Looking out for number one

Back in 1970 when the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL, it didn’t really matter that they were destined to stink like rank limburger for seasons on end because fans like me were thrilled just to have a team.

As fans, we accepted the simple fact we’d have to make due with cheering for cast-offs from other teams like Andre Boudrias, Wayne Maki, Rosaire Paiement and a big defenceman named Pat Quinn while opponents kicked the Canucks teeth in some nights and beat them for fun on others.

Back then — as is the case with NHL expansion teams of any era — it was understood it would take time for the Canucks to compete and that slowly, by building through the draft and stockpiling talent, things would get better. At least that was the plan.

Of course, Vancouver fans got reminded right out of the gate there are no guarantees in the draft and that, for example, there can and often is a huge difference between having the first pick and the second.

In 1970, the Buffalo Sabres, who entered the NHL the same season as the Canucks, got the first pick in what was called the Amateur Draft thanks to the spin of a wheel. They used it to select Gilbert Perreault. The Canucks picked second and took Dale Tallon.

Scarred for life by that unfortunate outcome before I was even a teenager, and more than a decade before I started writing about hockey for a living, it doesn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to convince me that picking first is better than picking second.

Thus, I don’t give a whiz if Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler are rated neck-and-neck going into the 2010 Entry Draft. If the Edmonton Oilers are going to stink badly enough to be a lottery team, and that’s a gimme, then it makes sense they finish 30th in the Dive For Five, giving themselves the best chance to pick first.

Tallon. F*ck me.

Wait a second

Now, I get it that teams have whiffed completely with the first pick in the Entry Draft. Likewise with the second and the third pick, the fourth and the fifth, etc. History also shows teams picking second or third or even fourth or fifth have ended up with better players than the team picking first.

That accepted, and still shuddering every time I think of Perreault shoving it up the backsides of Vancouver fans on the way to the Hall of Fame with 1,326 points in 1,191 games, if the Oilers are going to do this DFF thing right, then I want them on greased skids from now until April.

Just looking back 20 years to 1989, and without even taking into account the last four drafts, there’s plenty of examples of the contrast between picking first and second.

  • 2005: The Pittsburgh Penguins picked Sidney Crosby, who has played 335 games, has tallied 159-291-450 and has a Stanley Cup ring. The Anaheim Ducks picked second and selected Bobby Ryan, who has 56-47-103 in 133 games. Crosby will be a HOFer. Ryan is a good, young player.
  • 2002: The Columbus Blue Jackets picked Rick Nash first, while Atlanta took goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Nash is a franchise player with 213-183-396 in 488 games despite having next-to-nothing in terms of offensive support on mostly bad teams. Lehtonen, often injured, is not.
  • 1998: Tampa Bay selected Vincent Lecavalier first, while Nashville picked second and took David Legwand. Lecavalier has 312-397-709 in 831 games and a Stanley Cup ring. Legwand has been a journeyman.
  • 1996: Ottawa took Chris Phillips from the Prince Albert Raiders with the first pick, while San Jose took Andrei Zyuzin. Phillips has played more than 800 NHL games, all with the Senators, and has been a solid top-four guy. Zyuzin played 496 games in parts of 10 seasons. Who remembers him?
  • 1991: The Quebec Nordiques took Eric Lindros first overall, then flipped him to Philadelphia for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia’s 1st round choice (Jocelyn Thibault) in the 1993 Entry Draft, $15,000,000 and future considerations. San Jose took Pat Falloon, who never came close to living up to the pick in 575 NHL games, including a stint with the Oilers.
  • 1989: Quebec used the first pick to take Mats Sundin, who played 1,346 games and had 1,349 points. The New York Islanders took Dave Chyzowski with the second pick. Chyzowski finished 1,318 points back of Sundin with 31 points in 126 games.

Getting it right

The Sabres got it right with the first pick in 1970 and made it to the playoffs in their third season and the Stanley Cup final in their fifth campaign. Starting with the year they reached the Cup Final, the Sabres had at least 100 points if five of the next six seasons.

The Canucks got it wrong with the second pick and didn’t win more than 24 games in their first four seasons. They missed the playoffs in six of their first eight seasons and were knocked out in the first round the two years they did make the post-season.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the DFF should be primarily about clearing cap space and freeing up options for GM Steve Tambellini. Landing a blue-chip prospect like Hall, Seguin or Fowler should be an aside.

That said, the importance of getting it right at the 2010 Entry Draft and adding that pick to strong drafts that have landed the Oilers Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson is significant.

In that context, even allowing that Hall, Seguin and Fowler could all be hits, misses or a combination, there’s something to be said for taking the first swing at the podium next June.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Ender

    Let the balls fall where they may and do this on national tv for all to see who truely will get the 1st pick. Not the current format where betman opens up the envelope with the lucky team. I'm betting the farm the oil won't be that lucky team. Not with a full building and an owner with an MBA. That being a mega bank account. The oil scouting better have their sites set on number 2 and be sure and make that pick count. If tambo can get something done in next few weeks perhaps well more picks in the first round. With the oil draft history it's all in numbers now.

  • HottScarrison

    …Tambo's missing moves this summer are showing on ice these dasy…

    He's way overdue, and no matter who they draft, this is no way to develop juniors: without a team and a culture….

  • Oilchange64

    Robin,

    Next time you have the opportunity to chat with Patrick Laforge ask him for the Pay Per View viewership for the Colorado game on the 18th of January.
    I am a season ticket holder and have too much invested to not go to a game, I would think that the pay per view numbers would be the best metric for fan apathy.

    • I would, but anytime a reporter even approaches a member of Oilers management they start to back up the other way without ever taking their eyes off you — kind of like a postie that bumps into a rabid pitbull.

      • swany

        Kinda like a dear in the headlights, they must be scared of you RB, Maybe try and take some cookies or brownies next time get them all hyped up on sugar like a little kid then maybe they will spill the beans.

  • HottScarrison

    Tambilini's excuse for not giving out the plan for fear of players not giving it thier all? I guess the vets missed his speach to the room. What a patheticly run organization.

  • Oilchange64

    Besides "Dive for Five" no positive spin possible now. This is not "losing productively", it is just plain sucking. I truly fear the upcoming end of football season. I just promised my wife I would do some renovations.

  • Oilchange64

    Is it just me or does anyone else think it was funny that the first 25 posts were debating whether picking first may not better as picking 2nd or 3rd??? WTF?

    A yeah it's better there is more players and you get first choice. . .

    DFF

  • Oilchange64

    9-1 – I love it!

    . . .and the Non-Olympians
    Dion -4
    Rocket Robin -3

    I can see the steam pouring out of Sutter's ears. And his comment to the equip guys to put away the pucks for tomorrow's practice!

  • Speaking of that arrogant bag of pucks Laforge. His head is so far up his own A$$, I don't think he has had a decent breath of fresh air in the last two years. His giant brain fart to push this arena on fans will land him next to Bob the shopping cart guy on 118th ave. Frankly he is part of the problem here in Edmonton and not part of the solution. Only if Katz and Lowe could see this. I find it kind of funny that my Season ticket questionaire came early this year in regards to a series of team matters. The biggest being the arena. I have no issue with the arena, but at the same token I said no because it smelt of that two-faced bald headed stink suit Laforge. Typical Oilers fashion, the questionaire did not ask more than a few questions regarding Oilers Brass, so I saved my commnets section for 1.5 pages of dribble on how the upper section of the Oilers brass needed and Oil change. Not a quicklube or Lubex change but a dealership rape you + filter. So who enjoyed the PPV? Probably Laforge…

    Don't get me wrong I bleed Copper and Blue and really excited that the Oilers might get a Superstar at this years draft. I am also excited that MPS and Eberle are coming next year. However with all of the crap that we as Oilers fans have seen in the last two years, I can't help thinking that there still will be more dissappointment from Management and this future team. It's 7am and I need a Coffee.

  • I fully expect that at this upcoming draft that the oilers proudly select with the first overall pick, Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings. And then Bettman give the long glare, and bellow out, STOOPID!, YOU'RE So STOOPID!

    BTW, classic UHF clip.

  • I get that Hall had great exposure because of the WJ's but if you look at the Oilers' organization (I feel kind of dirty just putting those words together) they're better of taking a centre than a winger. Particularly in this case where there is little to choose between Hall and Seguin. If anything Seguin might be the better prospect, but Hall at this point has significantly more games played. If you expect a top 3 pick today can make the jump to the NHL as either an 18 or 19 year old & then look at Penner, Hemsky, Eberle, MPS and compare to our centre position, I think the obvious pick is Seguin.

    As good as Gagne is, I'm not convinced he's going to he a franchise centre. We need one and the opportunity to get one shouldn't be passed over.

  • 1989: Quebec used the first pick to take Mats Sundin, who played 1,346 games and had 1,349 points. The New York Islanders took Dave Chyzowski with the second pick. Chyzowski finished 1,318 points back of Sundin with 31 points in 126 games.

    Maybe Chyzowski had the flu?

  • 1989: Quebec used the first pick to take Mats Sundin, who played 1,346 games and had 1,349 points. The New York Islanders took Dave Chyzowski with the second pick. Chyzowski finished 1,318 points back of Sundin with 31 points in 126 games.

    Maybe Chyzowski had the flu?

  • Okay, I used to be on here under the name 'Darren'. Now that someone else is using it (in this post) I will switch to my old name on here, Mike Modano's Dog!

    P.S. To the new Darren on here, I disagree with your comment of RB 'cherrypicking' his stats for his arguments. If you think that his point is invalid then simply use your own stats to prove your point.