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The Puck Stops Here

How Not To Rebuild

It is many people's conventional wisdom that a poor team's best chance to rebuild is to become as poor a team as possible and try to build through top draft picks.  This is the path the Edmonton Oilers have followed.  They have picked first overall in the NHL draft three years in a row netting them Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.  They have picked up other young talented players in Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Sam Gagner.  This rebuild has netted them a team in last place in the West Conference.  In fact, that same conventional wisdom that lead to the first rebuild would suggest now is the time to trash the team again and rebuild in exactly the same way that has failed them so far.

While it is true that none of the young players the Edmonton Oilers have picked up are on Hall of Fame tracks.  They haven't "hit a home run" with any of their first overall picks - at least not yet.  It is still quite possible that one or more of them does project to a Hall of Famer in the future.  It is also clear that this route to building a winning team has no guarantees.  In fact it appears to be no better than any other method - and possible worse than them.

What is the way to build a winning team today?  The top teams today have had to acquire their core at early ages in their career.  Most often this occurs through the draft, although good players can come from anywhere.  For example, first place Anaheim's top goalie Jonas Hiller was a free agent signee from Europe.  There is no excuse to give away talent.  There is no excuse to stop looking and tank a team.  You need a scouting staff that is good enough to find these players.  That is the problem in Edmonton.  There isn't any player currently on their roster who makes a significant contribution to their core who was drafted in a later round in the draft.  Had Edmonton been able to find players like Brandon Saad and Corey Crawford in Chicago or TJ Oshie in St Louis or countless other players on top teams. 

The secret to rebuilding a team is not to tank the team and get top draft picks.  It is to rebuild your scouting system and continue to find core players both with your early draft picks and also by finding players elsewhere (such as later in the draft, undrafted free agents etc.).  The Edmonton Oiler method of rebuilding their team hasn't worked.  They may have been a better team before the process began than they are now six or seven or possibly even eight years into the process.

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Comments

shazam88's avatar

It doesn’t seem like they’re building a team to play in this particular league, let alone the Western conference. It’s not the 1980s…defense definitely matters.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 01/22/14 at 10:22 PM ET

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I think tanking could have worked if they’d drafted better. They made a huge mistake taking Yakupov when they already had scoring wingers. They should have drafted for position and taken the best available defenseman. They likely could have also moved down the drafting order and acquired more assets. If I were GM for a day I’d reset by trading Yakupov for defense or a high pick to get D. And I’d do it soon before his stock diminishes further on a bad team.

Posted by vansteve on 01/23/14 at 02:03 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

This!

There isn’t any player currently on their roster who makes a significant contribution to their core who was drafted in a later round in the draft.  Had Edmonton been able to find players like Brandon Saad and Corey Crawford in Chicago or TJ Oshie in St Louis or countless other players on top teams.

The secret to rebuilding a team is not to tank the team and get top draft picks.  It is to rebuild your scouting system and continue to find core players both with your early draft picks and also by finding players elsewhere (such as later in the draft, undrafted free agents etc.). 

Posted by w2j2 on 01/23/14 at 08:38 AM ET

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There’s a big piece of this story that is missing: team composition. The team isn’t built right. It goes beyond acquiring talent - the Oilers have failed to come up with a blueprint of how to construct lines. They just keep adding sizzle to the lineup with these high picks. But they’ve failed to add some key pieces needed to build a winner.

I don’t watch them enough to comment, but are Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov - or any of their never-ending string of top-5 picks guys with extraordinary character, someone like Zetterberg? Do their best players have the mental fortitude to will the team into the game and keep the team from losing confidence?

I know Perron has size (and Smyth, before he was 60 years-old), but do they have any guys on their lines that can muck and score? Look at how Detroit, Anaheim, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Boston, to name a few, construct their teams - there are very important guys on those rosters who aren’t necessarily snipers or speedsters or playmakers but instead are the guys who get the puck from the other teams, bang and crash, and drive the net for the garbage. I don’t think Edmonton has those guys.

And the defense has been an afterthought.

What Edmonton has done with the last 5-6 drafts is akin to what the Lions did in their recent drafts - WR, WR, WR, RB, TE…they spent a lot of time getting these cute players but they completely ignored the bigger picture of turning these assets into pieces of a well-composed roster.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 01/23/14 at 11:21 AM ET

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Good lets trade some “character” guys like Q, cleary, Sammy, tuzzi and lets get nail yak or taylor hall for some scoring LMAO

Posted by Pasha1277 on 01/23/14 at 02:39 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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