THE GUESSING GAME

Craig MacTavish2

For my money, the last two weeks of June leading into the annual NHL Entry Draft and the free agent season are the most fun for fans, media types and armchair general managers alike. That holds especially true in a hockey hotbed like Edmonton. Here we are again.

Whether you’re a jersey-wearing fan of the Oilers, a press pass-toting beat writer who lives in the dressing room and on the road with the team during the season or a blogger running advanced stats from afar, everybody has an opinion about what GM Craig MacTavish will or should do over the next few weeks.

Some opinions, of course, are more educated than others – be it about who MacTavish should select with the third pick at the podium in Philadelphia, who he should send away via trade, who he should acquire and what free agents best fill the many holes on his roster – but everybody has a take.

In the end, though, it’s largely guesswork, even for those closest to the decision-makers, those who work the room, their sources and the phones gathering snippets of information here and there. Sometimes you put two and two together and get it exactly right. More often, you don’t.

My guess, albeit much less educated after seven years away from the daily grind, after listening to MacTavish and trying to connect the dots is the next few weeks will be full of twists and turns for fans of the Oilers.

MY TAKES

My takes on some of the obvious topics . . .

Who to take with the third selection? I’m not alone in thinking MacTavish would do handstands if Aaron Ekblad, who is clearly the best defenseman in the draft, was available at No. 3. He won’t be, of course. Next best is centre Leon Draisaitl. Duh! I see Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart as more of what the Oilers have too much of already – smallish skill.

Will MacTavish consider trading the No. 3 pick for immediate help? Of course he will – he said so this week. We always get move-up/move-down rumors at this time of the off-season. They seldom amount to much. That said, Edmonton’s selection will be up for grabs, especially if Ekblad and Draisaitl are gone when the Oilers pick. That doesn’t mean MacTavish will get something done, but expect him to work the floor big-time if it does.

What does the No. 3 pick get the Oilers in a trade? Depends. If MacTavish swaps picks in the 10-20 slots, he can get a useful player as part of that deal to fill one of the four or five roster spots he talked about the other day, be it a defenseman or a forward. I keep thinking that can happen with Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers, who pick 17th.

What about the third pick straight up for a player? There’s been a lot of buzz about the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane in that scenario. I’d do that deal for Kane, growing pains and all. I’d also do it for an established top-pairing defenseman, like Dion Phaneuf. I doubt the Toronto Maple Leafs would unless there was a sweetener.

While it’s rare for a top-three pick to be traded, MacTavish’s stated goal of looking to fill as many as five roster spots (including a puck-moving defenseman and a shutdown type) and his admission he’s had “some fairly intriguing conversations at this point” about the third pick in an interview with Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED Tuesday speak for themselves.

INDICATIONS ARE . . .

89-Gagner-8

MacTavish won’t get a proven top-pairing blueliner for spare parts. He won’t be able to turn Sam Gagner and a secondary prospect into the minute-eating puck mover or a shutdown guy he covets. MacTavish said he isn’t willing to dip into his core to get what he needs. He said he’d like to fill some holes by way of trade rather than relying on free agency.

So, if MacTavish won’t touch his core and Gagner isn’t worth much more than a bag of pucks right now, moving the No. 3 pick via straight trade or trade with a swap of picks comes into play. I’m not arguing that’s the right move or the wrong move, I’m just saying everything points to that as a big bargaining chip.

As for free agents, the candidates we know: up front, Mikhail Grabovski would fit as a second-line centre. There’s wingers Nikolai Kulemin and Daniel Winnik. I’d inquire about Brian Boyle as a third-line pivot. They’ll get overpaid, especially to come to Edmonton. Lots of other possibilities, too, but I’m not going to print the phone book so I can say “I called it” if one of them ends up here.

That’s my take. Yours?

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

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Oilers will hang up. They will not trade with those idiot Canucks after the stupid Canucks rejected the Oilers offer for Schneider last year. Oilers probably want Reinhart themselves and Reinhart would love playing for the Oilers.

      • You realize that was a blessing in disguise right?

        One of the players going to Van was Paajarvi, no Paajarvi, no Perron.

        As for Drasatle……well since you hate him so much…..Guess who the Oilers pick. Karma a bitch when it comes to the Oilers.

  • bazmagoo

    One thing I’m sure we can all agree on – whether we get Ekblad, Draisaitl, Reinhart or Bennett the future continues to look bright in Oilersnation. I have faith in MacT’s ability to bring in some solid secondary pieces over the summer. I don’t have faith in Eakins coaching ability, but am hoping he proves me wrong.

    No more losing though, it’s time to compete!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As far as the center thing goes, that’s a tough decision indeed. Do we take the 3/4″ 20lbs slower and taller Germainian, who plays smaller mans style of game. Plays soft, but with elite potential skill like all the other lotto picks we have. Or, should we take the nealy 6’1″ guy (Bennett) who plays a larger mans aggressive style of game.

    A poor decision will be Calgarys gain for the remainder of our infinibuild thing we got goin on. It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.

    MacTavish needs to keep that pipeline of prospects going (that 3rd selection) and lock in that potential furture driver. Any trades/free agency/taking on other teams salary dumps stuffs need to happen after the (Entry Draft) fact.

    • Jaxon

      Given our conference, I think it’s a no brainer to take the big German who is tough to knock off the puck. Yes the compete level on the Oilers is lacking and that is something Bennet brings in spades, but how well will that translate to the Western conference when he’s trying to bang against monsters.

      Not playing competitive aside, I think the Oilers have a far larger problem turning the puck over because they can’t win the one on one puck battles.

      Plus I’d rather see Calgary with a group of competitive but undersized forwards as their core going forward over a team that doesn’t have to play hard because they can just muscle us off the puck.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        You guys have to get over this preoccupation with size. You do know that the Rangers, who dress some of the tallest players in the league got thumped last week. Behemoths all, Brian Boyle 6’7 245lbs, Rick Nash 6’5″ 230lbs, Benoit Pouliot 6’4″ 200lbs, and Marc Stall 6’3″ 220lbs…..all gave up the fight with barely a whimper.

        It’s the amount of fight in the dog that wins the fight, not the largest dog in the fight.

        • Jaxon

          Yes that x y rhetoric really explains the issue. It’s hilarious that you use an example of a huge team losing to an even bigger team to justify why size in the new NHL, especially in the western conference, is not important.

          The kings have one forward player under 6 foot, 4 of those are under 200 pounds. On defense, none under 6 foot and only one under 200 pounds.

          New York Forwards have three under 6 foot, 7 others right at 6 foot, and only 6 listed over 200 pounds. Defense is a similar story.

          So please, tell me again how the losing team which was smaller than the wining team makes an argument for size not being an issue.

          • headmetal

            I’d also like to point out almost redundantly that on their way to the cup finals, the Kings had to go through every other big western conference team except St Louis. All those series went to 7. New York was done in 5.

            Second, it kind of looks like the biggest Eastern Conference Team met the biggest Western conference team, and the larger team won.

            You go all the way with your size argument, but as an Oilers fan, the sad fact is it’s what we tell ourselves because our team is small, and we keep hoping that if they just play with some fire, they’ll be able to compete in the conference. Unfortunately it’s just not true.

            Until they get bigger, the Oilers will continually struggle in the West.

            Fortunately, the more guys getting bought out and the more breaking down in contract negotiations, it seems our team could indeed get bigger before September. Maybe they will trade Gagner for Phanuef, and they get Boychuck as well. Perhaps Brian Boyle signs here as our third line centre and the Oilers draft Draisaitl. Then maybe they grab Winnik and Booth to round out the bottom six. Overnight we went from a small team, to an average team.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            It obviously means nothing to you that the Conn Smythe trophy winner (the best of the best). What a bloody travesty that speed, skill and competitiveness trumped size on this occasion.

            Justin Williams, is the exact same size as Sam Bennett is right now.

            Was it just be an aberration? Not.

            Last 5 Conn Smthe trophy winners Justin Williams 5’11”, Patrick Kane 5’10”, John Quick 6’1″, Tim Thomas 6’1″, John Toews 6’2″…..all the best amongst their team mates and their competition. This rhetoric may help explain the issue for you.

      • OILERS NEED TO STAY AWAY FROM THE OVER-HYPED AND OVERRATED DRAISAITL. Draisaitl is the most over-hyped and overrated prospect in the draft. If Ekblad is gone, draft Bennett or Reinhart but do not draft the over-hyped and overrated Draisaitl who could easily be a bust like Bonsignore.

    • Jaxon

      I’m not so sure its a no brainer. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t there thought to be little difference between picks 3 and 4 this year? I think both players will good picks, regardless of which team they go to.

    • Jaxon

      I’m not so sure its a no brainer. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t there thought to be little difference between picks 3 and 4 this year? I think both players will good picks, regardless of which team they go to.

  • Jaxon

    I think Toronto would do Phaneuf for the 3rd overall straight up. They get a ton of Cap relief. And they get out from under a long term hefty contract which is going to look bad in a few years. I’m not even sure MacT would pull that trigger with Phaneuf’s questionable attitude. He is going to be on the downside in a few years when the Oil core is truly ready to compete for a Cup.

  • CMG30

    I agree, The the #3 is the Oilers biggest bargaining chip. The other is their willingness to eat bad contracts from other teams.

    I won’t be offended if the Oil make the pick (we can always use top prospects on the farm) but if they do move it, the return had better fill a big hole in the roster.

  • MacTastic

    From Robin:

    “For my money, the last two weeks of June leading into the annual NHL Entry Draft and the free agent season are the most fun for fans, media types and armchair general managers alike. That holds especially true in a hockey hotbed like Edmonton. Here we are again.”

    Agreed. Although for my money, the FIRST two weeks of June 2006 were pretty awesome. I was living in London back then, and watching Oilers games for two months until 4 and 5 am remains an insane and beautiful and distant memory. What it would be like to experience this again….

    Come on MacT! Give Hallsy some help!!

  • headmetal

    our top 6 has holes…take a peak at our RW which is just as shallow as our C
    http://www.capgeek.com/oilers/depth-chart/

    tenders should be good now, d needs that big RH shot in the top 1-2 (Boychuk), and grab some bottom 6 depth (Boyle)

    I like the one rumor of dealing down with Philly, however if Ebs is ever going we need to fill that RW more than our Center position! Plenty of centers this free agency to toss $$ that we have at

  • nugeformayor

    I think Bennet is the proper pick so what if drasaitl is bigger he doesnt play big, we have lots of that. The fact everyone is looking past a player with the most compete and grit shows how bad the situation is here in edmonton. Bennet is also almost a year younger and put up similar points think how good he will be in a year vs this unproven drasiatl. If Doug Gilmour says hes the guy im with him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Just all the chit chat and picking this player over that player, trading the pick or not trading the pick, is exciting as hell for me and I cannot wait for the 27th.

    I am just glad, I am not in MacT’s shoes that has to make these decisions and I am confident MacT will do us proud. For every team, it’s a gamble of which direction they choose to go.
    Go Oilers Go !!