The Hill of Difficulty

In Guy Flaming’s latest article he tells us that Steve Tambellini and his men are between a rock and a hard place for this coming draft.

Flaming says that the Oilers face “a no-win situation, at least when it comes to the critics (fans and the media) just waiting to pounce on them for making yet another draft day blunder.”

He further suggests that if the Oilers choose a big power-forward fans and media will suggest the Oilers passed on “best player available” in a smaller package. Should they go with the smaller man, then fans will suggest the Oilers passed on a chance to get bigger up front.

I disagree. Most fans (and media) understand very well that the Oilers pick at #10 this draft won’t have an impact on the top 6F next season or even the next (10-11) year. Sam Gagner was taken at #6, has played two NHL seasons, and still isn’t a guy who is helping the team win hockey games at this time.

Most fans also understand the odds are against undersized defenders but that the kid in question (Ryan Ellis) is probably worth it. Why? There’s just too much. He’s not just a good puck mover, he’s an elite level player in junior. He led the OHL in assists, finished in the top 10 overall in scoring and was one of three players on his team to finish over +50.

The advantage of drafting a bigger player (like Zack Kassian) is that he can probably be useful even if he doesn’t develop offensively from this point on. He could end up being Ethan Moreau, whereas the smaller man has to be able to deliver offense (and remain healthy) in order to help his major league team win (when he arrives). I realize that’s a simplistic description of the equation but it’s still true that size matters when it comes to possible NHL recruits.

My feeling about the Oilers is that fans are not at all concerned with the scouting department. Although the Niinimaki draft (he’s the fellow in photo) was a blunder and the 2003 draft hurt (partly due to injuries), the Oilers have many of their former picks who are delivering at the NHL level. Among them are Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani and others. Younger fellows like Gagner and Cogliano are also coming along. The Oilers of recent years have not been bleeding at the draft table, they’ve been getting killed at the trade table. That’s where Steve Tambellini must bet wisely.

I’d like to see them be decisive–the one time the Oilers opted to trade up at a recent 1st round they bagged Hemsky–and if they’re listening to me my selection would be Scott Glennie.

But they’re not, and Zack Kassian is on his way to Edmonton.

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