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Oilers head scout defends team’s results after years of high draft picks

Jun 22, 2014, 9:09 AM EDT

EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 3: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Phoenix Coyotes during an NHL game at Rexall Place on December 3, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 6-2.(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lately, the Edmonton Oilers have almost become a cautionary tale about the dangers of fully embracing a complete rebuild. They got the first overall pick from 2010 through 2012 and that hasn’t been enough to propel them into contention for a playoff spot.

Edmonton Oilers head amateur scout Stu MacGregor admitted that the team needs to “build our prospect base and make some strides.” But why hasn’t that already happened to the point where we’ve seen tangible results?

“Keep in mind our best players, and the players we rely upon, are still only 21, 22, 23 years old, so some of those players are still learning the NHL,” MacGregor said, per NHL.com.

As we recently discussed though, the NHL’s a young man’s game. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were just 22 when they first led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were 21 and 22 respectively at the time of the Penguins’ latest championship.

You could argue that the Oilers don’t have a Kane, Toews, Malkin, or Crosby, but their problem is more fundamental than that. Taylor Hall has established himself as a great first-line forward at this point while Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have also proven to be valuable contributors. Their young talent can and likely will do more as time goes on, but their not what’s holding them back to begin with. The issue is that unlike recent championship teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago, the Oilers don’t have a strong group built around their young talent.

So while the Oilers have another high draft pick to work with, it will be more interesting to see what, if they make any major adjustments through the trade or free agent markets to try and make this team competitive.

  1. luz56 - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Yes and so are the Flames scouting department too…excuses are like aholes and everyone has one….Your record is a direct result of failed picks and pathetic upper management…

    • canucks30 - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      Don’t forget inept coaching

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Jun 22, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        I’m not sure Dallas Eakins is a bad coach, I think he’s a good coach who’s demanding the players get better at the little thing to become better players and a better team but he seems to have no support in the organization, which just wants to coddle and enable their little “superstars” so that they’ll stay in that awful city.

        I truly believe that Eakins wanted to get fired last year, he took the job expecting one thing, the organization would support what he was doing (like he had with Burke in Toronto) and he got there and realized that the organization will support their “stars” no matter what and unless you played with the Oilers in their glory years you’re not one of them. It will be interesting to see if Bob Nicholson cleans house of the entire “old oilers club” and brings in competent hockey people?

  2. canucks30 - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:45 AM

  3. obamareallysucks - Jun 22, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Obama sucks!

    • avscup - Jun 22, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      He really does.

    • broadstreetbeatdown - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:35 AM

      Not as much as Bush.

  4. atwatercrushesokoye - Jun 22, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    They drafted a version of the same player (undersized skilled forward) in the first round 4 years in a row, I don’t think people need to be scouts or GMs to realize that not a great way to go about team building. And then once they have these players they refuse to hold them accountable for mistakes they make because they’re scared the player might get mad, instead they reward them with long term $6 million a year contracts that they haven’t earned.

    Eberle: he looks like he could be a good player, but he looks like a solid second line player on a good team, he has a long term $6 million a year contract. Oilers broadcaster Gene Principe has openly talked about how the Oilers would not trade Eberle for anything short of a Malkin or Subban coming back there way…the Oilers would appear to overvalue their players greatly.

    Hall: by far the best Oilers forward offensively, he looks like he’ll be a very good top line player in the nhl, he still is poor defensively and turns the puck over a lot, which should be an area the team focuses on correcting but they seem to not want to offend him by getting him to be better at his negatives. He has a long term $6 million dollar a year contract, can’t argue with that one.

    The Noooog: he’s an average to slightly above average nhl player. When he was drafted he was a high ceiling player, not sure if that ceiling looks nearly as high anymore. He seems very injury prone and looks like a 2nd/3rd line nhl player. The Oilers gave him a long term $6 million a year contract that he’s come nowhere near deserving and acts as an anchor when it comes to them trading him. This was a bad pick and then a massive blunder on the extension.

    Yakupov: what were they thinking? He seems like an enigma, a guy who could be a good player on a good team when everyone around him raises his play, not a guy who raises the game of players around him, not a top line player. Because he’s the only non local (Albertan or Canadian) of the group the Oilers have no problem using him as the whipping boy, they constantly point out his mistakes and blame him for things going wrong while turning a blind eye to mistakes of the other 3. A horribly wasted draft pick.

    Those are their big 4, but the organization is full of the same type of players, the Oilers have done a poor job thus far of team building, now compare that to the champion LA Kings, who seem to have a type of player in the organization for every spot in their lineup, they need a skilled forward, he’s there, they need a third winger who can check and score a few goals, he’s there etc. etc. etc. but I guess after having 3 straight years with the first pick in every round it would be too much to ask of the Oilers to have built a decent team.

    • thefutureofoil - Jun 22, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Nearly all those picks are bad in their own end, which is a recipe for a team going nowhere. Need to bring in a Matt Greene or someone like that to kick some diva ass.

  5. djshnooks - Jun 22, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    The only reason they haven’t been good is because they missed on so many picks other than those #1 picks. They also couldn’t attract quality free agents.

    There was a study done to show the difference between what Buffalo is doing and what Edmonton did…it’s not even close. Buffalo will succeed because of guys like JT Compher, Hudson Fasching, Jake McCabe, Nick Baptiste, etc…the 2nd and 3rd round picks that they hit on.

    Not to mention Buffalo/Rochester has always long been considered one of the best in the league at developing talent.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jun 22, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      I get that you’re excited for the future of the Sabres, as a Flames fan I’m excited by my team’s direction as well, but let’s be honest here, the Sabres were the worst team in the NHL last year, the Flames were the 4th worst, yes both organizations seem to have lots of players with potential, but potential just means that you haven’t done anything yet, let’s not start celebrating greatness before the players show that it’s warranted…that’s exactly what the Oilers did.

  6. luz56 - Jun 22, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Huge Flames fan here …. I like the direction they are going with the young talent on the farm.. Size is needed to compete with the top 6…I hear they would be thrilled if Bennett is there at 4 … Still hearing Yandle for Hudler… Size does matter!! Edmonton until you clean house like the Flames did you will continue to flounder in the basement and make excuses for Lowe and Killer

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jun 22, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      This is only the second time I’ve seen the Yandle for Hudler speculation, to me it doesn’t really make sense, the Flames already have 2 players similar to Yandle in Giordano and Brodie, and are really in need of a bigger defensive defenseman for the second pairing. I think they’re better off moving Hudler for a bigger body up front.

      The Fan 960 was going on and on last week about the Flames being enamoured with Nick Ritchie (I think that’s his first name) a big forward from the O who is huge but doesn’t skate great, they said that the Flames have him in their top 5, hopefully that’s just their speculation and not actually from the team. Take whichever of the big 4 falls to you, don’t reach for a project at 4 just because the player is big!

  7. tomcreanshair - Jun 22, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Fasching wasn’t drafted by Buffalo-he was a trade deadline pickup from LA.

  8. luz56 - Jun 22, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    atwatercrushesokoye… Years ago I was pretty connected to the Stamps and somewhat Flames.. Today living in a PHX I’m not but the one source I do trust has been bang on is as connected as one could be… Told me about Sutter, Iginla, Feaster.. Coyotes aren’t big on Yandle and I’m told Hudler is an asshole in the dressing room.. (As was Iginla) Rumors are just that…. But he is a reputable source

  9. Hard to BeLeaf - Jun 22, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    Taylor Hall was a good pick, but taking Nugent-Hopkins over Landeskog and Yakupov over anyone was a HUGE mistake. Oilers have too many small speedy forwards now and their values are dropping fast. They should have traded Sam Gagner when they had the chance (after he had that 8 points game).

  10. ray2013 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:46 AM

    One criticism I have with the commentary; the Oilers took the consensus best player available when they drafted Hall, Nuge and Yakupov. It’s not the Oilers’ fault that there was no Crosby available when they made their picks. It’s very easy to second guess after the fact about these picks.

    But it would be entirely proper to criticize the team environment around these young players; a new coach and new system every year, a dearth of solid veteran leaders to teach the kids the right way to play, the NHL’s worst defensive corps, below-average goaltending that horribly imploded last year, a lack of depth at the centre position, a lack of size throughout the lineup, a lack of grit. Those are all on management to resolve, and they haven’t.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:43 AM

      In the Hall year there was the big Taylor/Tyler debate, in hindsight Seguin has turned it a very good player but I don’t think the Oilers went wrong drafting Hall, I think he’s on his way to being a star. My criticism would be more in the way the Oilers went about team building, they got so fixated on “be bad for 3-4 years draft first overall and get a superstar and then become the Penguins or Blackhawks” that the next two years they ended up taking versions of the same player they had in Hall, perhaps trading down for more picks and another prospect or drafting Murray etc. would have been the better way to go. The teams that win (Like your Kings) have superstars but they also have different types of players (stud defenseman and role players) that play just as big of a part in winning, Lowe seems to have forgotten about that when just trying to get superstars.

      • ray2013 - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        But Mr. 6 Rings knows more about winning than anyone. Ask him. He’ll tell you.

        Seriously, it’s not hard to see where the weaknesses of this team are. Weak down the middle, lack of size and grit, weak defensive corps, below average goaltending, lack of stability at the coaching level, etc.

        The Flames are doing much better at re-building, and they’re only completed one year of their re-build.

  11. malinpaul - Jun 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Many of these comments are bang on. That said, I am cautiously optimistic as an Oiler fan and here is why:

    in around 3 years our D will feature Nurse, Klefbom, Schultz, Marincin, maybe Petry, maybe Simpson, and hopefully Ekblad (if we don’t get Ekblad I would try to trade down for Fleury the #2 D in the draft). They might not all pan out, but Klefbom was MVP at the WJC and Nurse looked like “a young Larry Robinson” at times in pre-season. That will form a very solid D by committee similar to the one the Canucks fielded a few years back. In that same time frame the #1s will be hitting their stride – think Nuge when he scored 15pt in 6 games in the WJC – they will be playing against peers.

    That said, we need a lot of different pieces (big #2C please), and I would trade any current Oiler – I would trade Hall for the right deal. The Avs had 3 #1s in a row and they traded all of them prior to their cups.

    So, lots of problems to work through, and certainly many worlds where we fail miserably, but I am cautiously optimistic.

    • oldirtyoiler - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      I would count Hall as the only untouchable. He’s on the verge of top 5 forwards in the game, with all the moves of the Moose, Mark Messier, as a left winger before he moved to center.

      Moving Hall might actually be enough to get the leadership finally run out of town.

      Also anxious about moving any of the parts about to enter the league… Klefbom/Nurse/Marincin, as we have yet to see if their potential will get them to 1st line NHL D-men.

      An early exit for Cogliano turned sour for the Oil, as did Hamrlik and Cleary (sold), and to a lesser degree Glenncross.

    • ray2013 - Jun 23, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      My biggest concern about counting on prospects is that they never improve at a constant pace. The Sedins are a good example; I seem to recall a lot of criticism in their early years that they were more hype than reality. It took a while, but they did finally make it to a level projected when they were drafted.

      But they were not border-line hall of famers overnight, and they were at an Art Ross level for only a few seasons. And that was due in part to playing crappy teams like the Oilers on a regular basis.

      So as good as you want Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin to be, it has to be realistic.Very few young defencemen become all-stars right away, and most never do.

  12. malinpaul - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    Like I said, the yound D may not all work out, I’d even add that, save Schultz, I’d be glad to see them all play in the minors for the lion’s share of the year. The Oil need to focus their asset acquisition around that 3-5 year window from those same reasons – the D take longer and the peak years may not be long.

    CAUTIOUSLY optimistic.

    GOil!

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