Looking out for number one

Robin Brownlee
January 18 2010 03:44PM

Back in 1970 when the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL, it didn't really matter that they were destined to stink like rank limburger for seasons on end because fans like me were thrilled just to have a team.

As fans, we accepted the simple fact we'd have to make due with cheering for cast-offs from other teams like Andre Boudrias, Wayne Maki, Rosaire Paiement and a big defenceman named Pat Quinn while opponents kicked the Canucks teeth in some nights and beat them for fun on others.

Back then -- as is the case with NHL expansion teams of any era -- it was understood it would take time for the Canucks to compete and that slowly, by building through the draft and stockpiling talent, things would get better. At least that was the plan.

Of course, Vancouver fans got reminded right out of the gate there are no guarantees in the draft and that, for example, there can and often is a huge difference between having the first pick and the second.

In 1970, the Buffalo Sabres, who entered the NHL the same season as the Canucks, got the first pick in what was called the Amateur Draft thanks to the spin of a wheel. They used it to select Gilbert Perreault. The Canucks picked second and took Dale Tallon.

Scarred for life by that unfortunate outcome before I was even a teenager, and more than a decade before I started writing about hockey for a living, it doesn't take a lot of arm-twisting to convince me that picking first is better than picking second.

Thus, I don't give a whiz if Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler are rated neck-and-neck going into the 2010 Entry Draft. If the Edmonton Oilers are going to stink badly enough to be a lottery team, and that's a gimme, then it makes sense they finish 30th in the Dive For Five, giving themselves the best chance to pick first.

Tallon. F*ck me.

Wait a second

Now, I get it that teams have whiffed completely with the first pick in the Entry Draft. Likewise with the second and the third pick, the fourth and the fifth, etc. History also shows teams picking second or third or even fourth or fifth have ended up with better players than the team picking first.

That accepted, and still shuddering every time I think of Perreault shoving it up the backsides of Vancouver fans on the way to the Hall of Fame with 1,326 points in 1,191 games, if the Oilers are going to do this DFF thing right, then I want them on greased skids from now until April.

Just looking back 20 years to 1989, and without even taking into account the last four drafts, there's plenty of examples of the contrast between picking first and second.

  • 2005: The Pittsburgh Penguins picked Sidney Crosby, who has played 335 games, has tallied 159-291-450 and has a Stanley Cup ring. The Anaheim Ducks picked second and selected Bobby Ryan, who has 56-47-103 in 133 games. Crosby will be a HOFer. Ryan is a good, young player.
  • 2002: The Columbus Blue Jackets picked Rick Nash first, while Atlanta took goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Nash is a franchise player with 213-183-396 in 488 games despite having next-to-nothing in terms of offensive support on mostly bad teams. Lehtonen, often injured, is not.
  • 1998: Tampa Bay selected Vincent Lecavalier first, while Nashville picked second and took David Legwand. Lecavalier has 312-397-709 in 831 games and a Stanley Cup ring. Legwand has been a journeyman.
  • 1996: Ottawa took Chris Phillips from the Prince Albert Raiders with the first pick, while San Jose took Andrei Zyuzin. Phillips has played more than 800 NHL games, all with the Senators, and has been a solid top-four guy. Zyuzin played 496 games in parts of 10 seasons. Who remembers him?
  • 1991: The Quebec Nordiques took Eric Lindros first overall, then flipped him to Philadelphia for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia's 1st round choice (Jocelyn Thibault) in the 1993 Entry Draft, $15,000,000 and future considerations. San Jose took Pat Falloon, who never came close to living up to the pick in 575 NHL games, including a stint with the Oilers.
  • 1989: Quebec used the first pick to take Mats Sundin, who played 1,346 games and had 1,349 points. The New York Islanders took Dave Chyzowski with the second pick. Chyzowski finished 1,318 points back of Sundin with 31 points in 126 games.

Getting it right

The Sabres got it right with the first pick in 1970 and made it to the playoffs in their third season and the Stanley Cup final in their fifth campaign. Starting with the year they reached the Cup Final, the Sabres had at least 100 points if five of the next six seasons.

The Canucks got it wrong with the second pick and didn't win more than 24 games in their first four seasons. They missed the playoffs in six of their first eight seasons and were knocked out in the first round the two years they did make the post-season.

I said it before and I'll say it again, the DFF should be primarily about clearing cap space and freeing up options for GM Steve Tambellini. Landing a blue-chip prospect like Hall, Seguin or Fowler should be an aside.

That said, the importance of getting it right at the 2010 Entry Draft and adding that pick to strong drafts that have landed the Oilers Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson is significant.

In that context, even allowing that Hall, Seguin and Fowler could all be hits, misses or a combination, there's something to be said for taking the first swing at the podium next June.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 LBH
January 18 2010, 03:51PM
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With the clearing of cap space, how many bad contracts would you anticipate the Oilers, if any, would have to take back in return?

And what kind of return would you expect from a Staios/Moreau type of deal, or type of package?

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#2 quicksilver ballet
January 18 2010, 03:52PM
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Perhaps Tambellini may restore the faith and pull a Burkie, getting both Seguin and Hall.

Hemsky and Cogs++ anyone?

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#3 Horcsky
January 18 2010, 03:56PM
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@quicksilver ballet

Any suggestions of trading hemsky cause the tapioca to rise in my gullet

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#4 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 18 2010, 03:58PM
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F*ck me.

i think this sums up the Edmonton Oilers 2009/10 season for the team and the fans.

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#5 Skidplate
January 18 2010, 04:05PM
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Yes, the absolute worst is none of these guys pan out.

The entry draft is a crapshoot. Teams spend lots of time and effort trying to evaluate kids with the hope that the kids turn into professionals.

Let's hope that this years crop is plentiful.

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#6 swany
January 18 2010, 04:11PM
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I can't see the Oil messing up this pick if we get first overall Hall should be ready to play in the NHL next year, One Question RB do you have any idea what Tambo is up to, this is a rebuilding team and if we have all the vets still here after the deadline I'm going to puke! I hope you have some romours that he is trying to do something, the quite is starting to bother me. What happens to this team if he can't move anybody where do they put the rookies that are comming up. This could cost Katz one hell of alot of money for buyouts. To me this team needs to move atleast 4 vets, one of Vish, Souray one of Gilbert, Grebs and Moreau, Steve one of Cogs, Gags one of Nilsson Pattyo.

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#7 Tha Legion
January 18 2010, 04:14PM
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I wouldn't see the oilers trading hemmer for anything right now, injured players have a low value. Plus I love hemmer

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#8 dragon
January 18 2010, 04:22PM
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Horcsky wrote:

Any suggestions of trading hemsky cause the tapioca to rise in my gullet

~ yeah, God forbid! 'Case he was carrying this team just fine before he got hurt. ~

Hemsky ++ to Bos for Tor's 1st pick!

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#9 Jodes
January 18 2010, 04:28PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:
F*ck me.

i think this sums up the Edmonton Oilers 2009/10 season for the team and the fans.

Yep.. and they aren't even going to kiss us first before they do it!

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#10 Bucknuck
January 18 2010, 04:33PM
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dragon wrote:

~ yeah, God forbid! 'Case he was carrying this team just fine before he got hurt. ~

Hemsky ++ to Bos for Tor's 1st pick!

The Oil weren't last when he was in the lineup. I guess a point a game is no longer good enough for you people. If you are trading him, then at least do it when his value is high, not rock bottom.

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#11 LBH
January 18 2010, 04:35PM
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@Bucknuck

I'm indifferent if we do or don't trade Hemsky. But how can a guy who's his age, with his contract, with years still left, proven NHL player, be worth any less just because he had a surgery?

I don't think his value really changes in the eyes of the GM's, I just don't see anyone interested in him until the offseason.

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#12 Boris
January 18 2010, 04:37PM
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Trade Hemsky ?? Have I slipped into Bizarro World and don't know it? A 70 point guy playing with not so talanted forwards for a 4+ Million cap hit should be traded. WTF? Trade to get someone that can play with Hemsky, don't get rid of him.

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#13 The Real Scuba Steve
January 18 2010, 04:50PM
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quicksilver ballet wrote:

Perhaps Tambellini may restore the faith and pull a Burkie, getting both Seguin and Hall.

Hemsky and Cogs++ anyone?

I don't think Tambellini is capable of pulling a trade like that off.

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#14 Ender
January 18 2010, 04:56PM
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I love that clip; I own UHF on DVD and that segment still gets funnier every time. "You're so STUPID!" lol

[edit: remainder of comment removed because I decided I didn't want to be 'that guy'.]

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#15 quicksilver ballet
January 18 2010, 04:59PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

I don't think Tambellini is capable of pulling a trade like that off.

Bum Stauffers favorite phrase.......expect the unexpected, nobody expected the 2009/2010 season to unfold this way, perhaps Tambellini is overdue to mend the optics of this season.

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#16 Ducey
January 18 2010, 05:08PM
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@quicksilver ballet

Seguin or Hall will be doing real well to become Hemsky. Why would you give up a proven NHL point per game guy for someone who MIGHT become an NHL PPG guy?

Read the article above. The draft is a crapshoot. Neither of these guys is a once in a generation talent. Take the best pick, add him to what you have and go from there.

Hemsky + Hall or Seguin > Hall + Seguin

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#17 Racki
January 18 2010, 05:42PM
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I think scouting/drafting has improved a lot in recent years. So to compare 80s/90s busts to today's drafts is a bit unfair.

I think Lehtonen is better than it appeared. You can't say because of injuries he was a bad pick. He actually started off pretty damn promising. The injuries definitely have been hampering his career, but that is something out of a scouts control really. Next draftee that year was Bouwmeester.. I doubt the Panthers were upset about that.

So on top of that...

In 200, we have DiPietro (who the Isles thought was a winner...), Dany Heatley (obviously a very good #2 pick) and Marion Gaborik (another very good #3 pick, despite injuries which again you can't pin on drafting).

In 01, we have Kovalchuk followed up by Jason Spezza.. great set of players to pick 1 and 2. Although #3, 4, 5 didn't make out so well.

In 03 we have MA Fleury and Eric Staal... think we can say that was a home run for both teams. Horton at 3rd isn't too bad either.

In 04 we have Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin... I don't think I can think of a better 1-2 punch in the draft in recent years. Cam Barker followed that up at #3.. not too shabby.

In 05 we have the Crosby sweepstakes. #2 was Bobby Ryan as you mentioned, which is a very nice pick. After that is Jack Johnson, which I'd say isn't too shabby although arguable.

In 06, that one is looking pretty good with Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal (who you could say would probably be better if he wasn't on a stack team.. but even so, he's been good), Jonathan Toews. The top-5 picks are all pretty decent.

In 07, we have Pat Kane, James Van Reimsdyk, Kyle Turris. That one is a tough call still. A bit too early to really tell where the 2nd/3rd guys will be going

In 08, we have Steve Stamkos (very good player, future elite), Drew Doughty (Olympian, and looks to be on his way to being a franchise d-man), and Zack Bogosian. Another good top 3 year.

Despite age, even 09 looks good with Tavares off to a good start, and Hedman 2nd pick, and Matt Duchene who got off to a pretty good start in Colorado.

So to sum up, since at least 2000, drafting/scouting in the top 3 (at least) has been pretty consistently good. You're always going to have the odd dud in there now and again, but the odds are, if we pick top 3 we'll get someone special. I think we'll be happy if we get that first overall pick. If we get Hall, Seguin, or Fowler, I'm sure I'll be happy. If by some miracle we climb in the standings, well I hope the Oil pick Nino Niederreiter who's become a household name (or at least an attempted household name) since the WJHCs. And hey, if we pick high, maybe we can make off with Hall/Seguin or Fowler and a Campbell in round 2.

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#18 Robin Brownlee
January 18 2010, 05:48PM
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@Racki

I'd considered everything you've mentioned before I wrote this. None of it convinces me picking second or third is better than picking first, which is my my point.

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#19 The Mook
January 18 2010, 06:07PM
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Picking first is of course the best, and it looks like the Oil are well on their way. But if Tambo could somehow trade off some combo of players and get another 1st rounder in a deep draft it would make me forget his inactivity up to this point. But not Hemsky, two more years of a very good contract should be used with the kids coming in, not traded away.

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#20 Racki
January 18 2010, 06:18PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I'd considered everything you've mentioned before I wrote this. None of it convinces me picking second or third is better than picking first, which is my my point.

Oh, apologies.. I just misunderstood, thinking you were saying that the 2nd/3rd picks had some issues, historically (which they do, just not recently). But at any rate, sounds like we're on the same page anyways...

#1 pick obviously would be the best bet for us... but you'd have to figure that #2 or #3 won't be so bad either. I think we'll come out pretty happy this year if we finish anywhere in the top 3. :D

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#21 jake
January 18 2010, 06:35PM
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re: Hemsky

Does he re-sign with Edmonton between July 1st 2011 and trade deadline in 2012? It's far away but if you are GM, and you are getting ready to clear you core vets and rebuild, what do you do with Hemsky?

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#22 The Mook
January 18 2010, 06:48PM
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re: Hemsky

I think if the team then can be fast and exciting and on the way up he might consider re-signing here. Hopefully by then most of the dead weight contracts will be gone, and Hemsky could be the veteran to build this new team around.

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#23 Mowzie
January 18 2010, 06:59PM
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Knowing our luck, we'll draft Taylor Hall and his agent will successfully negotiate the first ever "MTC" (must trade clause), forcing Tambellini to trade Hall for AHL depth and 5th rounder in 2064. Is Mike Keane available?

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#24 Darren
January 18 2010, 07:42PM
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I agree that picking 1st is always better than picking 2nd or 3rd like Brownlee has pointed out. I just dislike the cherry-picking of certain draft years to prove this point.

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#25 HottScarrison
January 18 2010, 07:54PM
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1st is NOT always better. In 1993 Daigle was 1st and who was second Chris Effin Pronger. Ottawa #@$% the bed on that one. Just to be a pain.

*wipes spit off screen after sayin that name, Pronger. petowie. Damn it! gotta do it again*

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#26 Robin Brownlee
January 18 2010, 07:55PM
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Darren wrote:

I agree that picking 1st is always better than picking 2nd or 3rd like Brownlee has pointed out. I just dislike the cherry-picking of certain draft years to prove this point.

It's not always better, just usually. As far as cherry-picking goes, I used drafts where there's a big difference to prove my point, which makes sense, no? In most seasons since 1989, the first pick is usually better, although not by as much of a margin as the years I used to illustrate the point.

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#27 The origional Bruno
January 18 2010, 08:00PM
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Trade Hemsky? Wow WTF is going through your minds ? If your gonna throw that out there give valid reasons. ..otherwise throw a shames jersey on and get lost!!!! You sound like morons

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#28 HottScarrison
January 18 2010, 08:00PM
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2-0 end of 1st. God we're awful.

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#29 The Real Scuba Steve
January 18 2010, 08:13PM
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3-0, have we hit rock bottom yet...

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#30 Lofty
January 18 2010, 08:35PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

3-0, have we hit rock bottom yet...

What now then...

4-0

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#31 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 18 2010, 08:39PM
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Lofty wrote:

What now then...

4-0

somewhere in the world mact must be sitting back and laughing.

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#32 Rob
January 18 2010, 08:39PM
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I get who you'd pick and about 99% of the sane world would likely do the same. The $64 trillion dollar question is...can this Oiler brain trust be trusted to do the same? This is an organization who likes to prove Central Scouting and everyone else wrong. These dudes in Oiler scouting seem to be off the reservation when it comes to picking talent. There may have been some improved picks in the year or so but I have yet to be convinced Tambo et al knows anything about building a hockey organization. Here's hoping.

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#33 Crash
January 18 2010, 08:40PM
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Just as a matter of interest Windsor played in Plymouth this evening...

Plymouth 7 Windsor 4

Tyler Seguin with 2 goals and an assist, Taylor Hall with one assist.

Doesn't mean anything just a game of interest. Windsor was the road team.

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#34 Robin Brownlee
January 18 2010, 08:44PM
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Rob wrote:

I get who you'd pick and about 99% of the sane world would likely do the same. The $64 trillion dollar question is...can this Oiler brain trust be trusted to do the same? This is an organization who likes to prove Central Scouting and everyone else wrong. These dudes in Oiler scouting seem to be off the reservation when it comes to picking talent. There may have been some improved picks in the year or so but I have yet to be convinced Tambo et al knows anything about building a hockey organization. Here's hoping.

I'd rather not leave it to chance or hope. Besides, Tambellini has a proven track record of, er, nevermind . . .

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#35 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 18 2010, 08:48PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I'd rather not leave it to chance or hope. Besides, Tambellini has a proven track record of, er, nevermind . . .

havent the oilers been feeding their fans "chance and hope" for the last 20 years? Seems right up their alley....

(well, that and the obvious feeding the fans the beef comments....damn mom reading over my shoulder)

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#36 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 18 2010, 08:52PM
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Rob wrote:

I get who you'd pick and about 99% of the sane world would likely do the same. The $64 trillion dollar question is...can this Oiler brain trust be trusted to do the same? This is an organization who likes to prove Central Scouting and everyone else wrong. These dudes in Oiler scouting seem to be off the reservation when it comes to picking talent. There may have been some improved picks in the year or so but I have yet to be convinced Tambo et al knows anything about building a hockey organization. Here's hoping.

This stance is getting old. The last 4 first rounders have been Cogs/Gagner/Eberle/MSP.

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#37 Crash
January 18 2010, 08:53PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I'd rather not leave it to chance or hope. Besides, Tambellini has a proven track record of, er, nevermind . . .

Possibly one good sign...two years ago when the Oilers took Eberle at 22 that's exactly where he was rated...then last year when MPS dropped to #10 the Oilers snapped him up so chances are good I believe you'll hear them call either Hall or Seguin with a top 2.

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#38 Crash
January 18 2010, 08:57PM
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On a happy note anyone notice how often that Phaneuf and Regehr are on the ice when the other team scores? It's no wonder they weren't selected for Canada....

Also interesting stat shown in last nights Calgary game vs. Anaheim...Iginla's point per game average has dropped for 3 straight seasons and so far in this 4th season it is dropping once again....

Hey there's always something to enjoy when your own team is having a terrible season...lol

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#39 HottScarrison
January 18 2010, 09:02PM
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5-0. MacT just pissed himself

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#40 The Real Scuba Steve
January 18 2010, 09:03PM
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5-0, can we get a 6?

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#41 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 18 2010, 09:03PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

5-0, can we get a 6?

yes!!!

we want 10?

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#42 The Real Scuba Steve
January 18 2010, 09:07PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

yes!!!

we want 10?

Whoops, the Ave's scored again when I was typing... 10 is a possibility.

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#43 HottScarrison
January 18 2010, 09:08PM
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we got a 6!!!!! Debacle!?? Lets hope. How these guys can look in the mirror in the morning. Oh ya our hard-earned money tells them its ok.

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#44 dragon
January 18 2010, 09:09PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

yes!!!

we want 10?

nooo...

please make it stop. these kids need some self-respect.

did captn' crunch and big sexy took a simultaneous hooking penalty in the first? how did that works?

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#45 HottScarrison
January 18 2010, 09:09PM
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Effin bums

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#46 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
January 18 2010, 09:10PM
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dragon wrote:

nooo...

please make it stop. these kids need some self-respect.

did captn' crunch and big sexy took a simultaneous hooking penalty in the first? how did that works?

self-respect?

hahahahaha, good one!!!

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#47 Kevin
January 18 2010, 09:15PM
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Let the balls fall where they may and do this on national tv for all to see who truely will get the 1st pick. Not the current format where betman opens up the envelope with the lucky team. I'm betting the farm the oil won't be that lucky team. Not with a full building and an owner with an MBA. That being a mega bank account. The oil scouting better have their sites set on number 2 and be sure and make that pick count. If tambo can get something done in next few weeks perhaps well more picks in the first round. With the oil draft history it's all in numbers now.

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#48 dragon
January 18 2010, 09:18PM
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...Tambo's missing moves this summer are showing on ice these dasy...

He's way overdue, and no matter who they draft, this is no way to develop juniors: without a team and a culture....

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#49 dragon
January 18 2010, 09:22PM
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dragon wrote:

...Tambo's missing moves this summer are showing on ice these dasy...

He's way overdue, and no matter who they draft, this is no way to develop juniors: without a team and a culture....

...dasy...

yes, I can't spell to save my Oilers....

lol away, RossCreek. ;-)

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#50 Oilchange64
January 18 2010, 09:27PM
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I didn't watch or listen to the game. Checked earlier....2-0....now this....wtf???? Gurgle....I just....well....arghhhh....

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