Sunday, July 11, 2004


Oil Spill - The Exxon Oilers' Drafting Disasters - PART TWO

As we saw in Part I of my look at past first round pick of the Oilers, it was the Oilers inability to get useful talent in the first round, rather than the small market economics, that really caused the Oilers franchise to turn into a sludgepool of mediocrity.

From 1984 to 1993, the Oilers drafted 12 times in the first round.
Out of those 12 players, the Oilers netted just 2 GOOD regulars (Arnott, Rucinsky), 1 fourth-line 'role player' (Wright), one fringe goon (Leroux), and 8 complete busts!

According to Simon Richard, a freelance author who has done statistical studies on the NHL draft...

33% of all first round picks since 1979 turn into regular players.
29.0% of all first round picks play less than 200 NHL games.
13.3% of all first round picks produce 'superstars'

Looking at the Oilers to date
25% of their first round picks (3 of 12) turned into 'regular' players
66.67% of their first round picks played less than 200 games. (Wow!)
and if you consider Arnott a 'superstar', then the Oilers werent 1 for 12, which is a lovely 8.3% score.

Pretty ugly numbers. Now let's look at 1994 and onward:

1994 (4th) - Jason Bonsignore, C (79GP 3-16-16 34PIM) and...
(6th) - Ryan Smyth, W (642 198-232-430 511PIM)

Talk about your night and day draft, in which the Oilers netted one of their franchise keystones and one of the biggest dissappointments in their draft history.

Both are big strapping guys, but that's what the similaries end.

Smyth: Heart of a champion, excels in heavy traffic areas, works hard to succeed. He was a great junior player and carried his team.

Bonsignore: Heart of a Tin Man, shys away from traffic, more interested in dirt bike racing. He wasn't even the best player on his team in junior, and found himself traded twice during his OHL career. He always had a habit of driving his coaches batty, and he never showed much in his brief NHL career.

The other picks in the top 6? Ed Jovanovski, Oleg Tverdovsky, Radek Bonk, and Jeff O'Neill. Typical Oiler luck that they were end up with the only bust of that bunch.

1995 (6th)- Steve Kelly, C (147 9-12-21 83PIM)

If you ever want to raise the ire of a smart Oilers fan, just mention the 1995 draft, and they'll be reduced to tears within minutes.

Picture this scene: The Oilers fans have the draft held in their hometown, their team has the 6th overall pick, and Shane Doan a local boy from nearby Halkirk, Alberta, is still available at #6.

The crowd chants "Doan, Doan, Doan, Doan!". Unlike the Calgary Flames, the Oilers don't bow to the hometown pressure. Nope...they don't pick Doan...they pick Steve frickin' Kelly!!

Barry Fraser's famous quote: "YOU CAN'T TEACH SPEED!!!"

Of course, this after years of saying "YOU CAN'T TEACH SIZE!!!"

Despite all of his SPEED(!), Steve Kelly hasn't even been able to stick in the NHL as a servicable defensive player. Shane Doan, on the other hand...well, he's just the cornerstone of the current Phoenix Coyotes.

1996 (6th)- Boyd Devereaux, C (431 38-71-109 123PIM) and...
(19th) - Matthieu Descoteaux, D (5 1-1-2 4PIM)

To be fair to the Oilers, 1996 was, perhaps, the most craptacular draft in NHL history since the entry age was reduced from 20 to 18.

Good thing the Oilers had, yet again, two first round picks in which to throw away.

Devereaux became, and is still, a decent 4th liner in the NHL. A poor return on a 6th overall pick, but he's actually one of the better picks from that first round!
Descoteaux, another big 6'4" defenseman, flopped badly. The Oilers should just stay away from big defensemen. (Good thing they didn't draft Boris Valabik, or he'd probably end up a pylon on some highway)

1997 (14th) - Michel Riesen, R (12 0-1-1 4PIM)

The 1997 first round had some very strong picks in the top half of the first round (Thornton, Samsonov, Luongo, Hossa, Jokinen, Brewer, Mara, and Boynton). Leave it to the Oilers to pick up the "Swiss Miss", Michel Riesen.

Like most Swiss draft picks, Riesen did not have the passion or incentive to work very hard for an NHL career. He's now back in Switzerland, where he pays far less taxes, and has a much easier life as a hometown hero.

I love Swiss cheese, Swiss Army Knives, and Swiss watches, but I'd stay the hell away from any Swiss draft picks.

1998 (13th) - Michael Henrich, R (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

Only one player from the 1998 first round hasn't played a single NHL game, and he's an Oiler, of course! :)

Based on his AHL career to date, he may never see an NHL game, either.

1999 (13th) - Jani Rita, L (15 3-1-4 0PIM)

It's been five years, so it's fairly safe to say that Jani Rita is turning to be a bust for the Oilers.

Despite some decent play at the AHL level, he hasn't even been able to parlay that into a regular job with the Oilers. Rita won't be a high scorer, but he should be able to play some kind of role on the bottom 2 lines. Rita has questionable work habits and hockey sense, and unless he is struck by lightning, it's safe to call him a bust right now. He may yet turn into an NHL regular, but time is running out.

2000 (17th) - Alexei Mikhnov, ? (0 0-0-0 0PIM)

With the last pick during the Barry Fraser era, he certainly went out in style with one of his usual craptacular picks.

Just call Mikhnov the mystery man, because hardly anyone knows who the hell he is or what the hell he has done since he was drafted.

This past April, the Oilers brought Mikhnov over for their first good look at the big Ukey. The Oilers really hoped to sign Mikhnov and get him playing in the AHL.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, that won't likely happen.

For one thing, Mikhnov makes about U$300,000 in the Russian League, and he wouldn't want to play for peanuts in the AHL. Add to that the expiring IIHF/NHL transfer agreement and the Russian teams demanding more compensation for their players, and despite whatever talent Mikhnov may have, he probably won't be of any value to the Oilers.

We can't say he's a bust with any certainty yet, but it doesn't look good for Oilers fans.


So, out the dark years of the Barry Fraser era, 1984-2000, 21 Oilers first round picks produced

We can see that the Oilers hit a couple of home runs, but all too often came up with COMPLETE and utter draft busts, which left the Oilers system depleted and hindered their ability to develop their own players or develop quality assets for trading.

So, the next time some Oilers fanboy whines about Edmonton's small market economy hurting their NHL chances, just point them to their team's draft record, and tell them 'It's their own damn fault!'

Labels: , , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?