I was going to make this an anti-rant. I was going to make a list of the Oilers players of 2006-07 and speculate about the future, and point out a few things about drafts, both this one and past, in a reasoned manner.
I will stipulate that I found Kevin Lowe's moves last night odd. I honestly didn't think they'd go for Gagner at 5, thinking one offense-first Knight was enough. Plante at 15 is, as Lowetide said, defensible but still a bit weird. I will also admit that I'm no expert on the current draft class, outside of the players meant to go in the first round.
Having said that, the "Oilogosphere" is all awash in cries of "but we needed skill and scoring, not a big defensive defenceman and some guy I've never heard of before!"[1] "Lowe's a freaking idiot for not taking [somebody, right now the current hot two are also Pierre Maguire's favourites, Cherepanov and Esposito]."[2] Yes, it's true, the Oilers last year lacked scoring. It's also true that if Petr Sykora - I think he'll be back - Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky can't be counted on to at least get 1.25-1.5 times last year's output (which would put those three solidly in the 66-79 point range, not too much to ask), the Oilers are in a lot of trouble anyway. If Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll don't continue their development and get at least 20-30-50, the Oilers are in a lot of trouble anyway. If they can't consistently get the puck safely out of their own end, they're in a lot of trouble anyway. Cherepanov won't help with that, and neither would Esposito. That would require airlifting in at least 5 crack veteran players, which just plain isn't going to happen. Does anybody seriously think that a player such as the young men I've just mentioned would put the Oilers back into Cup contention? If so, you've been smoking more illegal substances than you've accused Kevin Lowe of having done.
Will Esposito fit in with the Penguins? No doubt, they've done pretty well with their young talent - Crosby, J. Staal, Malkin, Whitney, M-A Fleury. I was hoping for the Penguins in last year's playoffs, I'll admit - I even said they reminded me of the next best thing to the 1981 Oilers. But they're not the 1981 Oilers, and this isn't the NHL of the early 1980s. Those Oilers smoked one of the best teams in hockey three games straight, and it wasn't even close. They lost in the second round in a well-fought series against the team that would eventually go on to win the second of 4 Stanley Cups in a row. The Penguins these past playoffs? Not so much. No doubt, they'll do some damage in the future, but I have great difficulty seeing them winning it all at any point in the next couple of years, not the least because Fleury, budding young star that he is, is no Grant Fuhr, and the Pens don't have a young Andy Moog either. They don't even have a combination approaching the 1-2 of Billy Smith and Kelly Hrudey.
Fine, fine, so what, get to the point. What is this all in aid of saying? Look at the past drafts. 1999, for instance. Atlanta took Patrik Stefan at #1OA, and while Stefan's had a decent career, he didn't cover his draft position. Vancouver did all right with the Sedins, trading up to ensure they could draft both of them, but it's only been last year and this year that they've really come into their own. (And now they're only a few years from potential UFA.) #4? A young Czech, scored 245 points in his last two years of junior, tons of offensive potential, drafted by the New York Rangers (who are now getting tons of positive press for taking a chance on a young Russian). Pavel Brendl. Oops. Those of us who remember Jason Bonsignore can feel the pain.
Next up was another highly touted junior player, Tim Connolly. Again, a useful, even good player, but he's not come close to covering his draft number either, and now his career could be over just when it was finally getting interesting. 7th that year was Kris Beech, the guy Mario Lemieux wanted to play with, came over to Pittsburgh as part of the Jaromir Jagr trade. That's two blown calls - Washington for taking him that high, and Pittsburgh's for getting him at all. He scored 10-15-25 his first year as a Penguin, playing with the best player in hockey at the time.[3]
Get my drift now? The draft really is a lottery. Even picking first overall is no guarantee of quality - while you're more likely to get Mario Lemieux than Alexandre Daigle, you're just as likely to get Patrik Stefan. Even if you do draft a player, chances are excellent he'll be a Sedin or a Taylor Pyatt, not a Zach Parise or Jordan Staal. You might get the double whammy, a guy like poor Alexei Semenov or Doug Lynch, players who do well for just long enough to tease you, then disappear into the ether, er, the ECHL.
Drafting for needs now? Fool's game. Cherepanov or Esposito might well turn out to be the next Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, but they're much more likely to be Michael Frolik and Alexandre Picard - first rounders with plenty of promise and undeniable skill, but still very much works in progress. Good news, but not if you want to get back into contention in time to make a run in 2008. If you think anything different, I have no problems calling you a naive fool, right to your face.
In Lowe I Trust? Not quite, but do I really have a choice? I could cheer for the Penguins, I suppose, but even Great Ones aren't quite perfect.
[1] First of all, right off the bat: I'm not a member of the Oilers organization. Neither is anybody else that frequents these weblogs, as far as I'm aware. "We" don't need anything except our paycheques and the occasional beer. No matter how much we might pretend or like to think that we're integral members of the Oilers, somehow smarter and more specialer than Kevin Lowe, Kevin Prendergast, et al, we're not. We would perhaps like to see more whatever in the organisation for which we allegedly cheer, but *we* don't *need* bupkis. Unless you legitimately wear the Oilers uniform, or have an office at Rexall Place or wherever their corporate HQ is, THERE IS NO WE. Got it? Good.
[2] I didn't remember how exactly to spell Cherepanov's name, so I went and looked it up. All you guys who like to talk prospects, you'd sound a *lot* goddamn smarter if you'd only do the same thing. How are we supposed to take you seriously if you can't even spell the guy's name, and don't care enough to take 5 seconds to do it correctly? "You knew who I was talking about" is a lousy excuse. Rob Schremp doesn't get a goal credited for waving the puck around on his stick like it was a magic wand, but we all knew what he meant. Get a dictionary, and keep a couple of windows open for TSN and hockeydb.com. If you can't be bothered to at least spell the kids' names correctly, you'll excuse me if I can't be bothered to take your opinions seriously.
[3] Hell, Jamie Lundmark was another kid that the Oilogosphere was all over Lowe to get several years ago, but his career so far of 71 points in 232 games wasn't worth a late round pick for Lowe to trade, never mind his 9th overall selection.