by Lisa McRitchie on 05/11/12 at 12:30 AM ET
“In Stu we trust,” that has been the catch phrase in Edmonton every spring since the Oilers first drafted first overall. After another miserable season and with the Taylor or Tyler decision before the team, fans were torn. Some were on Team Taylor, some Team Tyler and all cheered for the Oilers to take a difference maker and turn the team around. Because no one seemed to have a clear idea of what would happen, nor who would be the better player everyone decided to keep their favourite in mind but trust that Oilers’ head of amateur scouting, Stu MacGregor and his team would pick the right player. But what about now, two years later?
The first overall player seemed to be a given by the end of December. Nail Yakupov seemed to be the clear cut choice. It was Yakupov who had separated himself from the pack and topped nearly every single ranking list.
Now however, with the draft a mere month and a half away the talk has turned to Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray who is making a splash at the IIHF World Championships for Team Canada. Murray has been playing with juniors to this point; this is his first competition as a senior player but he could still play U20.
It is true that the Oilers desperately need help on the blue line, and that over paying in the summer to get a high profile UFA player will hurt the team’s chances of keeping it’s core players together, especially when so many of them will need new contracts next year, or will at least want to begin discussions.
And so, drafting defenceman looks to be the perfect solution. Or does it?
The first overall pick usually doesn’t happen to a team three years in a row, and while the Oilers have been spoiled, this is a gift. And a good gift. This is not another ugly Christmas sweater, this is that toy you picked out of the Sears catalog months ago. This is something that you want to keep with you for years to come; the Oilers need to focus on the best player available (BPA).
While Oilers’ president of hockey operations, Kevin Lowe is also Team Canada’s GM he is laughing at the question of whether or not Murray’s position with Team Canada is a try-out for the Oilers. Lowe told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal “I’m not going to tell our scouts what to do. They see a lot more games than I do. They’re finishing up their scouting meetings in Palm Springs and I’m not getting on the phone to ask them who they like best.”
But is that how the scouts will be thinking now? Can they forget what the current Oilers team looks like and not try to play GM? It can’t be easy to work with the Oilers, know that you are picking first overall, again, and not feel the pressure to make the best call for the team.
Matheson goes on to write “As he said, Lowe didn’t bring Murray over from the Everett Silvertips to get a close-up look before the draft. They couldn’t find Canadian defencemen playing in Europe to fill out the roster for exhibition games like they usually do, so somebody suggested Murray.”
It does look as though the Oilers are considering Murray, but they would be foolish not to. The trouble is whether or not he is the clear cut best player available and just what would they be giving up in Yakupov? The Oilers do need more defencemen in the NHL lineup, but they have several who are up and coming, and they will be picking high in each and every round of the entry draft. And the team still needs talented forwards. Yes, they have a lot of talent already, but being able to pick the best of the bunch would be an ideal situation. After all, Pittsburgh isn’t exactly complaining about having depth in their system.
Having a more talented players to add to the current group may also bring out the best in everyone. These competitive athletes thrive on the competition and want to be the best. Draft eligible players want to be drafted, and they all want to go before their friends.
Murray has played in all 4 games so far without any points or penalty minutes and has only a single shot on goal through his 35 total minutes of play, nearly the fewest of all players on the team. Only Kyle Quincy has played less with 25 minutes. With stats like that, you know that people are noticing Murray for his defensive play and the simple fact that he made the team.
Before the final decision is made, there will still be many more meetings and the NHL draft combine. Until then, it’s fun to speculate because the Oilers deserve something good to come from this third season of suckitude.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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