Winning the lottery is one thing. Hanging onto that wealth, spending it wisely and building on it, be it the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft or millions of dollars by way of a lucky ticket, is quite another.
The story of David Lee Edwards is a reminder of that. There are countless stories like his – of people who spent like fools after their numbers came up, blew through every dime and ended up living in a van down by the river. Or, in the case of Edwards, living in a feces-infested shipping container after spending $27 million. His story is here.
Sure, I’m taking some license comparing big-buck buffoons burning through stacks of found money to a team squandering the jackpot that is the first pick in the NHL Lottery, which will be drawn tonight, but there’s a lesson in there somewhere. There is opportunity found and there is opportunity lost.
If the odds fall in favor of the Edmonton Oilers tonight and they jump into the slot that sees them get the first overall pick and the right to select coveted Connor McDavid, will GM Craig MacTavish turn the windfall into a success story or will he fritter it away over the next several years?
Seems a fair question from where I sit.
THE WINNER IS . . .
Sitting with the third overall pick as they enter the 2015 lottery, the Oilers have an 11.5 per cent chance of moving into the No. 1 spot under the format being used this year. The 30th-place Buffalo Sabres are the favorites with a 20 per cent chance, followed by the Arizona Coyotes at 13.5 per cent and the Oilers. Toronto is fourth at 9.5 per cent.
It goes without saying that landing the first overall pick and McDavid would provide the Oilers a franchise-type player to build around and open up a host of options and opportunities. It would make the Oilers immediately better in terms of talent. But that’s all it does. There are no guarantees beyond that.
Since 2010, the Oilers have added first overall picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov by holding onto the top slot twice and by moving up once. While we’re still within five years of that 2010 draft, the Oilers have failed to make any significant strides in returning to contention, as fans are well aware. The Oilers are Exhibit A that there’s more to building a team capable of winning than stockpiling blue-chippers.
Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov, as well as first-rounder Jordan Eberle, are already in or entering their second contracts. They are just now entering their prime years. Fellow top-10 picks Leon Draisaitl (third overall in 2014) and Darnell Nurse (seventh in 2013) are on the way.
The future, as the Oilers have been telling fans since Hall hit town, looks bright. Adding McDavid would up the hope factor exponentially, with good reason based on what we’ve seen from the ridiculously talented pivot from the Erie Otters of the OHL. It’ll be Fist Pump City around here if the Oilers snag the top slot tonight.
What happens after that?
BUILD OR BUST?
Edwards, down on his luck when his numbers came in back in 2001, had all the money in the world, or so it seemed. Then, he blew it:
He bought a $1.6 million house in Palm Beach Gardens; paid $1.9 million for a Lear Jet; bought another home for $600,000; bought three losing race horses; invested $4.5 million in a fiber optics company and limo business; he paid his ex-wife $500,000 for custody of his teenage daughter; bought a $200,000 Lamborghini Diablo and a multitude of other cars; bought a $35,000 Hummer golf cart for his daughter; paid for a $159,000 ring; and paid $30,000 for a plasma screen TV.
Is there a hockey equivalent to spending $30,000 on a plasma TV or buying a private jet for no other reason than that you can, then having to sell it for pennies on the dollar? Of squandering a big pay-off without having anything to show for it? Sure there is. Fans around here have seen plenty of examples of that since the rebuild of the Oilers began with the draft of Hall.
MacTavish has to acquire a bona fide starting goaltender through trade or free agency. He needs two defensemen ready to take on top-pairing minutes without rushing kids who aren’t ready for those minutes into the role. He needs to find, or retain, the right coach. He needs a veteran or two and more size and grit up front. All this, we know.
If MacTavish doesn’t address all or at least the majority of the above this off-season, adding McDavid to the mix as it stands now isn’t going to significantly move the Oilers closer to being a team capable of contending for a playoff spot, let alone a Stanley Cup.
There is absolutely no debate winning the Draft Lottery and cashing in on McDavid would represent a staggering windfall for the Oilers. There is, the record shows, considerable room for discussion about whether they’d turn that jackpot into the kind of team fans have been promised or end up living in a shipping container full of feces.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.