When it comes to discussions about the need for the Edmonton Oilers to add size and edginess to their line-up, I’ve often said you can’t go by size alone because big players can play small and small players can play big.

That’s probably why I’ve got mixed feelings that the Oilers will likely have the opportunity to select Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Draisaitl is big. He’s skilled. He’s a centre. The question about Draisaitl, at least among many fans, is his competitive nature. Does he play with enough passion? Does he have enough edge to his game? Or, is he a soft, passive player in a big body without the fire of slightly smaller Sam Bennett?

That’s the question, and I don’t have a definitive answer. Jason Gregor just posted an in-depth interview he did with Draisaitl on the show last week, so I won’t go over too much of the ground he’s already covered, but for me, the money quote from the interview is obvious.



GREGOR: “Some suggest that you’re not maybe a fireball, you’re not highly competitive. From games I’ve seen, I don’t agree with that. How do you respond to those who suggest that maybe you’re not a highly competitive player?” 
DRAISAITL: “I know I’m a really, really competitive person. I want to win every single game. I know people say that about me but you know, I think it’s the style of game I play. In my opinion, that’s why people say that a lot.

“I like to control the game rather than speeding it up all of the time. And I know that I have to learn to speed it up too and that’s something that I’m working on right now, and I know that’s one of my weaknesses. I think that’s what people say because I like to control the game. I like to have the puck on my stick and then make things happen and you know. But I know that I have to work on it for sure, it’s definitely one of my weaknesses.”

Playing big doesn’t necessarily mean running opponents through the boards (not that doing so is a bad thing in my books) or dropping the gloves at every sideways glance from an opponent (ditto). It’s about willingness to compete. It’s about hating to lose. It’s about being hard on the puck. It involves cliché stuff about being at your best when the chips are down. It’s about becoming more engaged rather than backing off when it gets nasty. 

I’ve seen countless big players without the first clue about what it takes to truly compete and play with an edge (hello, Jason Bonsignore) and I’ve seen just as many small players with spit-in-your-eye brass and gumption that far outstrips their physical size (Doug Gilmour comes to mind). 

The old axiom tells us it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. I’ve always believed that. Whether that trait comes in a bigger body like Draisaitl or somebody like Bennett or Sam Reinhart, that’s the player the Oilers need when they take the podium in Philadelphia.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . . 


. . . Jonathan Willis has done a couple of items of late about Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. On merit, I believe Nelson deserves a promotion to the NHL, but I question the wisdom of adding a coach without considerable NHL coaching experience to the Edmonton staff, given its make-up now

Dallas Eakins has one season as an NHL head coach on his resume. He needs an experienced addition to his staff, not somebody learning on the fly. Eakins needs help in the form of a seasoned veteran coach, not a newbie, so the timing isn’t good. That’s not Nelson’s fault, but it is his problem.

. . . I’m not the first to mention this, but I wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers and Craig MacTavish might re-visit the possibility of getting a deal done at the draft in June. The Flyers are always open for business and I can see new GM Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren wanting to move up in draft order. 
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
    • Damn, that was a good article.

      I think though he missed the boat when looking at Chicago. In terms of draft success it was neat to see Detroit is a good model for development, but haven’t pulled an elite player out of the draft in forever.

      I don’t mind the conclusion that Boston has been the best at the draft table over the last decade, but I would argue no team even touches Chicago’s drat ability. In addition to Elite talent like Kane, Towes, and Keith, they also drafted Buflygn, Seebrook, Saad, Shaw, Bickle, Versteeg, Crawford, Hjalmarsson, and Smith.

      That is an entire team basically built through the draft with only Oduya and Hossa being other real big impact players on the team.

      Main difference between the Oil and Chicago in terms of successful rebuild through the draft, Chicago’s ability to draft actual NHL talent, or at least develop into talent instead of washing it out of the league or sending it away before becoming a useful player (Greene, Cogliano, Brodziak, Nash)

      • HockeyYoda

        Boston is good at drafting no doubt. But I think it’s important to factor in the draft number they were picking those elite players. If you’re picking top three or four -some years you can’t miss. Two of Boston’s three elite players were top five picks. What impresses me more is when teams are able to find gems in the second or later rounds. As you’ve pointed out, this is what Chicago has done so effectively. Montreal is also very good at finding gems. (Subban 2nd rd). While teams like Florida have had a lot of misses with high picks and the result is obvious.

  • What I don’t understand brownlee is why when someone questions you about a blog you written or something on twitter you get all defensive about it? I agree with the first comment made in this section and you get all defensive. How about growing some thick shoulders and not always upset about what people say? Geez

  • vetinari

    Basically, it seems like most would generally prefer that we use our pick on someone in the mold of a Lucic who is willing to cross the line from time to time to make a point or to avenge a wrong and this is not Draisaitl… that being said, I would love to fill the 2C spot with a puck possession type of player like Draisaitl and find a coke machine who can skate and play the wing instead.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Gregor brought up an interesting note about Draisaitl. He’s very new to the North American game, and Leon’s made huge strides just in his second year over. Makes you wonder how much more progression there may be.

    That being said, on this discussion about compete and fight level, certain styles of play are more obvious to the naked eye than others. Banging and crashing is not only more obvious to fans, but maybe also to the team watching from the bench. There was many a night last year where we’ve seen this team come out flat. I wonder if having a top 6 guy with some mash and moxy would get these guys going. The old lead by example cliche.

      • Toronto just fired all their assistants and kept their head coach. Maybe we should do the same since it’s one of the two only areas we haven’t purged in a while. The other being Kevin Lowe of course.

        Not that I’m all over the Kevin Lowe/assistant coaches gravy train of hate but results are results 🙁

        • Seems like every team that is now done for the season (except the Oilers) have made some management/coaching change. Good to see we are on the right path with who we have, and we will continue on this path (sarcasm font. I guess it is all the players fault.

        • What I’d like to see happen and what I think will happen are two distinctly different matters.

          Buchberger’s tenure here under multiple head coaches speaks for itself. I think he should have been gone long ago. I don’t suspect that will happen, given his relationship with Lowe and Katz. As for Smith, I haven’t heard much negative about him, but you could also argue he could/should be gone because head coaches should pick their assistants.

          Nelson looks like a fine young coach to me and I’d have no problem adding him and an experienced NHL coach, but unless somebody goes that’s not going to happen.

          • WeridAl

            According to Willis there is no statistic to measure whether or not Katz and Lowes’ relationship with Buchberger has a negative impact on the team. So I guess we’re stuck with them.

          • Hiring an NHL experienced coach might not want to just be an assistant and may want the associate title. What that title really means I have no idea in the pecking order of things. So I guess it would put the spotlight on Acton as to what he brings as the associate coach is his spot.

            Personally I think if you make changes you change them all. This may or may not be dumb lol. Not a hockey know it all and never will be but the blunt observation for me is that Eakins needs better help if he is going to stay in Edmonton. The combo of Eakins head coach / NHL experienced associate coach insert here / Nelson as assistant would be good.

            Eakins record for the Marlies in his first season was pretty terrible. The later 2 however…. 🙂

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    When it comes to drafting my personal thoughts are you take every single positive quality you can think of and try to find draftees with the highest collected amount of those qualities.

    I don’t really think you can go wrong with either Draisatl, Bennett, or Ekblad as our pick. Bennett/Drais are pretty much the same quality player in my books. So for me it’s Ekblad and if not Drais > Bennett just because Drais just happens and will be bigger then Bennett in the long haul.

  • Jason Gregor

    If Leon is the kind of player that never quits on a play……..shows puck patience and controls the play, that is good enough for me.

    A part of me says I would rather gamble on a big guy who has skill, given the general size of our top six forwards. Sam Bennett is very interesting because he plays more like Nathan Mckinnion and has an attitude like Darcy Tucker…….what is not to like, except he is small right now.

    I’m still praying Ekblad falls to us!

  • Jason Gregor

    So, more numbers then?

    Items here are a mix of analysis and opinion. There’s room for both. Find what you like and don’t bitch about what you don’t. It’s really boring.

    • I did my absolute best to provide constructive feedback without dumping on you like some people seem to.

      Your reply does give me an idea why people skip the constructive feedback. I’m not “bitching”.

      As a former freelance writer and editor in chief of a major gaming website myself, I understand there are deadlines, that you can’t always get someone you’d like to talk to on the phone for a quote. I’m sure some people here imagine they’ll ring up the Raiders HQ, get the coach on the line for a tidbit, or maybe talk to the staff on the Oil Kings and see what they had to think about Draisaitl’s consistency, but I realize that’s unrealistic. Teams aren’t going to rudely comment on a player from another squad, and the coaching staff on the Raiders probably has better things to do than answer the same question, especially when they too aren’t going to criticize their own guy – doubly so when he might come back to play for them.

      That said, you can back up your opinion a bit better. Ask yourself, what differentiates this blog post from any of a dozen comments on HFBoards right now? You found some quotes and you shared your opinion on them. 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, that would have been standard and acceptable. These days, opinion is cheap, so you need to spice it up a little. Bring up an uncommon fact, or maybe see if you can get Pronman on the line to elaborate on his comments – something.

          • If you want to be taken seriously, take some of your own advice and “back up your opinion better” by putting your name to your comments.

            That way, I can look up your body of work and make an informed opinion about whether you’ve got any advice worth listening to, even if I highly doubt it. Otherwise, spare me the writing tips.

          • Oilfan69

            I went out of my way to politely offer some feedback and give some points on how to flesh out a quick opinion piece, and you’ve done nothing but dump on me.

            1. Why would I give you my real name? I enjoy my anonymity and I don’t get paid for my posts. You do.

            2. The website I helped build, finance, and worked for, for over a decade, died in 2008 and I hadn’t worked for it since 2006.

            3. Many of the lessons I learned about opinion pieces came from me getting ripped for writing them badly. So I’m sure if the site was still up, you could find plenty of trash I wrote in ’97 or ’99 or even 2000 and then talk crap about what a bad writer I was. Guess what, my first few years, they were rough. You’ve also shown yourself to be petty enough that I don’t doubt that you’d go the low road.

            Have a good day, Robin.

          • Shaun

            I’m not even disagreeing with Robin’s opinion (not necessarily in agreement with it either). I simply recognize it as merely his opinion and as someone who was involved in his line of work for 10 years, I think it’s more or less mandatory these days to back an opinion up a little better. As I said, opinions are cheap these days – with the internet anyone can have a large audience.

            I’m also not expecting Robin to be a fortune teller or be able to correctly predict that Bennett or Reinhart will be better than Draisaitl – because if he was that good, there are head scouting jobs in the NHL that pay a whole lot better than freelance writing does.

            I just dislike being called a troll when I put a lot of effort into sounding neutral while I attempt to explain that position.

            Like, if I were to write an opinion piece about Bennett vs Draisaitl, and I didn’t have access to first-hand sources like coaches and scouts, I’d probably dig up that bit about 48 points in the final 22 games, contrast that with how the other guys finished the season, maybe compare to Monahan (who is another big centre who played for a bad team), and perhaps compare Reinhart to Nuge and Bennett to Brule or some other smaller firecracker type. Flesh things out a little.

            I hate coming across as critical of a writer as a person, because I don’t want to threaten Robin’s livelihood. I’m not envious of a career as a freelance writer, even if he is lucky enough to cover sports, because I know freelancing is a tough gig with not a lot of stability to it. If anything I’m trying to encourage him to see that there are ways he can add value to an article like this beyond just his opinion in and of itself.

            Anyway, I’m going to leave this thread now before I derail it completely.

  • Jason Gregor

    I agree that Eakins would benefit from the presence of an assistant with NHL head coaching experience on his staff. Given that Kirk Muller was recently let go by Carolina, would he be a viable candidate?

  • Jason Gregor

    Good points. I like Bennett over Leon. I can see Oiler fans losing patience and trying to run him out of town but do we ever need a good centre.

    I heard some talk on 1260, I think it was an ex-coach who had Kirk Muller as an assistant. He thought he had great attitude with NHL experience and would make a darn good assistant. I hope the Oiler’s are consider him, or someone similar.

  • WeridAl

    I understand this is the summer, things are slow and there’s not much to write about. Gregor provided at least an interview with Draisaitl, and while the pageviews are easy with an opinion piece, I think you can do better than merely adding the standard fluff about fight in the dog. For example, Draisaitl scored 48 points in the final 22 games of the season to push the Raiders to a playoff spot. That, to me, indicates that he is competitive, driven, and was either getting a lot of lucky bounces or was really pushing hard.

    • Lofty

      Don’t read it then. What else is there?

      The fact that you take the time to complain about a post is ridiculous. Would you rather read a stagnant article with slow posts?

      I appreciate peoples POV and enjoy Brownlees opinion. I dont agree with all/much of it or the way he replys to posts but its all entertainment. From the games to the draft, its all entertainment to pass time. Simmer down na.

      You should check out , its got some good content that provides a new article once a week with a terrible comment stream. You’ll love it!

    • Derian Hatcher

      completely agree. I form my own opinions, I don’t need to know the opinions of someone who has no influence on the team whatsoever, nor has any inside knowledge over and above what I have myself. Mac T’s opinions – yes, K-Lowe – yes, Eakins – yes. I want to see numbers and analysis that will help me grow my understanding of this team and the game as a whole. Something that might make me think about something in a different light, something that challenges convention etc etc. An opinion piece such as this is always disappointing. Only reason I open it and read it is that I am hoping it contains those evidence based conclusions that I am looking for. Then I read, and it does not. But, you got your page view. One faithful readers opinion.