Even When Jackets Lose They Can't Win
No Taylor versus Tyler. No RNH.
Now what will the Edmonton Oilers do?
They may not be very successful on the ice, but the mighty Oil is damn good at the draft lottery, winning the 2012 version on Monday night and jumping ahead of the sad-sack Columbus Blue Jackets, worst team in the NHL this season, to grab the first pick overall for the third straight year.
Everything seems to work for Edmonton in the lottery. Last year, they didn't win it, but because New Jersey did and could only move up four slots to No. 4 in the draft, the Oilers kept the top pick anyway and selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after picking Taylor Hall ahead of Tyler Seguin the year before.
The intriguing question now becomes whether, after stacking up a pile of good forwards in the draft in recent years, the Oilers will finally recognize the urgent need to add some blue-chip talent to their thin defence corp.
Most see two Russian forwards, Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, as the class of the '12 draft. But the first round is loaded with good defencemen, and the question now becomes whether the Oilers will make one of them the top pick - rock steady Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips is the obvious choice - or trade down to let some other team select first and then pick a quality defender lower down.
Its A fascinating dilemma for GM Steve Tambellini, who is in limbo these days, waiting to see if he or head coach Tom Renney will get a new contract.
The Leafs, with designs on getting a top centre out of this draft, stayed at No. 5 in the draft order, but they might be one of the teams interested in the top pick. Toronto president/GM Brian Burke and Edmonton president Kevin Lowe aren't the best of negotiating partners, but Tambellini and Burke's right hand man, Dave Nonis, can take care of that.
Would Luke Schenn or Carl Gunnarson and the fifth pick get the Leafs the top pick from Edmonton? The Oilers would love to think they could get more, but in this draft, they may not get many suitors for the top selection. Moreover, adding Schenn or Gunnarson, then picking an elite blueline prospect like Morgan Rielly, Matthew Dumba, Griffin Reinhart or Cody Ceci, would give the back end of the Oilers a big boost.
If Edmonton were to stand pat and go with Murray at No. 1, and Columbus and Montreal then grabbed Yakupov and Grigorenko, the Leafs would then definitely get a shot at one of centres Filip Forsberg, Alex Galchenyuk or Radek Faksa regardless of what the Islanders were to do with the fourth pick.
So perhaps there's not enough to be gained by going after the top pick anyway.
"There's more than five players in this draft," said Burke after the results of the draft lottery were announced.
Burke and Nonis have already had viewings of the top prospects, as has Leaf executive Rick Dudley and all the amateur scouting staff.
Burke said he could move up or down, and doesn't feel he needs to draft high to increase his favourable rating with doubtful Leaf fans.
"I'm not on the defensive. I'm not going to say we won't trade down," he said. "Our lack of success this season hasn't changed our mindset."
All in all, while the draft lottery was again as dull as dull can be, the run-up to the draft, with three Canadian teams in the top five, will be as intriguing as any recent draft year. Burke and the Leafs will be right in the thick of it.