This is a bit of a meandering post, but I have some thoughts I’d like to share…
As the draft approaches, the rumour mill is bound to heat up. Many people are thinking that the Oilers will be very active between the draft and free agency but it really is anyone’s guess as to how much movement they will be involved in.
One thought that crossed my mind in the afterglow of the Oil Kings’ Championship win is how much has, and how much will, Bob Green’s stock rise in light of the Oil Kings repeated success? He is the undoubtedly the chief architect of this city’s greatest run of sporting dominance since the 80’s… and we all know how much weight a history of winning championships carries in these parts.
Bob Green was hired by the Oilers in August of 2013 and adorned with the title of director of amateur and free-agent scouting. In the salary cap NHL, finding talent on the cheap, that has been surpassed by the draft, is an important part of building a solid development system and Green appears to have a very good handle on finding amateur talent. How much influence he has is up to debate but I don’t think anyone can look past what he brings to the Oilers’ management circle.
One of the rumours that people have been rumbling about has the Oilers looking at acquiring Griffin Reinhart in a swap of first round picks with the Islanders. Rumours like this one usually come from fans being fans but there may be some merit to this one as the big boys in the sandbox are the people responsible for alerting Joe Public to the possibility (Reinhart is held in high regard elsewhere so we’re not the only ones). Reinhart is held in high regards around these parts, as anyone who has been a part of two championship teams usually is. He has draft pedigree, bloodlines and I’m sure the “seen him good” part of the equation is alive and well in the Oilers front office.
Another rumour has many convinced that the Oilers should target Jason Spezza in the coming weeks as the fix to what ails the center position. As much as I think Spezza would be a wonderful addition, the Oilers are nowhere near ready to win now and Spezza, on an expiring contract, is going to a team that needs to win now. Edmonton is no country for old men and adding a expiring whale of a contract at this point would just cloud the future of a team that, hopefully, has a clear and bright one.
What I think…
The organization as a whole has shown an affinity to Oil Kings’ players. Since 2009 they’ve drafted and held the rights to 6. That’s 13.6% of the players they’ve drafted coming from or eventually playing on one WHL team. They’ve drafted them directly from, drafted players from Europe destined for and drafted players who are later acquired by the Oil Kings. It is a really big number when you consider there are 60 teams in the CHL alone, not to mention the NCAA, European Leagues and other North American junior league teams. I look at it as a clear tell as to how they feel about the job that Bob Green did in constructing the Oil Kings’ franchise.
I’m not much of a rumour monger. It’s a mostly a fruitless exercise in who has the wildest imagination, but in this case I feel differently. I see 4 things lining up quite succinctly with the Oil Kings and Oilers. Bob Green, the organizational affinity toward the junior team players and the needs of the Oilers’ roster now and moving forward.
- Bob Green – A winning history gets you a lot of leeway with the Oilers and Bob Green constructed a winner. He is now in an organization that gifted Nikolai Khabibulin 12 million dollars for winning the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. Bob Green has already indirectly delivered them some prospects, via the Oil Kings, who have learned how to win at a lesser level. His opinion of amateurs is valued otherwise they wouldn’t have given him a title and a contract.
- The Oil King affinity – See above
- Top paring defense is a need now and adding Griffin Reinhart, a potential future top paring player, to the group of young hooves already stomping in the stables won’t immediately address that need.
- What they are really short on are quality centers and prospects that play the position.
In looking at the Griffin Reinhart rumour, unless the Oilers are acquiring an almost sure thing, future #1 D-man, I’d say it is a wise choice to go a different route than dealing the pick in a package for something the may already have. That route is using it on a center (Leon Draisaitl). The less likely route is use it in a trade package for another center. This is where the Ottawa Senators can help, but like I explained, my preference is not help of the Spezza variety. The Ottawa Senators can still be a part of the solution though. They hold the rights of an Oil King center that ticks off a couple of organization needs lock and step.
Lazar was a targeted by many to become an Oiler prior to the 2012-13 draft. Had the Oilers been a touch more successful in the lockout shortened, 2012-13 season it very well could have come to fruition. Lazar had been touted going as high as 10th in the draft but dropped a bit and ended up being selected at #17 by Ottawa.
He is a player of the complete variety. Some quotes to describe him from that link (Lowetide)…
Lowetide: Closed very well (final 21 games: 15-9-24) and ended the season with a flourish (or was it a swirl?). There’s a big disconnect between what we’re being told the scouts believe and how the scouting services have ranked this player, but I suspect he’ll close strong. I also expect he’ll be the Edmonton Oiler selection. Now, that may not mean much after the Yakupov counter trey a year ago, but Oiler fans pretty much knew Hall and the Nuge would go #1 overall in their draft years and Lazar should be available when Edmonton picks (depending on how this goes down the stretch). I’d bet a 2-4 on Lazar being an Oiler pick.
Corey Pronman: Lazar is a plus skater with a similar amount of two-way work ethic. His production this year has caused mild concerns, but he remains an above-average but not a great offensive player with an upper tier shot.
Craig Button: He is very good in traffic and he is a player who bears down in the scoring areas to get his opportunities. His skating is very good and his quickness may be better than his speed. He’s a guy who can play at a high pace and tempo. Curtis gets involved and will assert physically to win the puck and gain advantages. He is good all-around player who finds a way to impact the game in many ways, even physically. He reads and anticipates the play very well which combined with his skill, makes him very hard to keep in check.
Evan Daum: Word on the street – or press box in this case – is the Edmonton Oilers are extremely high on draft prospect Curtis Lazar. The whispers of “wouldn’t he look good on the Oilers’ third line?” have gotten louder in recent weeks.
I’m not for a second saying that Lazar is a sure candidate to see long term service as a 2nd line center in the NHL. But is it out of this world to think, given the offensive talent the Oilers could surround him with, that there isn’t a chance he could succeed as the 2 way presence the Oil so dearly lack in the 2 slot? He’d fit right in with the young cluster and the up and coming Oil Kings’ grads as well.
The Oil Kings connections (management and prospects), past desire to acquire Lazar and the needs of the team match up nicely. The 3rd overall pick is far to dear a price to pay straight up, but would some sort of package get it done? What if it included Gagner to help fill the looming Spezza hole? Does Ottawa have designs on any of the top end draft talent? Does Ottawa even contemplate moving him?
I think these are all questions worth asking and answering. Do you think it’s possible, and if so, what would get it done?
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share some banter with me on Twitter, @borisnikov, be it hockey of otherwise.