, but that can be worked on. He skating looked fine at the Worlds. He is built like a horse, he is going to be very strong.

  • Germoil

    Legalize Oregano!

    Politics aside. Some slightly inebriated thoughts.

    Draisaitl: The pick? Can’t complain. Big Center with skill. A need.

    Should he be sent back to JR? I’d say lets see what he does in the next few months. If he does make the team I would suggest he plays on the fourth line to start. Get a feel.

    Who plays second line center? Right now you got Gagner… I think you need to find an upgrade even if it’s just better than Gagner.

    FA, hopefully, has somebody willing to play for the Blue.

    However, if you cannot, I could understand Gagner playing center on the 2nd for half a season. The hope being he can hold his own until Draisaitl can take those minutes and perform better.

    All that said, if you can get a 2nd line center and a 3-4 defenceman from FA or a trade I think 8th spot is achievable.

    Puck it, lets call it the “Flint Michigan Mega Bowl!”

    8th spot!

    Upgrades will help but I’d like to see some one on one puck battles won. Or two on one, but some pucking puck battles won. In the D-zone, in the Neutral Zone, the pucking O-zone.

    Greatest improvement on this team will come from those that already wear the Blue.

    Overpay on Nikitin? Sure. Cap constraint because of it? Laughable. It’s two years.

    Puck, sign two more…

    Draft? All good with the first round selection. And, I like the Swede D-man. The rest? Well, lets see what happens. Puck can you say? They need to draft efficiently? Yes, they do…

    Trades? As I see it the Oil just don’t have the the assets to make a significant trade. Lots of youth, but the potential far out ways what seems to be available.

    Schultz and Petry? Two years at 3mil per. My source? Haitian lady. She knows her sh*t!

    FYI Haitians are great people.

    With the cap sitting where it is and the space the Oil have I thinks it’s a reasonable assumption that two of the better FA’s will be enticed to come to the E. Cash money speaks volumes.

    Big dollas for two years. It sounds very noncommittal and I like that.

    Lets see what happens.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There is also this cap issue that will force 3 or 4 teams to maybe cut a player loose they weren’t counting on. The cap dropping to 69 rather than 71 will free up a number of players. There’s a number of teams at or near 71 million with only 19 or 20 players signed. Craig should be all over that. the Flyers,Boston, Kings, Hawks and a few others will have to re think some guys.

    This would be a great opportunity to make some decisions on some AHL guys. Fedun, Musil, Gernat, Pitlick, Petry, Perron, Fasth or Scrivens……all up for grabs if the player coming back is worth it. Teams like these want prospects coming back with little or no NHL cap hit to speak of.

    Ah, ship, this is the Oilers we’re talking about. forget I mentioned all that.

    • Dan 1919

      What do you think if would take for this debacle to push for a playoff spot.

      Miraculously land a second line center, Gordon on the 4th line, let Gagner, Arco and Lander battle for the third Line C. Add another 1 or 2 NHL Dmen, and hope for one hell of a rookie campaign from either Klefbom or Nurse.

      Really grasping here for some sort of minute realistic possibility so I left Draisaitl to develop this year because I don’t think he is good enough yet to be an impact 2C on a playoff team.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What do you think if would take for this debacle to push for a playoff spot.

        _________________________________________________________________

        The only thing available to the Oilers is waiting 3 or 4 years. Keep adding 19 and 20 yr olds to the roster. Growing their own “actual NHL players” till there’s something here that resembles an NHL team.

        Signing and grossly overpaying B and C level guys like Nikitin only robs the Oilers of achieving any kind of needed depth/competitive lineup. These guys coming in this week are nothing but fools gold. Here more for the “Edmonton bonus” than they are for the betterment of the team. The deals this week should all be 2 yrs max. So they’re all gone when the wandering in the desert concludes in that 3-4 yrs.

  • Serious Gord

    Oilers continuing to add valuable players thru the draft . They are hardly the problem here . They have done an inadequate job up till now of getting a good core of veterans around/surrounding them . At least the defence is going to be stronger as Marincin, Klefbom and Nurse are capable of remaining on parent club . Rushing our youth is/ has not been a real problem -it’s whom they are surrounding them with basically for the last 4-5 seasons . These kids will grow rapidly if MacT. can form a decent core around them . So far he has not done that to a degree that leads to better results .
    Draisaitl is probably our best option for 2nd center going into next season rather than suffer thru Arco , Landers , and Gags again at center . They simply were not good enough last year and Gags would have to have a great improvement to help much . Stick with the size upgrades until we are big enough to compete with the other clubs , and to compensate because our youth skill is not overly physical .

  • Serious Gord

    Many posters insist that Draisaitl be sent back to junior to develop. Personally, I think the Habs approach with Galchenyuk was very effective.

    They played Galchenyuk on the wing in a 3rd and 4th line role. This gave him time to adapt to the faster NHL pace but it also gave him a chance begin bonding with his team mates.

    I think this approach could work well for the Oilers provided they acquire a player that can play #2C, because we know that Gagner is not the answer at centre or on the wing.

  • Grant

    Mact was a great coach with what he had to work with! Until a bunch of Veterans thought they could do what they wanted on ice ie: Sheldon Soursy until he got banished!!

  • Grant

    Mact was a great coach with what he had to work with! Until a bunch of Veterans thought they could do what they wanted on ice ie: Sheldon Soursy until he got banished!!

    • Grant

      I like Steve Ott but would you play him in the number 2 spot or if he plays third line where do you play Draisaitl?
      He didn’t get many points last year but he brings toughness and grit.

  • Grant

    Just read that Christain Ehrhoff has just been bought out. If Edmonton could sign him that would be a big defensive signing for Edmonton and maybe that would be enough for their defense right now.
    Ehrhoff
    Nikitin
    Petry
    Schultz
    Marincin
    Ference
    In no particular order.

    • Grant

      Ehrhoff being German might be a huge acquisition for Edmonton as he could also take the younger German, Draisaitl , under his wing and help him get accustomed to the NHL.

  • oilerbuff

    Here, here, I’m all for getting a giant like Brian Boyle but moving Sam to the wings on a shut down line, makes little sense.

    Firstly he is small, slow, and has never played a defensive game in his life. Just how moving him to the third line will equal success is confounding at best. The only option we have is trading him to a team that needs a little offence………the only hope we have is getting a second rounder for him.

    I say Mac T stop holding out hope that he will develop into something and trade him now for what ever you can get. We can fill his skill set by using the UFA market more effectively than we have done before.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Draisatl is a very underrated pick. He has great size to protect the puck BUT is a very good producer. He scored the same amount of points as Sam Rienhart but Rienhart had a better team. Colin Valcourt(28-44-72 in 71 games) was Draisatl’s best winger.Rienhart’s best winger was Jaedon Deschanou (44-54-98 in 70 games). Forget that “dissapointing World juniors performance” crap, look who he had to play with. He has better players now. He will be clearly NHL-ready after a year in Juniors

  • Wax Man Riley

    Boghdan Yakimov 6’4.75″ 222lb
    .36 PPG at 9:50 even in KHL
    NHLE is 15 EVG 11 EVA
    59% FO KHL
    his 19 years season
    would likely be
    18EVG 13 EVA
    I look forward to that size in camp.

    • Grant

      I like Yakimov’s size as well, but even allowing for his age, 12 points in 33 games doesn’t grab my attention. Neither did his two points in seven games at the 2014 World Junior Championship, although you can’t put too much into one tournament.

      Patrick Thoresen has averaged better than a point per game over the past five KHL seasons, albeit in his mid-20s to age 30, and he wasn’t close to be an offensive force in the NHL. Lots of other examples of players like that and lots of variance in the accuracy of NHLE.

      Lets see the actual numbers he puts up over here before we decide if he’s a player or Alexei Mikhnov.

  • Wax Man Riley

    RB:

    Hall and Yak best Offensive production and Goal differential was with Horcoff and Belanger. Good FO and linear holding centres.

    B. Boyles 53% FO would be wonderful between them!

    Or

    as a wing option for
    RNH 41.7% FO