Do you ever look back on a draft class and think “what if…?”
Of course you do! That’s what being a sports fan is all about. Throwing on the hindsight goggles and imagining how your team’s fortunes could have been changed if they had made one decision instead of another.
Now, imagine for a moment that you’ve been granted the ability to time travel. Your hindsight goggles can finally be put to good use!
The old wizard that grants you the ability to travel back in time will allow you to do this only once. You’re able to go back in time to any draft day you’d like and occupy your team’s general manager’s mind for that draft. You can change any draft picks with the information you know now, but you can’t cancel or execute any new trades for fear of somebody catching you.
As a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, which draft do you travel back in time to alter?
Remember, there’s also a Butterly Effect in play here. When you’ve gone back and changed something in the past, it’ll have an effect on the future. Something to keep in mind is that the further you go back, the more in your team’s franchise history you’re going to ultimately be changing.
For example, if you go back even as far as 2010 in order to stock up on quality players with Edmonton’s three second-round picks, you would almost certainly be changing the way the lottery balls end up falling a few years later in 2015. If you go back and capitalize on the loaded 2003 draft, you could be altering everything that led to the Oilers’ 2006 Stanley Cup Final run.
One of the first ones that came to mind for me was going back to the 1996 draft, where the Oilers held the sixth-overall pick. Edmonton drafted Steve Kelly with that pick, who ended up being a bust. Fans in Edmonton where the draft was being held were shouting for Shane Doan, but I would have taken Jarome Iginla, who eventually went 11th overall to the Dallas Stars. Iginla, then, never gets dealt to the Flames and he has his Hall of Fame career at home in Edmonton instead.
What ramifications would we see here? While Kelly was a bust, Edmonton still managed to trade him along with Jason Bonsignore for Roman Hamrlik, who was a good defender for the Oilers for a few years. Hamrlik was dealt later for Eric Brewer who was the centrepiece of the Chris Pronger trade after the 2004-05 lockout. Does getting Iginla result in Edmonton not getting Pronger? Is it worth it?
The historically-strong 2003 draft offers a lot of possibilities too. Edmonton had one of the few first-round whiffs that year, selecting Marc-Antoine Pouliot with the 22nd overall pick. They also used two second-round picks on J.F. Jacques and Colin McDonald. Changing just those three picks, Edmonton could draft Ryan Kesler or Brent Burns with that first pick, a second-round pick on Shea Weber, and later picks of Dustin Byfuglien and Joe Pavelski. That would be such a good haul it might be worth altering the entire future.
Personally, I’m a bit conservative here, so I’m going to avoid going all the way back to earlier drafts because I don’t want to lose the ’06 run nor do I want to lose either of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
I would go back to the 2016 draft. Rather than taking Jesse Puljujarvi with the fourth pick, I take Matthew Tkachuk, putting the biggest thorn in Edmonton’s side on their side instead. I also select McDavid’s OHL linemate Alex DeBrincat in the second round. Nothing against Tyler Benson, but DeBrincat was a 40-goal scorer last season. I would also use later picks on Victor Mete, Max Lajoie, and Jesper Bratt, adding a wealth of depth to the roster.
What say you, Nation? There are plenty of avenues to explore here. I would take a more conservative approach because I don’t want to lose the core the Oilers have now nor do I want to give up the experience of the 2006 run. What about you?