With all the moaning and groaning by some fans in the wake of Edmonton Oilers’ POHO and GM Ken Holland taking Swede Philip Broberg with the eighth overall selection at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, veteran columnist Terry Jones decided to pluck the low-hanging fruit.
“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” scribbled Jones. “The Edmonton Oilers hire the most experienced and successful general manager in the league at $5 million a year. And with the first pick of the Ken Holland era in Edmonton, the eighth selection overall, the Oilers long-suffering and venomous fan base was distressed . . .
“The idiot went and picked a player ranked lower than eighth on many published lists and mock drafts?” Then, just to put even a finer point on the barb: “Credit Holland for the best quote of the draft,” added Jones. “The people who don’t watch the games seem to have all the answers today,” he said. The full column is here.
Jonesy was shooting fish in a barrel because, let’s face it, there were a number of over-the-top reactions to the selection of Broberg by people who know far less about the teenagers selected Friday and Saturday than do the scouting staffs of NHL teams, the Oilers included. Still, I can see why fans would at least question taking Broberg over, say, the likes of Trevor Zegras or Matthew Boldy with the pick. That’s fair game.
EASY BUTTONS TO PUSH
Given busts like Nail Yakupov and what’s happening with Jesse Puljujarvi right now, framed in a dozen seasons of failure in the last 13 years, it doesn’t take much to push the buttons of some Oilers’ fans. Essentially saying, “keep quiet and stop complaining because Holland knows what he’s doing,” isn’t going to sell, even if that failure isn’t on him.
The reactions of the frazzled few — there simply is no pleasing them — in the comments section here and on other sites were hysterical, but questions about the selection are to be expected and are reasonable, especially with the Oilers having some depth of prospects at the position. Why Broberg?
“I’m certainly aware we need forwards, but we need a good defence,” Holland said. “I think back to our team (in Detroit) in ’08 when we won the Cup. We had Lidstrom, we had (Brian) Rafalski, we had (Niklas) Kronwall, we had (Brad) Stuart. A really top notch top four. All mobile, they could skate, handle the puck, get back, pivot and get the puck snapped back up into our forwards hands.”
While there is no reasonable facsimile of Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall and Stuart with the Oilers now, point taken. Mobile puck-movers on the back end rather than plodding behemoths who can’t dish the rubber are the way to go, and Broberg projects as that. Fans around here have lamented a lack of that dimension for years. Even with some maybes in the pipeline, there is no such thing as having too much of it.
If a team is lucky enough to have a surplus of blueline talent — it’s wildly premature to suggest that’s the case with the Oilers — then you sort it out, decide who to keep and move the extra parts to acquire other players you need. As pressing as the lack of scoring up front is, and allowing that a forward like Zegras or Boldy might provide results sooner, building from the back end out is tried and true.
THE WAY I SEE IT
The reality is, and this shouldn’t be a news flash, is that we don’t know how the selection of Broberg Friday is going to work out. Holland doesn’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. Questions about the selection because it didn’t exactly line up with many mock drafts and projections are one thing. Declaring it a failure or a home run before the kids have even flown home for the summer is buffoonery. That should be obvious.
Does getting Raphael Lavoie from Halifax with the 38th selection when he was ranked much higher guarantee he’ll be something special? No. I think Lavoie might be a helluva pick, but I’m not going to write him into the line-up in pen any time soon because of where he was ranked going into the draft. If a particular scouting staff is confident enough in its list, consensus doesn’t matter the way it does to outsiders like you and me.
History tells us that what a young prospect like Broberg does after his draft day — and what the team does with him — is every bit as important as what he’s done leading up to it, especially with kids ranked single-digits apart at the top end of their draft class. Like it or not, that has to play out and we’re all of 48 hours into that process.