Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting


No, this isn’t about Nail Yakupov. Enough has been written about the Oilers’ decision to use their third straight first overall pick on that guy.

This is about the drafting that took place early on in Edmonton’s playoff drought, which started all the way back in 2006-07, the season after they lost the Stanley Cup Final to Carolina, and continues to this day.

In 2007, the Oilers had three first-round picks. They chose forward Sam Gagner (6th), d-man Alex Plante (15th), and forward Riley Nash (21st). All three are no longer with the club.

Imagine, if you will, that Plante had turned into an impact defensemen, as opposed to playing just 10 NHL games before leaving for Austria. At 25 years old, he’d be the same age as P.K. Subban, who, by the way, was drafted 43rd overall in 2007.

Heck, imagine if any of the many defenseman the Oilers drafted from, say, 2007 to 2010 had panned out. Alas, Johan Motin, Troy Hesketh, Kyle Bigos, Ryan Martindale, Jeremie Blain — all taken in the fourth round or before — have not. Maybe Martin Marincin (46th overall in 2010) will. Then again, given the trade rumors, he might soon be gone from the club, too.

Is it fair to criticize a team for failing to draft diamonds in the rough? Not on a case-by-case basis maybe. There’s a whole lot of luck involved when it comes to drafting 18-year-olds. But when taken as a whole? Absolutely it’s fair. Otherwise, what’s the point of having scouts? Just let a monkey make the picks.

Consider Duncan Keith’s importance to the Blackhawks. He was taken 54th overall in 2002. With time to develop in the AHL, he was able to enter his prime just as forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, selected in 2006 and 2007, respectively, were entering theirs. Everyone knows defensemen take longer to develop than forwards. Shea Weber is another Norris Trophy candidate who wasn’t drafted in the first round. He was taken 49th overall in 2003 and needed two more seasons of junior, plus some time in the AHL, before he was ready for the show.

Drafting beyond the first round, then properly developing those players, is of paramount importance in the NHL.

From 2007 to 2010, the Oilers made 23 draft picks that weren’t in the first round.

What have they got to show for it in 2014?

An extremely frustrated fan base, that’s what.

Related: Strome, Nelson giving Isles that all-important cheap production

Another losing streak equals more speculation about the Oilers


For a while there, it seemed as if the Edmonton Oilers had righted the ship. After starting the season with five straight defeats, they rattled off four straight wins, outscoring their opponents by a combined 15-7.

Cue the big sigh. Because the Oilers have since lost four straight, by a combined scored of 16-6.

Last night in Boston, the Oilers held a 2-1 lead over the Bruins before — yep, go ahead and sigh again — surrendering four straight goals in the latter half of the third period and losing 5-2.

“We played our game, we were feeling pretty good. Everything was fine,” forward Nail Yakupov said. “Then they scored two goals and just kind of broke us down. That’s the thing, you have to play all 60 minutes and we couldn’t handle it. They played like Boston.”

Tonight in Buffalo, the Oilers will be hoping the Sabres play like, well, the Sabres, because a loss to the worst team in the NHL won’t do anything to quell the speculation that a big trade, or even another coaching change, could be on the horizon.

Here’s audio of TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggesting a “significant trade” would likely come before the Oilers fire Dallas Eakins.

Eakins thinks Yakupov’s improving, but it’s a process

At first glance, this is shaping up to be another disappointing season for Nail Yakupov. The 2012 first overall pick has just two goals and four points in 12 games, but while he might be struggling offensively, Oilers coach Dallas Eakins has been encouraged by some of what he’s seen from the 21-year-old.

Eakins has been trying to help Yakupov make the transition from the Ontario Hockey League to NHL and while he’s made progress in that regard, it’s something that they need him to keep working on.

“We talk about it as coaches as muscle memory. His muscle memory reverts back to he got away with that in junior. It’s something that we think he’s improving on but it’s something we’re going to have to keep hammering home every day,” Eakins said, per the team’s website.

“He’s gotten away with a certain pace in junior and gotten away with certain plays. We don’t want to take those plays away from him because he’s very capable of making very conscious and excellent plays on his backhand. He can do it but he’s got to realize when the time is to do it and when the time is not.”

Yakupov had six shots on goal against Philadelphia on Tuesday. He doesn’t have anything to show for it, but Eakins thought he had some good chances. The hope is that it’s just a matter of time before Yakupov starts delivering on the promise that made him a top pick in the first place. Edmonton could certainly use all the help it can get as it tries to move beyond the rebuilding phase.

Oilers call on Yakupov, Perron after Hall’s fall

With Taylor Hall out for an estimated two-to-four weeks, the Edmonton Oilers need other forwards to step up. So far, it appears that this will mean elevated roles for Nail Yakupov and David Perron, in particular.

Looking at Saturday’s shift charts, Yakupov received the first audition with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. Perron, meanwhile, scored his first goal of the 2014-15.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson noted significant ice time increases for both players, especially Yakupov; the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft received almost six more minutes than his previous high this season.

While the Oilers are notably weak down the middle, they actually boast a host of options on the wing. Yakupov, Eberle and Perron are the most obvious examples as first-line wingers without Hall, yet head coach Dallas Eakins could consider other alignments as well. Perhaps he’ll want to add a possession-friendly winger such as Benoit Pouliot or Teddy Purcell to the top line?

None of these scenarios truly dull the pain of losing their best player and general wrecking ball winger. Still, for a team that continues to struggle to compete, perhaps it would be beneficial to see more from guys like Yakupov?

(Besides, Yakupov could make himself a nice chunk of change if he plays well in the last year of his entry-level contract.)

Oilers’ Hall out 2-4 weeks with MCL sprain

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The Edmonton Oilers announced that Taylor Hall will miss two-to-four weeks with an MCL sprain.

This backs up an earlier report that Hall, 22, would be out longer than day-to-day but isn’t dealing with a long-term issue.

Considering how frightening his crash into the Vancouver Canucks’ net was on Saturday night, missing a few weeks certainly isn’t the worst-case scenario:

Edmonton already seemed likely to hit some highs and lows in November, but with Hall out possibly the entire month, it could be a rough time for a team that’s battling to move away from “cellar dweller” status.

Hall has been his usually productive self in 2014-15, scoring six goals and 10 points in 11 games while sending 36 shots on goal.

Oilers fans are uncomfortably familiar with the downsides of his all-out style. He’s never topped the career-high 75 games he played last season, as he was limited to 65 in 2010-11 and 61 in 2011-12 (he played all but three games in the lockout-abbreviated 2013-14 season, though).

The only minor silver lining for Edmonton is that the Oilers are fairly deep at wing. Early on, it looks like Nail Yakupov might get a big opportunity, but David Perron, Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell rank among the players who could conceivably handle a promotion for at least a short amount of time.