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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oiler’s Pick Yakupov 1st in Draft – Is it Another Mistake by Lowe and Tambellini? – Other Oiler 2012 Picks Analyzed

Nobody can honestly deny the fact that Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini have done an utterly brutal job thus far in their so-called rebuilding of the Oilers. When you examine what they did in the 2010 and 2011 drafts (all players included), most fans could have done better even without all of the scouting reports and interviews with players. On the trade front, in 2011 Tambellini and Lowe shopped injury-prone Hemsky around but wanted far too much for him and then decided to trade their power forward Dustin Penner instead—a ridiculously stupid move for a team that has an overabundance of small forwards. In 2012, the Oilers made another poor and unsuccessful effort to move Hemsky before the trade deadline, and then, despite Hemsky having a season so bad that the stench is still lingering in Rexall Place, Tambellini rewarded him with a two-year contract extension worth a whopping 10 million—even the Calgary Flames had to publicly laugh via Twitter! Hemsky had 36 points in 69 games, was minus-13 and took 43 minutes in penalties (which is a disgrace in itself for a “skilled” player who is being paid to get points and not sit in the sin bin)! Do we really need to talk any more about Lowe and Tambellini to show that they are fools who really don’t know what they are doing? No, we don’t, but let’s do it anyway by taking a look at a few mistakes that they made in the drafts. Afterwards, we shall consider their decision to select Yakupov in this year’s draft and discuss other options which would have been better; and, we shall also analyze the Oilers other picks in the 2012 draft.

Lowe and Tambellini’s Mistake in Drafting Taylor Hall

Tambellini and Lowe chose Hall over Seguin despite the fact that they knew that Hall had a longstanding shoulder problem. Lowe and Tambellini also knew that Hall was reckless and that he had balance issues, and they also saw the hit by Hamonic on Hall in the Memorial Cup with Hall going face-first into the boards—definitely suffering some damage since he could not get up from his knees for some time and the parts of his face that made contact with the boards were red and his nose was bleeding. Clearly, Lowe and Tambellini made a mistake in drafting Hall over Seguin solely on the facts described above. That mistake became very clear to all Oiler fans who watched Hall falling all over the place in his first year, and, unfortunately, his cockiness, poor balance and shoulder issue led to some nasty injuries in 2011 and 2012 (including a concussion) and also surgery which cut his season short last year. On March 20, 2012, I posted an article entitled: “Taylor Hall’s Four Injuries in Two Years and Cory Sarich of the Flames.” I encourage you to read this article and watch the incredible videos of both Sarich and Hall. I shall provide a brief summary below but the videos are a must see. On March 3, 2011, Hall foolishly started a fight with Dorsett of the Blue Jackets and Hall suffered a leg injury which knocked him out for the latter part of his first year, 2011. Then, in his second year, November of 2011-12, Hall was hit in a game and his shoulder was injured (previous problem aggravated to be more accurate), causing him to miss seven games. In January of 2012, Hall wasn’t wearing his helmet in warm-up and he fell and slid into the boards where he collided with a teammate and then Potter tried to step over Hall but instead stepped on his forehead. Hall suffered a nasty gash that needed 30 stitches. At the All-Star break, Hall and some other Oiler players took a trip to Mexico and they went golfing but Hall forgot his shoes and golfed in sandals and injured a toe. Then, on March 16, 2012, in a game against the Flames, Hall recklessly went towards the boards where the puck was and he fell as Cory Sarich was coming in from the point to lay him low. Sarich made contact with Hall’s head and Hall suffered a concussion. Later it was decided by Oiler brass and doctors that Hall should have shoulder surgery and would miss the remainder of the year. Well, before Hall was drafted it would not have been too hard for anyone to predict that he would continue to have shoulder problems, problems that could have a major effect on his career and the team that drafted him. The NHL is faster, the players are larger, and Hall was going to get hit a lot due to his reckless style of play. Furthermore, kids like Hall that are too cocky do not learn lessons without paying the price. They don’t listen to older people who have experience but always do it their way and damage themselves in one way or another. It was Hall’s cockiness and pride that caused him to challenge well-known scraper Dorsett to a fight. Coach Tom Renney called it “character” but I call it stupidity.   

Lowe and Tambellini selected Hall as their money-making “poster boy”—they felt that he would bring in the most money and posted him on their website with a huge smile on his face. Be assured that Lowe and Tambellini make all of their decisions based on money, despite what they try to make the public believe. They are businessmen, bad ones at that. In my opinion, posting the smiling face of an unproven player on the team website was a slap in the face to veteran players who are better than Hall and who have contributed a lot to the team. Lowe and Tambellini will never sell me on Hall, but the kid himself can still turn his career in the right direction if he listens to experienced people and plays smart. His foolishness has already cost him a lot. I would have bypassed Hall in the draft and taken Tyler Seguin.

Cheerleaders?

Besides their “poster boy” plan, Lowe and Tambellini can be “credited” with greatly cheapening the game of hockey in Edmonton and Canada by presenting a cheerleading squad of young women—the first in Canada (2010-11). What these two men will do to turn a buck for Daryl Katz! Having cheerleaders is a disgrace and disrespectful to every woman who attends a game. Do women fans want their husbands and boyfriends looking at skating cheerleaders? Honestly, if hockey isn’t good enough to entertain the fans they would be better off going home and watching TV or porn. Shame on Daryl Katz, Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini for cheapening the game of hockey in Canada. Lowe ought to put his Stanley Cup rings on Ebay and try to make a few dollars that way. I would have more respect for him for doing that than his cheerleader plan.       

Lowe and Tambellini’s 2011 Draft Mistakes – John Gibson – And the Importance of Goalies in the NHL

Last year Lowe and Tambellini had the opportunity in the second round to get the top goalie prospect, John Gibson (6' 3'' and 212 lbs), but elected to pass on him. Khabibulin was 39 years old people! The Oilers took Nugent-Hopkins first and also had the 19th pick in the first round, and they selected a big Swedish defenseman, Oscar Klefbom. Okay, they got their big defenseman who they needed but then to start the second round they took another defenseman, David Musil rather than John Gibson? Musil was a respectable pick but how can you pass on the top-rated goalie prospect, one who could turn out to be an elite goalie in the NHL and lead you to one or more Stanley Cup victories? Gibson was taken shortly after by Anaheim and last year for the Kitchener Rangers his Save Percentage was .928! He will get a lot better in my opinion and he is already extremely composed. The Oilers have Dubnyk and should play him as the starter and buy-out Khabibulin for the sake of saving money to put towards another player who can help the team more. Khabibulin was very inconsistent last year and his record was terrible as compared to Dubnyk. The Oilers signed an experienced minor league goalie in Yann Danis, but they needed to bring more goalies into the system via the drafts and hope that one would turn out to be an elite player. It is always best to take your chances on top goalie prospects because without an elite goalie your chances of winning the Stanley Cup are poor. Look what happened to the Pens in the 2012 playoffs? Their so-called elite goalie, Fleury, proved that he really isn’t elite and that can be confirmed by looking at his career stats in conjunction with the awesome teams that have been in front of him. The Pens did not have a back-up who could take the reins and subsequently they fell to the Flyers. And for an even more important lesson, Steve Yzerman, VP and GM of the Lightning, probably made the worst all-time goalie decisions after the 2010-11 season. First, he let Mike Smith go—for nothing! Second, Yzerman rested his hopes on a 42 year old Roloson and gave him a one-year deal worth 3 million! You can’t gamble your entire season on a retirement-ready goalie, and neither is it wise to count on one goalie without providing an exceptional back-up—and Yzerman did not provide a good enough back-up in Mathieu Garon. Furthermore, you should always strive to have a couple of other excellent goalies in your system who can be brought-up in case there are one or more injuries—it simply is the most important position in hockey and you need a lot of depth. I guess Yzerman felt that a goalie would be given to him as a gift because he also passed on the chance of taking John Gibson in the 2011 draft! Instead, he opted for a Russian center for his first pick, a Russian winger for his second, a Russian defenseman for his third (Round 5), and he finally took a goalie in Round 6. All said, Yzerman was entirely responsible for the Lightning missing the 2012 playoffs—one of the worst NHL managing mistakes ever. He was a great player but obviously needs a lot of advice in managing and directing a team (and the same goes for Kevin Lowe). Yzerman selected a goalie for his second of two picks in Round 1 of the 2012 draft, but too little too late, and again the player was a Russian. Yzerman is going way overboard on Russian players in my opinion, and you tell me if fans in North America want to watch a team full of Russians rather than Canadians and Americans? Also, Russian players are a risk because they could go to the KHL, like Radulov did once, and now plans to a second time. Yzerman needs a starting goalie and also a good back-up goalie. A week before this year’s draft, Yzerman acquired 24 year-old netminder Anders Lindback from the Predators, along with forward Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick in the draft, in exchange for two 2nd round picks in the 2012 draft, a 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft and goalie Sebastien Caron. Yzerman had put himself into a position where he really had to do this deal because he has nobody between the pipes and Lindback could develop into a starting goalie. Currently, he is a back-up caliber goalie. Last year for the Preds he was 5-8-0 and his Save Percentage was respectable at .912 and his GAA was 2.42. However, Yzerman was still in trouble after that deal and that is why he drafted goalies and was hoping to land Jonas Gustavsson on the first day of free agency but was unable to do so as Gustavsson signed with the Red Wings (who now are much more solid in net). Now, Yzerman is going to need to orchestrate a trade for another goalie who is at least as good as Lindback in an attempt to provide some stability and a chance of making the playoffs this year. You need to have a lot of depth in the goaltending position. Is there anything wrong with having two excellent goalies battling for the starting position? Ask the Blues who had Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak giving it their all the entire season and who captured the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against in the regular season. What the Blues have is the ideal and the same situation was in Boston with Tuuka Rask and Tim Thomas, and in LA with Quick and Bernier (although Bernier had a tough year). Look who Boston took as their first pick this year: top goalie prospect Malcolm Subban. I would have done the same. In getting back to Lowe and Tambellini, they both know the importance of great goaltending and yet, for their third pick they bypassed the number one goalie prospect in the 2011 draft. Hard to believe!

Lowe and Tambellini’s 2011 Draft Mistakes – Nugent-Hopkins

Nugent-Hopkins was a risky pick in my opinion due to his small body frame. Landeskog would definitely have been my first pick because he had improved tremendously in the 2010-11 season (In 53 games he had 66 points and was plus-27) and because he was about 25 pounds heavier than Nugent-Hopkins. Honestly, from the Oilers standpoint, if they were not going to fill a team gap with Landeskog they would have been better trading the pick along with a smaller Oiler player for an NHL goalie, power forward or a defenseman. Unfortunately, Nuge already suffered a shoulder injury and I fear that he will have multiple injuries just like Hemsky and Hall. I like the kid and hope that he can beat the odds.  

Lowe and Tambellini’s Mistake in Drafting Yakupov 1st in 2012 Draft

What players do the Oilers need so that they can become Stanley Cup Champions? They need an elite goalie, an offensive defenseman who can contribute on the power-play, some big men up front, and a couple of solid defensive defensemen. Did they fill any of those needs in the 2010 or 2011 draft? In trades or free agent signings? Lowe and Tambellini have obviously been so confused about who they need to build a Stanley Cup Champion—and it isn’t cheerleaders you idiots—that they decided to listen to sportswriters for guidance before this year’s draft. Well, they still selected the small guy, Yakopov, but did add a few larger boys as recommended by the media. Nevertheless, in my opinion it was another poor overall effort by Lowe and Tambellini because they passed on some great goalie prospects and also other high-ranked players.

What would you have done with the first pick in this year’s draft? I would have traded Hemsky, Hall or Nugent-Hopkins along with the 1st pick in the draft in exchange for Senators goalie Robin Lehner and another player or pick. GM Bryan Murray has grossly mistreated Lehner despite his having the best Save Percentage out of all four Sens goalies. Lehner is a young Swede and I predict that he will be as good as Lundqvist, and maybe even better when all is said and done. In the last four games that he was allowed to play (Feb. and March of 2012), he was the 1st Star twice and the 2nd Star once.

The Oilers could have also traded the first pick and one of the three players mentioned above for a skilled defenseman (not too old though) such as Shattenkirk and another player or picks. The Blues wouldn’t part with Pietrangelo. Or, the Oilers could have attempted to get a proven power forward to replace Penner. Instead, they took a small forward in Yakupov, a guy who may or may not even stay in the NHL. In fact, if there is a lockout this year, Yakupov would likely go to the KHL and the Oilers may never see him again! So, taking him involves risk and I would never have chosen him but used the 1st Pick as trade leverage to fill one or more gaps in my team.

Oilers Other 2012 Draft Picks

As I stated, Lowe and Tambellini did add some bigger boys in the draft, but no goalies.

They selected Edmonton Oil Kings left-winger Mitchell Moroz in Round 2, 32nd overall (despite his having a midterm rank of 171 and final ranking of 72). He is a 209 lb power forward but he compiled a lot of penalty minutes last year (including fighting majors) and the NHL is slowly moving away from dirty hockey. I prefer players that have exceptional skill and subsequently don’t have to take penalties. Brian Campbell won the Lady Byng and he only took three penalties all year, and Jordan Eberle wasn’t far behind. All said, regarding this second pick, the Oilers were far too anxious and could have done a lot better than Moroz, and there were some Top 10 ranked players still available. Moroz would have likely been available in Round 3 and the Oilers should have waited to see if he was available in that round.  

The Oilers third pick was Jujhar Khaira and he was taken 63rd overall, ahead of his final ranking of 74. He is a power forward with talent in front of the net. He might make the Oilers in a year or two.  
The Oilers fourth pick was also in Round 3, 91st overall, and they chose Russian Daniil Zharkov. His final ranking was 32nd and he is a power forward over 200 pounds. He had suffered a broken collarbone in training camp but was able to come back and put together a pretty good season. From his comments he is glad to be an Oiler (despite the fact that his favorite teams are Detroit and Washington—Datsyuk and Ovechkin surely) and he has a goal of out-working and out-playing Yakupov, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins—especially Yakupov. He feels slighted by being picked 91st and wants to prove that he will be the best player to come out of the 2012 draft. If his collarbone never breaks again, Zharkov will likely turn out to be the Oilers best pick in this draft since he was secured in Round 3; and, it is possible that he may turn out to be better than Yakupov. I like his determination to be the best and if his work ethic matches his words he just might make the Oilers this year—but it would take a lot because I am quite certain that Tambellini plans to only add one rookie this year and that is Yakupov. Oiler veterans are really going to be pushed this upcoming training camp and that will only benefit the team because they need better work ethic. Stiff competition between players will result in a much improved Oiler team.

The Oilers fifth pick was in Round 4, 93rd overall, and they chose their first defenseman: Erik Gustafsson. The Swede is already 20 years old, was unranked and is 176 pounds. Hard to believe that they selected him when there was a Top 10 goalie available (Marek Mazanec) and many other higer-ranked players left. The Oilers need goalies and did not select one in this draft? All said, Gustafsson is a huge gamble and even if he makes the NHL you have to think: “What would have been if they had selected Mazanec or one of the other high-ranked players that were left?” In two or three years we will be able to see the Oilers mistakes in this draft.

The Oilers then selected Joey Laleggia in Round 5. He was unranked and is a small defenseman, although he has a lot of offensive talent and could be another Kris Letang—or, he could be intimidated and pounded at the NHL level. The Oilers are such a small team as it is and already gambled too much with three previous picks so it is hard to back them on selecting Laleggia. However, Laleggia is friends with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who believes that Laleggia is NHL-caliber. Let’s hope so! I don’t mind gambling on Laleggia because he has a lot of skill, but if you plan on taking him then make higher percentage picks on your other selections.  

The Oilers final pick was in Round 6 and they chose 219 pound John McCarron. The Oilers need size up front but Marek Mazanec was still available to be had so the Oilers made another mistake in my opinion. Above all things you need goaltending depth because it simply is the most important position in hockey. Due to the Oilers great need for goalies, they should have selected at least two in this draft and maybe three.

All said, this was a draft in which the Oilers could have and should have done a lot better, starting with trading the number one pick along with an injury problem player for someone like goalie Robin Lehner and another player or pick. Additionally, the Oilers took too many gambles in this draft since high-ranked players including goalies were available to them. Lowe and Tambellini have had the first pick three years in a row and still have not been able to fill the positions on the team that need to be filled. And, in trades they have hurt the team more than helped it. Is that what you call rebuilding?

Too bad that the Oilers extended Tambellini. What a celebration it will be for Oiler fans when Tambellini is finally ousted as GM. I would get rid of Kevin Lowe despite the fact that he was a great player for the Oilers. Obviously, some great players are not skilled in managing a team or being President of a team. Yzerman is even worse than Lowe.
  
TJ Stanley