Avalanche at Oilers, G36 ’10-’11

This is Dave Dombrowski. Over a few decades he’s earned the reputation of being a solid team-builder for various major league baseball teams. From Montreal to Florida and on to the Detroit Tigers, procurement has been front and center on his watch.

The reason I mention Dombrowski today is a conversation he had with his chief scout (Gary Hughes) during the Florida Marlins expansion draft (this is over 20 years ago). I don’t recall the exact exchange, but the draft (Colorado was the other team) became a fascinating item for draft nerds like me. The Rockies were selecting mlb veterans and getting everyone on their list, and the Martlins were selecting prospects straight out of Baseball America and they too were giddy with the haul.

Among their cherished possessions that day were Nigel Wilson, Jeff Conine and a fireballer left unprotected by Cincinnati (Trevor Hoffman). Midway through the draft, Dombrowski began selecting talent with big league experience. Hughes balked, suggesting there were still blue chip prospects available. From memory, Dombrowski said something like “I have to put a team on the field in April.”

I think Oilers management might be a little too far in the “Gary Hughes” camp at this time. An NHL team that dives on purpose may not find itself able to recover for years afterward; reasons include not being able to attract free agents  or grumbly veterans and on it goes.

There’s also the theory about players learning how to lose. When the Cincinnati Reds were a powerhouse team under Sparky Anderson, they dealt with the lowly Padres for their best pitcher (Clay Kirby). The next season, the Reds kept on winning but Kirby’s record improved only marginally. When they traded Kirby, Anderson–the most positive man this side of Kevin Prendergast–said something to the effect that he’d gotten so used to losing in San Diego.

I don’t know if I buy all of that, but do think that losing for years and years in a row is a bad idea as a PLAN. The Edmonton Oilers have done extremely well at the draft table under Stu MacGregor; Eberle was #22, MP was #10 and only Hall has been a lottery pick under MBS.

I’m on board with flushing this season, the Hockey Gods have spoken with the recent trio of injuries to veterans. Having said that, I think it’s important that Steve Tambellini begin to address long standing issues (PK, RH C) with an eye to the future. If he sees Ryan O’Marra as a future 3rd line checker, then he needs to insist that OM sees that playing time for an audition. If Devan Dubnyk is being considered for the starter of the future, then let him fly some sorties.

There’s room for Gary Hughes vision, but a strong Dombrowski at the helm is vital.

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