Around the League – Something smells FOWLer…

Tyler Seguin was rated #1 by ISS (International Scouting Services) on Tuesday, which will re-ignite the Hall or Seguin debate into a full-blown frenzy.

There are great arguments for both players, and Jonathon Willis had an interesting piece on their point production in the OHL this past season. The most surprising stat he uncovered was that Seguin had 34 five-on-five goals compared to Hall’s 19. That is a substantial difference, and re-affirms what I’ve said before: that Hall isn’t a better goal-scorer than Seguin. Hall might be better pure goal scorer, but the stats say Seguin is just as productive, if not better than Hall. I don’t care how a player scores, just how many.

The debate over Hall and Seguin will rage on right up until the Oilers, or the team that wins the lottery, steps up to the microphone on June 25th. I’m looking forward to reading, hearing, watching and listening to both sides explain why their guy should go first.

I expect to read some interesting debates between now and then, but I wonder if some guys just say things to be different. Here’s what Jeff Marek had to say when asked who the Oilers should draft first: Hall, Seguin or Cam Fowler.

If I were the Oilers I’d probably look to trade down with whomever is at the No. 3 position, pick up another pick or an asset and select Cam Fowler (or maybe even Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs). The Oilers have good young forwards joining the squad as early as next year. Forwards like Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, to complement Sam Gagner and the returning Ales Hemsky. What this franchise needs is a stud on the blue line more than it needs another skilled forward.

This has to be a case of trying to sound different; otherwise Marek is way off base.

I decided to go back through the draft and look at the top-five picks and see how many defenseman came from those slots.

1963: No D-men taken in first round. Of course there was only six picks back then. Pete Mahovlich was the best pick going 2nd to Detroit.

1964: None taken again. Ken Dryden was a 3rd rounder and the best pick by far.

1965: Pierre Bouchard went 5th to Montreal. He was a steady D-man but he wasn’t close to being a franchise player.

1966: Brad Park went 2nd to the Rangers and went on to a Hall of Fame career.

1967: Rick Pagnutti went 1st overall but never played a game.

1968: Jim Pritchard went 3rd and never played a game.

1969: Dick Redmond went 5th, and tallied 445 points in 771 games. He had a career-best 59 points with Chicago, but with Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull he was never the go-to guy. He was solid but not spectacular.

1970: Dale Tallon went 2nd to the Canucks. Reggie Leach, Rick MacLeish and Darryl Sittler all went after him. Tallon never became an impact player.

1971: The Canucks took another D-man, Jocelyn Guevremont with the 3rd pick, and he never became an impact player.

1972: Jim Schoenfeld went 5th to Buffalo and was a steady and rugged but not spectacular defenseman. He is more remembered for his “Have another donut” quote.

1973: Denis Potvin went 1st to the Islanders and he scored 1052 points in 1060 games. A true impact D-man.

1974: Greg Joly went 1st and Rick Hampton went 3rd. Wilf Paiment, Clark Gillies and Pierre Larouche went 2nd, 4th and 8th respectively. Who would you want?

1975: Bryan Maxwell went 4th to Minnesota and Detroit took Rick Lapointe 5th. Neither was a stalwart.

1976: Washington took Rick Green 1st overall and California showed why they didn’t last long in the league choosing Bjorn Johansson. Green had a steady career with Montreal, while Johansson played 15 games. Hall of Famer, Bernie Federko went 7th.

1977: Barry Beck went 2nd and Robert Picard went 3rd. They had steady careers, but were far from impact players. The best pure goal scorer the NHL has ever seen, Mike Bossy, went 15th to the Islanders.

1978: No D-men were taken in the top five. Behn Wilson went 6th to Philly, Willie Huber 9th to Detroit and Brad March 11th to Atlanta. All were rugged, but far from franchise a top-to D-man.

1979: Rob Ramage went 1st overall in one of the best drafts in NHL history. Ramage was a very solid D-man, but was never considered a franchise player. Ray Bourque went 8th and eleven of the 21 first-rounders played 1000+ games. Mike Gartner went 4th and Rick Vaive went 5th.

1980: Some great D-men were taken this year. Dave Babych went 2nd to Winnipeg, Larry Murphy went 4th to LA and the Oilers chose Paul Coffey 6th. Denis Savard went 3rd to Chicago and I’d argue he was the most valuable to his team of the top five picks.

1981: Joe Cirella went 5th to Colorada. Jim Benning 6th, James Patrick 9th and Garth Butcher 10th were other D-men taken. Some pretty good forwards went in the top-five, Dale Hawerchuck 1st, Bobby Carpenter 3rd and Ron Francis 4th.

1982: Gord Kluzak went first to Boston and had his career was plagued with knee problems. Gary Nylund went 3rd, but the best D-men were Scott Stevens, 5th and Phil Housley 6th.

1983: Only four D-men were taken in the first round. Bobby Dollas 14th, Gerald Diduck 16th, Bruce Cassidy 18th and Jeff Beukeboom went 19th. Pat Lafontaine, Steve Yzerman, Tom Barrasso, John MacLean and Cam Neely were all taken in the first nine picks.

1984: Al Iafrate went 4th to Toronto and Petr Svoboda 5th to Montreal. Both were decent players and Iafrate had a bomb, but Mario Lemieux, Kirk Muller and Ed Olczyk were the first three picks. Once again the forwards made a much bigger impact.

1985: Craig Wolanin went 3rd and Dana Murzyn went 5th. Both became stay-at-home D-men and neither were the best D-men in the first round. Dave Manson 11th and Calle Johansson 14th turned out to be better. Wendel Clark did go first overall and played both forward and defence with the Saskatoon Blades, but he played forward with the Leafs.

1986: Zarley Zalapski and Shawn Anderson went 4th and 5th overall. Compared to Joe Murphy 1st, Jimmy Carson 2nd, Neil Brady 3rd and Vincent Damphousse went 6th. Brady was a bust and Anderson didn’t do much either. Brian Leetch was the 9th pick and became the best player in the draft.

1987: Eleven D-men were taken in the first round, with Glen Wesley 3rd, Wayne McBean 4th and Chris Joseph 5th. Pierre Turgeon and Brendan Shanahan went one and two. Wesley was a solid player, but would you choose him over the first two picks? Nine D-men were picked before Joe Sakic went 15th.

1988: Curtis Leschyshyn went 3rd to Quebec, after Mike Modano and Trevor Linden. No comparison in the impact he had compared to the first two. Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour and Teemu Selanne went 8th to 10th.

1989: No D-men went in the top-five and Kevin Haller, 14th to Buffalo, was the best of any first-rounder defender. The best D-men were taken later. Nick Lidstrom 3rd round, Adam Foote and Patrice Brisebois went in the 2nd round. Mats Sundin, Stu Barnes and Bill Guerin went 1st, 4th and 5th.

1990: A good top-five class. In order: Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, Mike Ricci and Jaromir Jagr. Darryl Sydor and Derian Hatcher went 7th and 8th.

1991: A true impact D-man in the top-five with Scott Niedermayer going 3rd behind Eric Lindos and Pat Falloon. Yes, San Jose took Falloon ahead of Niedermayer. Scott Lachance and Aaron Ward went 4th and 5th.

1992: No great players in the first round. Roman Hamrlik went 1st; Mike Rathje 3rd and Darius Kasparaitis went 5th. Sergei Gonchar went 14th to Washington and is the best 1st rounder. One could argue the best player taken this year was Nikolai Khabibulin, taken in the 9th round by the Winnipeg Jets. Not a stellar draft year.

1993: The Human Rake (Chris Pronger) is an elite player and he was taken 2nd behind Alexandre Daigle. Chris Gratton, Paul Kariya and Rob Niedermayer rounded out the top five.

1994: Ed Jovanovski went 1st and he is easily the best of the top five, Oleg Tverdovsky, Radek Bonk, Jason Bonsignore and Jeff O’Neill were taken after him. You can argue that Jovanovski has made a significant impact on his teams.

1995: Bryan Berard, Wade Redden and Aki-Petteri Berg were the first three picks. The only time in NHL history that three D-men went first. Chad Kilger and Daymond Langkow rounded out the top five. None turned out great, but Redden is clearly the best of the five.

1996: The string of D-men going in the top continued with Chris Phillips going 1st, followed by Andre Zyuzin and Richard Jackman went 5th. J.P Dumont went 3rd and Alexandre Volchkov was a three-game bust for the Capitals. Phillips is a solid D-man but far from spectacular.

1997: The Islanders took Eric Brewer 5th after Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo. Brewer is a steady D-man who never has a significant impact on a game-to-game basis.

1998: Brad Stuart, Bryan Allen and Vitaly Vishnevsky went 3rd through 5th after Vincent Lecavalier and David Legwand were one and two. Stuart is a very useful D-man, while the other two were a number four at best. You’d probably take Stuart over Legwand, but not ahead of Lecavalier.

1999: Only eight D-men went in the first round (28 picks) and none in the top five. Patrick Stefan was a bust going first overall, but the Sedin sisters and Tim Connolly were good picks at 2nd, 3rd and 5th. Barrett Jackman went 17th and is a solid stay-at-home player, but he’s maybe a #2 D-man at best.

2000: Rostislav Klesla went 4th to Columbus, after Rick Dipietro, Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik and before Raffi Torres. His impact isn’t close to Heatley or Gaborik, but ahead of Torres.

2001: No D-men went in the top five, and Mike Komisarek was the first chosen at number seven. Komisarek or Dan Hamhuis (12th) are the best D-men from the first round, but they don’t come close to Ilya Kovalchuk (1st), Jason Spezza (2nd), Mikko Koivu (6th) or Ales Hemsky (13th) when it comes to making an impact on their respective teams.

2002: Here is the exact case of trading down from #1 to #3 and taking a defenseman. Florida had the 1st pick, but moved to third and took Jay Bouwmeester. The Panthers got the choice to swap first round picks with Columbus in 2003, but didn’t use it because they had the higher pick going in. Bouwmeester is a solid D-man, but he never led the Panthers to the playoffs. Granted Nash only did once, but it seems obvious who has more impact in the game and to the fans.

2003: No D-men taken in the top-five, but Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn and Dion Phaneuf went 7th to 9th. Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev and Thomas Vanek were the top five picks. Phaneuf and Suter would be considered on par or slightly better than Vanek and Horton, but not in same class as the top-two picks.

2004: Cam Barker went 3rd after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler rounded out the top five. Barker is a solid, but unspectacular blueliner and isn’t one who can control the pace of a game.

2005: Another D-man in the third slot with Jack Johnson going to Carolina. Johnson is getting better every year, but so far he isn’t on par with Sidney Crosby or Bobby Ryan who went 1st and 2nd. Benoit Pouliot and Carey Price went after Johnson. In a few years Johnson might be considered more of an impact player than Ryan, but I doubt it.

2006: A clear case of forwards making more of an impact. Defenseman Erik Johnson went first to St. Louis, and a golf cart accident slowed his progress, but Jordan Staal (2nd), Jonathon Toews (3rd), Nicklas Backstrom (4th) and Phil Kessel (5th) are all ahead of him right now.

2007: Thomas Hickey was a shocking pick at number four by Los Angeles and Karl Alzner (5th) has yet to make a statement in Washington. Patrick Kane has been great in Chicago, James Van Riemsdyk (2nd) looks good in Philly and Kyle Turris (3rd) is still a work in progress for Phoenix. Kane is a bonafide star, and Van Riemsdyk looks like a solid player, while the others are question marks.

2008: For the first time ever, four D-men went in the top-five. Drew Doughty went 2nd followed by Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn. I think Doughy’s play in the NHL and at the Olympics has some thinking that Cam Fowler can be the same type of player. That is a big if. Guys like Doughty don’t come around that often. If you had to choose between Doughty or Steven Stamkos and his 40+ goals, who would you take? I don’t think it is slam dunk in favour of Doughty.

2009: It is way too early to know who will have the most impact amongst these five. Victor Hedman was the only blueliner amongst the five, while John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn are all potential offensive stars. So far Duchene and Tavares are leading the way, but we’ll need at least three of four more years to make an accurate assessment.

Playing defense is much harder to learn and master at the NHL level and that’s why it takes most D-men longer to develop. We also see few elite D-men taken in the first five picks.

By my count in the 47-year history of the draft, only seven have emerged as elite defenders. Brad Park, Denis Potvin, Dave Babych, Larry Murphy, Scott Neidermayer, Chris Pronger and Ed Jovanovski. Drew Doughty looks like he’ll join that group and the jury is still out on Bogosian, Hedman, Suter, Phaneuf, Johnson and Johnson. Considering that the latter seven have all been drafted in the past seven years, it is doubtful that all of them will become elite defenders.

Fowler might become a solid defender, but the odds are more likely that Hall or Seguin will have a bigger impact. To suggest that the Oilers should drop two spots, pick up a prospect or another pick and pass on Hall or Seguin is ridiculous. The Oilers don’t have any young, skilled forwards who have the pedigree of Hall of Seguin.

Ice woman

I think that Nashville might have the hottest girls in the league. Say hello to Denise, one of the Equipling Dance Girls. Did you know the Predators have Liquid Ice Girls and Dance Girls. She loves reality TV, describes herself as sarcastic, loves traveling, singing and prides herself on being an undefeated air hockey player. Of course she is undefeated no guy could concentrate while playing her.

   

Random thoughts

  • Was there a better UFA signing this past summer than Mikael Samuelsson? Mike Gillis signed him to a three-year pact at $2.5 million per season. Samuelsson scored his 30th goal this week, before being sidelined for two weeks with a shoulder injury. That is great bang for the Canucks’ buck.
  • The Flames won’t catch Detroit, and they’ll be hard-pressed to pass Nashville either. The Wings play the Oilers twice and Blue Jackets three times. The Wings play the Preds twice and the Flames will be praying that one of them sweeps the two games in regulation.
  • If the Oilers keep Jordan Eberle in Springfield without giving him a taste of the NHL, then I think it is fair to say that the organization is more concerned about him not living up to their expectations than the fans are. It shouldn’t be that way.
  • Who wins rookie of the year: Tavares, Duchene or Tyler Myers? Some in Detroit are making a case that Jimmy Howard should get some consideration as well, but he is 25 compared to the three teenagers. I’ll pick Duchene.
  • How do the Phoenix Coyotes keep doing it? The Yotes have won six straight and their next win will be their franchise best 44th. Lee Stempniak has replaced Scottie Upshall’s offence and the Coyotes have an outside shot to catch the Sharks and Hawks for the conference title. The fans are starting to turn up and if the Coyotes win a round or two in the playoffs, I doubt there is any talk of them relocating this summer.
  • The West will have four new playoff teams this year, compared to last, if the Preds hold off the Flames. That is great for the league and even better for the fans. If the league can continually have six to eight new teams in the playoffs every year it will keep more fans interested.

Leader through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
45:
Sidney Crosby
44: Alex Ovechkin
42: Steven Stamkos
41: Patrick Marleau
36: Marian Gaborik, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk
33: Zach Parise and Jeff Carter
32: Alexander Semin, Anze Kopitar and Alex Burrows

Assists:
66: Henrik Sedin
63: Joe Thornton
57: Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards
56: Nicklas Backstrom
53: Paul Stastny and Mike Green
52: Ovechkin
51: Patrick Kane
50: Daniel Sedin and Duncan Keith

Points:
96:
Ovechkin
94: H. Sedin
87: Crosby
85: Backstrom
81: St. Louis and Thornton
80: Stamkos
77: Patrick Kane
76: Brad Richards
73: Gaborik and Marleau

Plus/Minus:
+41:
Ovechkin
+37: Jeff Schultz
+32: Backstrom, H. Sedin
+31: Mike Green and Daniel Sedin
+30: Alex Burrows
+27: Christian Ehrhoff
+26: Alex Semin
+23: Zach Parise

***Patrick O’Sullivan has a big lead for the green jacket sitting at -32. Shawn Horcoff has closed the gap to -29, while Rod Brind’Amour is -27 and rookie Michael Del Zotto is -22 along with Steve Staios.

PP Goals:
18: Stamkos
17: Heatley
14: Anze Kopitar and Gaborik
13: Mike Richards
12: Marleau and Crosby
11: Jeff Carter, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Ryan Kesler, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Laich and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Hits:
266:
Cal Clutterbuck
264: Ryan Callahan
246: Dustin Brown
228: Stephane Robidas
218: Steve Ott
214: Brooks Orpik
208: David Backes
206: Brendan Morrow
205: Chris Neil
204: Matt Greene and Scott Nichol

Shots:
314:
Ovechkin
298: Jeff Carter (20 shots this week)
290: Parise
257: Phil Kessel (22 shots this week)
255: Crosby
246: Vincent Lecavalier
242: Marleau
241: Henrik Zetterberg
238: Kovalchuk, Stamkos, Heatley and Malkin

  • smd521

    The Oilers need a center. If given the chance fill that role with your top pick imo take Seguin. I know when we were having a last call beer a few weeks ago and ran into Ottawa management they thought Seguin was a better fit for the Oilers based on who they had coming up in there system (Ebarle and the Sweede) and what there on ice needs are in the near future.

  • Whether Eberle plays with the Oil this year or not I believe the decision to first go to the AHL is a good one.
    There is a huge step between the WHL and the NHL and Springfield will help him close the gap between the two. This may help him with making quicker decisions with the puck and play against full grown me instead of 6'3 170lbs "big" defensemen.
    Though I think it would be nice to give him a taste of the NHL in say the last 3 or 4 games of the season.

  • Duke

    Marek is tough to listen to. His show on Sirius is a whole lot about him reeling off mind numbing stats he has accumulated in his years of not getting a date.

    There is also a disdain for any Canadian team not named the Leafs that is on diplay constantly.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Does anyone else think that Detroit could upset(ha) any of san jose, chicago, vancouver or phx in first round? I think I might throw some money on them going all the way as their odds must be lower then ever. Am I foolish in thinking my second favorite team has a chance??

  • Jason, I think you are wrong about Eberle.

    If called up and he plays well, people will be howling that he should have been here all year. If he plays poorly, people will be screaming that he is another wasted draft pick. I've heard nutcase Oiler fans refer to various players as: trash, garbage, waste of skin etc. at the drop of a hat. Why would the Oilers want to expose Eberle to any of these idiots. Let alone to soak up whatever poison is in the Oilers dressing room.

    Let him join the team with a fresh start at training camp.

    • Jason Gregor

      Who the vocal minority?

      Any fan with common sense will realize five or seven games at the end of this season won't showcase how Eberle will pan out. The games will be for his benefit.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      What you are forgetting is that nobody is really watching Oilers hockey anymore. Sure it might be on the TV, but there are other things happening at the same time – like people discussing the weather, or trying to solve that damn rubix cube, or seeing how many beers it takes until you are finally able to get a bottle cap in the garbage from your spot on the couch, or knitting, or….Whatever. Eberle can suck cow udder and nobody would even notice.

      I say bring him up, let him get hit around by the old folks on the ice and most of all, let him get a taste of all the puck sluts out there that only go for actual NHL players… THAT should motivate him in the off season…no?

    • smd521

      Now is the time to call Eberle up for a few games. There is no pressure to win, and he can get a feel for what NHL competition feels like. This should help him prepare for next year.

    • Dyckster

      So by waiting til next season you think the reactions to either scenario will be any different? If he lights it up, folks are still gonna say he should have been here in 09/10. If he struggles, "nutcase Oiler fans" will be crying the blues and shouting those same words/phrases/thoughts you suggested.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Hey Gregor, what did you think of the Wisniewski hit, worst of the season?

    In my mind, there hasn't been a more clear-cut example of a player with no other intention than to hurt the other guy in a while. At least some of these high speed, open ice head shots you can somewhat justify as a guy just trying to throw a big hit. In this one, Wisniewski sees Seabrook by the boards, having nothing to do with the puck, realizes "Oh, that's the guy I want to hurt", takes 18 strides and railroads him.

    How do you think the NHL is going to come down on this, particularly considering it wasn't a head shot?