Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is It Too Late In The Rebuild Cycle To Draft For Defence?

It has become apparent to many Oilers fans that there is a glaring need for defencemen within the Oilers organization. Some have suggested that EDM might want to use their two 2nd round picks (31 and 48 OV) to shore up that area of need, or even trade up into another first round slot, maybe 10-15 OV. Myself, I'm opposed to that strategy for the Oilers, even though I agree that defence (and goal, I suppose) is the area most lacking depth in Edmonton's prospect pool. I don't think the Oilers should necessarily be targeting defenders with their 2nd round picks, or 1st round pick next year - in fact, I think they should continue to select forwards because I think drafting forwards, at this point, fits better with the "cluster" of upcoming talent in Edmonton's organization.

It's extremely likely that, by the time any D drafted in 2010 and 2011 are ready to be positive contributors to the top 4 of the Oilers, all EDM's top F prospects will be finished their ELC. I'm not necessarily one to jump on the bandwagon of "assemble your team in the mold of the current Stanley Cup winner/finalist", but given EDM's current organizational strengths and weaknesses, if they are planning to follow one of PHI or CHI's defence building strategies, I think it would make more sense to go the PHI route. Of the Flyers top 4 D, none were drafted by PHI. Coburn, Carle, and Pronger came via trade, as did Timonen (though he was a trade-and-sign just before July 1st as a pending UFA).

There is no real way for EDM to follow the CHI strategy, because Chicago's most significant drafted defencemen, Keith and Seabrook, were drafted 3 or 4 years before they drafted two of the key components in their top 6 forwards (Keith 02, Seabrook 03 vs. Toews 06, Kane 07), which allowed the forwards and the defence to mature at the same time. The Oilers aren't as likely to have that luxury, since players like McIlrath and Pysyk might not be positive contributors to the top 4 D for 4 or 5 years, by which time (hopefully) players like Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle will cost much more than their combined cap hits for the next 3 seasons.

The advantage of continuing to draft forwards is that they, generally, arrive quicker than do defencemen, and I think that is somewhat important if Edmonton is going to try to compete at some point in the near future. They already have two of the top four defencemen they'll need to compete relatively soon, in Gilbert and Whitney. I think it would be easier to trade for the other defencemen they need, and continue to draft forwards, hoping that the forwards you draft now can fill F lineup spots earlier as necessary going forward. If the Oilers really want to use a 2nd round draft pick on a defenceman, it might make more sense to sign a guy like Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet at ~3.1 mil, and fill one of their D slots that way.


Deano said...

I posted something similar to this in mudcrutch's comments, but I think it applies here too.

As draft picks come with the franchise, it makes sense to get the most of them. If a team can get 2 NHL players from each and every draft, they can be competitive over the long term.

To make this as easy as possible to accomplish, the team has to place a priority on making a first round selection that has the highest probability of becoming an NHL player. If you can always make a first round selection that makes it to the NHL, then half of the problem is solved. The other six picks have to yield one real NHL player.

In real terms, this means no Dubnyks, no Schremps or Bonsignores in the first round - no high risk/high reward guys. It also means you can't trade away first round picks or give them up as compensation in offer sheets.

The criteria for the first round selection becomes 'most likely to be an NHLer'.

speeds said...

Don't know I agree Deano. People talk about "2 NHL players" per draft being the goal, and maybe that's a decent outcome, but I'd rather draft one star every 3 years than 6 3rd/4th liners, 4-7 D. I think it's far better to swing for the fences, even early in the draft, than to play it safe.

It's no big deal to miss out on a great 3rd line player because you can go to the market and buy that player for a much smaller premium than you can a 1st line F.

Deano said...

So, If we put on our 'Pitkannen blinders', who has the D that we need to complement our F cluster?

Wash - Alzner?
LA - Doughty - already out of reach.

and how do we get them here?

Showerhead said...

speeds: I think that your argument re: premiums that it costs to purchase talent is another point in favor of drafting forwards. My instinct (read: blind guess) is that your fully developed Jason Smith types come for a much smaller premium than forwards of similar value such as say, Scott Hartnell. I know the NHL GM's seem to put a different player type in vogue every few years but my thoughts are that solid #3 or 4 D can be picked up a lot easier than a good second line scorer.

As for development time, I completely agree. If, for example, trading our two second rounders gets us one top 15 D I honestly want no part of it - I'd rather take the extra bullet.

speeds said...


Personally, I don't see a need to find an up and coming D that young; I'd rather try to sign undervalued D via UFA, trade for one, sign via offer sheet, etc.


I've never looked into the relative price hike from RFA to UFA for F vs. D in any great depth, but that's my gut feeling as well. When combined with the (apparently) faster developmental time in favour of forwards, I would be looking to draft forwards as often as possible in the first 2 rounds if I were a GM. I wouldn't pass on a clearly superior D or G to take a forward, but if it's close I'd generally prefer the F.