Organizational need is a bad way to draft players

Jonathan Willis
May 22 2012 03:58PM

If the Edmonton Oilers decide to make organizational need the primary criteria at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, they would be making a mistake.

As Robin Brownlee has been making clear, organizational need is part of the conversation. Here’s the quote he got from Stu MacGregor a little over a week ago:

I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision…

And here’s Brownlee this morning on the significance of that comment:

What struck me in my last conversation with MacGregor was his reference to Tambellini making it clear that organizational need is a factor that has to be considered, as opposed to taking the garden variety BPA. This is the first time I remember MacGregor making that reference regarding Tambellini or Lowe. Might "organizational need" bump Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk or defensemen Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhart ahead of winger Nail Yakupov or am I just reading between the lines and seeing something that isn't there?

Organizational Need

Which organizational need is more pressing – defense, centre or wing? In terms of the 2012 Oilers, clearly defense is the biggest need to be addressed, followed by centre, followed by wing. Based on need alone, that top pick at the draft should be a defenseman.

But then there’s another question – how likely is the player drafted to fill the hole, and how soon will he do it?

Ryan Murray is the consensus top defender in the draft, at the lead of a tightly grouped pack that includes Mathew Dumba, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba and Griffin Reinhart. Murray’s polished, well-rounded, and mature, but lacks high-end offensive skills. If the Oilers are looking for a replacement for Chris Pronger, Murray’s probably not the guy. If they’re looking for a guy who can be Kevin Lowe (the comparable that Red Line Report uses), eventually, than maybe he is.

There’s a lot of value in that sort of player, the kind of guy who can play big minutes for 15-20 years. It typically takes a bit of time for that player to develop; certainly it would be unreasonable to expect Murray to take on that sort of load immediately. In Chicago, cornerstone defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were both older than the club’s young star forwards – does it make sense to place the hopes for the blue line on a defender younger than Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins?

On the other hand, if the Oilers opted for a centre – Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko – they could expect some significant offensive production right away. Likely, that centre would slot into the spot Sam Gagner occupies now, freeing up Gagner to be dealt as the centerpiece of a package for a young defenseman. That young defenseman would likely be better in the short-term (the next season or two) than Murray will be.  From a rebuilding perspective, drafting a centre might make more sense than drafting a rearguard.

Asset Management

But, then again, maybe it just makes more sense to take the consensus choice. Nail Yakupov, according to nearly every service out there, is the best available player in this year’s draft. Some experts have been more effusive in their praise – legendary coach Scotty Bowman went so far as to compare Yakupov to Pavel Bure.

Is Nail Yakupov’s trade value going to be higher than Ryan Murray’s a year from now if Yakupov performs as expected in his rookie season? If it is, does it perhaps make more sense to draft Yakupov, attempt to address the defense through trade or free agency this summer, and take stock in a year? If Yakupov seems compares favourably to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle a year from now, might one of the latter two players be dealt for a defenseman? If so, what caliber of defender would one of them bring back in trade?

For that reason, more than any other, I oppose drafting a player based on team need. If Yakupov turns out as good as everyone seems to think he will, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to pry a high-end defenseman out of another team in exchange for his services (or those of Hall, or those of Eberle, should that make more sense).

Recently by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#2 Truth
May 22 2012, 05:21PM
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If one wins a prize and can choose between a $100,000.00 boat and a $60,000.00 car, but they already own a $100,000.00 boat and no car, I think everyone (with any common sense) takes the boat and sells it or trades it for a ~$100,000.00 car or equivalent. An even better idea would be to take the boat, test drive it a bit, and then choose to keep the better one.

Common sense, you would think.

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#3 Semenko and Troy
May 22 2012, 09:02PM
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When it was announced the Oilers had won the lottery, the cameras cut to Tambellini who had a huge shi**-eating grin.

At that moment I doubt he was thinking... “Yessss. We get to draft Murray!!!”

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#4 Archaeologuy
May 22 2012, 04:38PM
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Organizational needs change all the time, unless you live in Philly, then you need a goalie.

Drafting for need, especially at a position where even the best prospects can take 3 years before making an impact, is such a poor plan. I will be ultra pissed when Yakupov is in the running for a Calder next season and Murray is playing 12 mins a night with Cory Potter as his partner.

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#6 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 23 2012, 09:52AM
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Galchenyuk has a chance to be better than Tyler Seguin. I like Wes's train of thought. Sell the farm for both Yakupov and Galchenyuk.

Gagner,Paajarvi and Smid may be enough to tempt the Isles. The Islanders have been doing this rebuild thing for a dozen yrs now and may see the benifits of getting 3 bodies now to help their current roster. The Oilers are 3 yrs from going anywhere as far as the playoffs go. The Islanders are in a little different situation. New York is the team the Oilers should be focused on if this is at all a possibilty.

Nothing wrong with fighting like hell to help your own cause/team.

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#7 ItsTheBGB
May 22 2012, 04:26PM
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If they don't want a winger then Galchenyuk is the guy.

I would probably add something to our 1st overall pick for OEL, too.

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#8 Oiler AL
May 22 2012, 04:28PM
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You wallow at the bottom of the barrel for 4 years or more ,get to draft high picks. and lotto picks..., and then you talk about dumping guys like Hall or Eberle.. you got to be insane to do something like that. How about trading Hemsky or Gagner instead. Hemsky should be the No.1 one guy on the premium trade list for the Oilers. His schtick is up. You go for the B P A. This year clearly its Yakapov, so why is Tambelini complicating things ? ... Because he can't make good choices for the team. He's proven that much.

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#9 The Farmer
May 22 2012, 04:48PM
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Amen JW

Draft the best. Trade from strength.

That is all

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#10 HallFever
May 22 2012, 05:17PM
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I'm just nervous as hell that Tambo has the final decision on this. I can't imagine not picking Yakupov especially where he is the clear cut #1 choice. JW - Totally agree with you. Drafting by organizational need would be a huge mistake.

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#11 Jackson
May 22 2012, 05:19PM
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Finishing last 2 times and second last once in 3yrs, speaks volumes about Oilers organizational needs.

They have so many holes it would be hard to pin point what their biggest need is.

Pick BPA

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#12 Jackson
May 22 2012, 05:21PM
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If your going to trade the #1 pick why not go after a real D-man.

OEL might be untouchable but he would be my pick.

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#13 @NateInVegas
May 22 2012, 05:36PM
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There is ZERO chance the Oilers draft a player that isn't in the NHL next year. It's between Yakupov and Murray (two oldest players) which Is too bad because Galchenyuk and Dumba are a better fit in Edmonton.

If Griffin Reinhart's name wasn't Reinhart he wouldn't be considered a top 10 prospect. The guy doesn't skate well at the WHL level, how can he keep up in the bigs? I don't see it.

1- Galchenyuk

2- Dumba

3- Grigorenko

4- Yakupov

5- Trouba

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#14 OIlPen
May 22 2012, 05:56PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Because if you're looking for a franchise defenseman, Taylor Hall can probably land that guy. Ales Hemsky can't.

I'm not saying trade Hall. I'm saying if you need a high-end young defenseman, you'll probably get a better one by trading Hall/Eberle/Yakupov than you would by drafting Ryan Murray.

100% agree.

Also... Not sure why some OIler fans think they know more than Bob McKenzie, Redline Report, Future Considerations, ISS, Craig Button, and Hockey Prospectus.

Yakupov is #1 with a bullet. Unlike the past 2 years, no one person is even close, not even Kevin Lowe v2.0.

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#15 The Soup Fascist
May 22 2012, 06:21PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

As a bon vivant and world traveller I know that Russians make the best cabbage and beet soup, as well as the best WHC teams. Mr. Soup Facist is under the impression that I may hold some unreasonable disregard for Russian players,not so I can assure you. When Cowbell Feva speaks we all would be advised to listen... Russian players sometimes lack NHL sized heart. He has my vote for new oil GM, for what thats worth(nothing,unfortunately).

So to clarify you are good with the food ... Not so much the hockey players.

Da da kobasa. Nyet nyet Soviet. As it were.

I know I am not going to change your mind. But for every Yashin there is a Larionov and for every Messier there is a Daigle.

You may end up being right. But Yak seems so far ahead of everyone else's scorecard right now, I don't know how you pass.

All things being equal I take a Canadian too. Because of the KHL risk, not the heart. The fact is all the pundits agree ... It isn't close. Besides Russians are among the toughest people in the world. Now if Yakupov was French on the other hand ...

Just kidding Francois, don't get your panties in a bunch.

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#16 The Soup Fascist
May 22 2012, 06:31PM
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We can agree on Samuelsson. Going to be a big bodied center with some skill. Very tough and a prick (in the best sense of the word) to play against. That is not drafting by need. Every team needs a guy like that.

Has a funny skating stride though. Nothing that can't be fixed I am sure.

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#17 oilers2k12
May 22 2012, 06:50PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

We can agree on Samuelsson. Going to be a big bodied center with some skill. Very tough and a prick (in the best sense of the word) to play against. That is not drafting by need. Every team needs a guy like that.

Has a funny skating stride though. Nothing that can't be fixed I am sure.

I'm assuming your watching oil kings right now.. That awkward skating stride is all part of the prick package, oilers need that guy, I would take him at 20th if I had a pick in that range..

Man Im gonna hate that player after Vancouver drafts him..

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#18 David S
May 22 2012, 07:33PM
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On the other hand, if the Oilers opted for a centre – Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko – they could expect some significant offensive production right away.

~Based on their proven NHL experience, right?~

It stuns me that high draft picks outside of #1's are still considered by fans to be shoe-ins. We've all seen what Gagner can do with competent linemates, so what you're saying is trade Sam Gagner and replace him with someone who MIGHT be Sam Gagner some day? Really? That sure worked out well in the Penner trade.

Frankly I don't put any stock into what any member of the Oilers organization is saying in public. They got a gift this year and would be beyond stupid to let that gift go for hopes and dreams. Draft the BPA and do what all the other teams seem to be able to do - wheel and deal and buy the parts you need. And so what if we overpay short term? The cap won't be a concern for us for a few years anyways.

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#19 michael
May 22 2012, 08:34PM
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I wouldn't trust Tambo too babysit my dog. The only thing that's keeping him from being fired is SMB. The amateur scouting department has been the cornerstone of this team since SMB took the reigns. The pro scouting department has failed to identify players who fit with the philosophy of this team. ST needs to "evaluate" those folk and then start handing out pink slips tut suite.

Yakupov is "the guy". If need be the Oilers can trade for an elite level dman when needed. At this point that guy is not needed. The Oilers win 40 games this year and get 85 points and I will be a pig in sh2%.

Take the Yak and don't look back.

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#20 Zoltar
May 22 2012, 10:45PM
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Nice to see Penner getting the goal.

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#21 David S
May 22 2012, 11:05PM
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DSF wrote:

How, exactly, do you trade for "an elite level defenseman" without giving up one of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins or Yakupov?

You don't. Instead you offer a filthy, dirty, greasy overpay to a quality FA with the cap room we have.

But seriously. Even if we only upgraded the bottom end of our D to "average NHL quality" we'd see a huge improvement.

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#22 Walter Sobchak
May 22 2012, 11:36PM
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Draft Yakupov, and make a huge draft day trade for Galchenyuk! The real great thing about Galchenyuk is he can play RW as well. You just drafted BPA and need.

Garrison and Schultz as UFA's, Klefbom the year after, two years the Oilers are playing in the playoffs. It's time Tambellini did some hard work!

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#23 Walter Sobchak
May 23 2012, 01:35AM
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@Wax Man Riley

While I agree the Burke type trade's are rare, Burke himself making deals are not....this is why I think the Oilers can benefit.

I like this senerio best. (I hope I'm not poaching anyone's idea here)

The Oilers, Jackets and Leafs trade just prior to draft.

The Oilers trade down to the Jackets for the second overall pick.

The Jackets take Murray the Oilers get Yakupov.

The Jackets trade Nash to the Leafs for players and the 5th pick.

The Oilers trade Gagner, Paajarvi, Bunz and Petry plus the trade down earlier to the Jackets for that 5th pick.

Montreal still like's Grigorenko over Galchenyuk and I'm certain the Islanders will pick a defensmen.

That leaves the Oilers with Yakupov and Galchenyuk. I think this is a bit of an overpayment but to make this deal work it will have to be.

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#24 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 23 2012, 09:09AM
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@ Wes Mantooth - Team Yakupov

Jezus man, the Jackets TRADE UP to draft Murray and then we trade all of that for the 5th overall pick?? I think you need to check the typical quality of player you get in the 5 slot.

Common' man!!

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#25 Lochenzo
May 23 2012, 11:34AM
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What are the chances that Yakupov scores over 60 goals in the NHL before Ryan Murray even plays a game in the NHL? Just food for thought.

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#26 Lochenzo
May 23 2012, 11:45AM
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I see Galchenyuk creeping up there in everyone's minds. Anybody know how the scouts feel in terms of his NHL-readiness. He missed pretty much the full year, so sending him back to junior kinda makes sense...this from a guy who hasn't seen him play all year.

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#27 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 22 2012, 03:59PM
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The Oilers have holes throughout the roster. In goal, on D, and up front. Approximately 50% of the time (last 20 yrs) the BPA at the time of the draft isn't the best player available in the draft. Edmonton has shown they best have this decision made for them rather than selecting who they see as a good fit. So far so good 3 yrs into this rebuild plan. I don't trust the Oilers amateur scouts without this (BPA policy) Hockey for Dummies handbook.

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#28 ItsTheBGB
May 22 2012, 04:31PM
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@Oiler AL

Why would you try and trade Hemsky when his value is at an all time low? The Oilers always do that... most teams do. If you sell high you end up winning trades, that's what good teams do... trading Hemsky isn't selling high. Gagner is probably somewhere in the middle.

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#29 Reg Dunlop
May 22 2012, 04:36PM
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Trading down in the draft for a lower pick and an asset is a potential disaster. The team that gets the best player wins the deal. Trading the pick for a needed player is an option, however. Tambo will play safe and pick Yak, regardless of pre-draft rhetoric(unfortunately).

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#30 Cowbell_Feva
May 22 2012, 04:44PM
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You would be lucky to get a bag of pucks for Hemmer right now. They overpaid him, for sure, but the key was the term. 2 yrs and then decide. Thats when the kids are off the entry levels and decisions can be made. I wouldn't mind to see the Oil trade down and try to package Gagner & anyone but the 3 kids for a good D-man. Take Galyenchuk (or however you spell it) so we have 2 top flight centers for years to come.

When I think of Russians, this Grigorenko is it in a nutshell. Loads of talent, not much for heart. Zherdev and Filitov are two other prime examples. Its no wonder why Russia plays well at the IIHF tourney. All their stars are out of the playoffs. Yes I now the Galyenchuk is of Russian roots, but at least he grew up in N.A. and is a big bodied Centreman.

In a perfect world the Oil could somehow swing a deal where they get Griffin Reinhart and this Galyenchuk kid. I'll keep drinking the Kool-aid until then.

In a perfect world the Oil c

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#31 Bucknuck
May 22 2012, 04:44PM
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Oiler AL wrote:

You wallow at the bottom of the barrel for 4 years or more ,get to draft high picks. and lotto picks..., and then you talk about dumping guys like Hall or Eberle.. you got to be insane to do something like that. How about trading Hemsky or Gagner instead. Hemsky should be the No.1 one guy on the premium trade list for the Oilers. His schtick is up. You go for the B P A. This year clearly its Yakapov, so why is Tambelini complicating things ? ... Because he can't make good choices for the team. He's proven that much.

I believe that the point JW is making with that comment is that if people talk about picking a defenseman instead of the consensus #1 pick, it would be like trading Hall or Eberle for a defenseman now.

Yakupov may be as good or better than those guys, so if you are going to trade an amazing winger for a Defenseman, you may as well draft Yakupov and see which of the three you like least and then trade one of those. You will probably get a better asset back in trade than if you screw around with the pick.

JW correct me if I am mistaken

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#32 mouthbreather
May 22 2012, 04:45PM
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Does anyone know if the Oil Kings' game is available online tonight?

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#33 The Soup Fascist
May 22 2012, 04:48PM
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@ Reg Dunlop

With apologies to Nigel Powers ...

~There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures...and Russians.~

DRAFT YAK

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#34 Mitch
May 22 2012, 04:59PM
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The thought of trading the pick drives me crazy. For 20 yrs the Oilers have been dying as we can see by the standings too have high end talent. So why would they pass on Yakupov because they need dmen? What if he comes here next yr and leads the team in scoring or goal scoring? Is it still gonna be said that we need dmen?

Don't overlook the obvious if Yakupov is the BPA, don't second guess the pick. That would be like trading down in 03' for Pouliot because Parise was small then in 05' drafting Cogliano and Gagner in 07'.

Stupid is as stupid does.

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#35 Kool aid drinker
May 22 2012, 05:19PM
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Not sure why everyone is so worried who the Oilers draft this year.... With Tambellini still at the helm and his great decision making on trades on free agents, another top 10 pick is on the way in 2013. Maybe another lottery pick for MacKinnon or Jones... hhmmm.... could happen folks!!! We are talking about Tambellini!

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#36 Rama Lama
May 22 2012, 05:23PM
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Drafting based on BPA seems over-rated and appears to hold very litte logic.

Hypothetically speaking, what if we finished in the middle of the pack and say drafting at the 15th spot? All those players above the 15th spot would look very appealing...... would they not?

This argument of selecting BPA would be rock solid if there was a real skill difference between the various players, of that there is no doubt. We are told that there is a clear front-runner at this year's draft, that being Yakapov, and not much difference between the next 10 players, or very minimal difference.

Pundits have also suggested that Yakapov is not considered an elite talent, say like OV or Crosby, Stamkos, or Taveres.......which make selecting this best player available, even more confounding.

If we are not getting an elite player, then selecting what you need seems logical......but only if we can trade down and get a second asset in return.

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#37 50 in 39
May 22 2012, 05:28PM
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Great article JW, this is how I view Yakupov too, as an asset and the most lucrative asset available despite any of the team's apparent needs.

@ Truth

You are spot on, this is the business side of pro hockey. Now, can the Oiler's management handle and manage those assets correctly?

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#38 Reg Dunlop
May 22 2012, 05:36PM
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As a bon vivant and world traveller I know that Russians make the best cabbage and beet soup, as well as the best WHC teams. Mr. Soup Facist is under the impression that I may hold some unreasonable disregard for Russian players,not so I can assure you. When Cowbell Feva speaks we all would be advised to listen... Russian players sometimes lack NHL sized heart. He has my vote for new oil GM, for what thats worth(nothing,unfortunately).

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#39 Reg Dunlop
May 22 2012, 05:43PM
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Just to clarify, as world traveller I mean I went to Calgary once; didn't much like it. Go oil.

If they draft Yak and somehow fill the gaping holes on the blueline, and the new coach can instill a system that works with the players already here, I will be 1st in line to buy a Yakupov jersey. If things don't work out with Yak, I will probably be an insufferable dick about the pick.

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#40 Lofty
May 22 2012, 05:46PM
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I wish Warren Buffet would buy a sports franchise and manage it like Berkshire. Invest in things that everyone needs and will pay for. Teams are always looking for top end talent so you should draft top end talent. Once there rolling you treat them like assets and professionally manage the positions for growth/value. Whatever player Stu and his gang think will be the best NHL'er, they should draft. Tambo needs to manage these first overall picks and then use them to fix positions of need via UFA's and trade. You can't draft an entire NHL line-up.

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#41 Reg Dunlop
May 22 2012, 06:07PM
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Slightly off topic: the oilkings late goal in the 1st...huge. The setup by Samuelsson along with the constant stickwork and agitating, if he drops to round 2 in the draft we have to take him. But I guess that would be drafting based on need...

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#42 oilers2k12
May 22 2012, 06:45PM
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This isn't the NFL where teams almost exclusively draft based on need because the draftees are already in their 20s and are a season or two away from being in the prime of their careers.. so much can change for an 18 year old, I bet that not even 60 percent of the time the first overall is the best player in the draft in the long run, but I bet his chances are far greater than number two, three, or four.. Trading down this year is a terrible move..Murray wont be a number one dman on a championship year, not for at least five years..by then yakupov may already have 150 goals in the nhl. Tambellini has to find a way other than trading the pick, or by using the pick on a number 3 ranked prospect to get a 1-2 dman..other gms do it, wtf is wrong with tambs?

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#43 gcw_rocks
May 22 2012, 07:21PM
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Great article. Clear and concise and bang on. Anyone want to send it on to Tambelini?

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#44 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 22 2012, 07:47PM
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Draft BPA!!

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#45 striker777
May 22 2012, 07:53PM
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Please stop scaring people using words like Hall, Eberle, and Trade in the same sentence. I want Nail win Calder as an Oiler next season. I sure hope new coach keeps him on the right wing to capitalize on those one-timers. Yakupov's one-timers are better than Stamkos was at the same age.

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#46 RexLibris
May 22 2012, 07:59PM
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@oilers2k12

lol, I was thinking the same thing about Samuelsson in Vancouver. I was relieved when both the Canucks and Blues went out early as it raised their draft ranking and I don't see either one of them reaching down to pick him.

With them picking 25th and 26th I suppose there is a chance, but I really hope some talented forward falls in the draft to them. We need Samuelsson's edge pretty badly. I would even consider moving another prospect to try and get him.

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#47 Admiralmark
May 22 2012, 08:24PM
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Is it possible that they are leary about Yakupov(I.e. Russian khl factor) and are somewhat shellshocked about picking a player that may screw them later? And so by stating you are going with organizational need you buy yourself an out in case down the road Yakupov becomes the obviously better pick? And then by doing that they pick a Murray or a center? Just throwin it out there.

I think that Galchenyuk should be the pick. Centers just affect the game so much more then a winger...

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#48 etownman
May 22 2012, 08:31PM
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Personally Jonathan I could see the Oilers making a deal like Gagner for Chicago's Leddy, something like that to meet the need on the back end! Then filling the 2nd line center role from within, like moving Hall to center or playing Horcoff there until somebody from the farm is ready! You just never know who is going to jump up & take advantage of an opportunity like that when it appears!

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#49 DSF
May 22 2012, 08:47PM
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michael wrote:

I wouldn't trust Tambo too babysit my dog. The only thing that's keeping him from being fired is SMB. The amateur scouting department has been the cornerstone of this team since SMB took the reigns. The pro scouting department has failed to identify players who fit with the philosophy of this team. ST needs to "evaluate" those folk and then start handing out pink slips tut suite.

Yakupov is "the guy". If need be the Oilers can trade for an elite level dman when needed. At this point that guy is not needed. The Oilers win 40 games this year and get 85 points and I will be a pig in sh2%.

Take the Yak and don't look back.

How, exactly, do you trade for "an elite level defenseman" without giving up one of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins or Yakupov?

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#50 Wax Man Riley
May 22 2012, 09:06PM
Trash it!
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DSF wrote:

How, exactly, do you trade for "an elite level defenseman" without giving up one of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins or Yakupov?

In NHL12 I trade a player that is expiring his UFA contract this year and will be looking for a raise, along with my next year's 1st round pick.

I might have to throw in another pick or maybe a player like Abney to "sweeten the pot"

Duuhhhhhh......

This also works to get the 1st overall pick every year. In about January, you target the #1 pick of the last place team with the above deal. Stacked team every year.

This year we could get 2 lottery picks with that formula. I just heard Quicks and Mantooth get tingly.

I wonder if Tambo plays NHL12

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