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

Coyotes stretch win streak to three games with shootout victory

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Sam Gagner and Mikkel Boedker scored in the shootout helping the Arizona Coyotes to a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks Friday night.

Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey scored first period goals giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

However, Rob Klinkhammer and Shane Doan scored second period goals tying it 2-2.

Mike Smith stopped 37 shots as Arizona stretched its’ win streak to three.

Frederik Andersen made 23 saves in the loss.

The bigger loss for the Ducks could be on the blue line as defenseman Cam Fowler left the game in the third period favoring his left leg. The team is calling it a lower body injury adding that Fowler is listed as day-to-day.

Friday marked the regular season debut of Anaheim blue liner Bryan Allen.

The Ducks have now lost two straight.

Trotz: ‘Some of the behavior has to change’


The Washington Capitals have just one win in six games following a 6-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night.

Washington had a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes, but slowly saw the visiting Coyotes chip away at it scoring five unanswered goals to take a 6-3 lead late in the third period.

Coach Barry Trotz has seen enough.

“The behavior has to change,” said Trotz. “We’ve done this multiple times. We took a lot of penalties, we turned a lot of pucks over. It’s the same old story and it’s too old for me.”

The Coyotes converted on 2 of 6 power play opportunities and out-shot the Capitals 24-21 through 40 minutes.

Following the game, the Capitals held a 20-minute, players’ only meeting at the Verizon Center before the doors were opened to the media.

“That behavior has to change or we have to change people. Plain and simple,” continued Trotz. “To me it’s absolutely unacceptable. They have to fix it. It’s my job to fix the behavior. If they’re not going to fix it internally, then I’ll make sure I fix it.”

Alex Ovechkin led the way offensively for the Capitals with a goal and three assists. He is now tied with Peter Bondra for first place on the Capitals’ franchise points list (825).

“I think we had a great [first] period,” Ovechkin said. “After that we just stopped playing like we’re supposed to play. It’s all our fault. It’s not about the system. We made bad decisions with the puck, we made bad penalties and it cost us.”

Ovechkin also picked up two minor penalties in the loss.

“We have to work harder,” said Troy Brouwer, who had a goal in the loss. “We’ve got to work smarter. It’s not one or two guys; it’s collectively every guy in here that needs to be better. It’s not something that is going to change tonight or change tomorrow. We’ve got to work at it and be on guys to make sure they are giving their best every night and that’s the only way we’ll get better.”

Arizona entered Sunday’s game with just one win their previous six games, an overtime win over Florida.

Antoine Vermette opened the scoring with his second of the season in the first period. After Tom Wilson, John Carlson and Ovechkin had given Washington a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes, the Capitals proceeded to take five second period penalties.

Michael Stone and Shane Doan had second period goals to tie the game 3-3 after two periods.

Sam Gagner picked up his first as a member of the Coyotes, Doan scored his second of the night and rookie Tobias Rieder scored third period goals to give Arizona a commanding 6-3 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third.

Joel Ward and Brouwer scored in the final two minutes, but the Caps could not get the equalizer.

“The commitment level has to be a little better than it is now in a lot of different areas,” said defenseman Brooks Orpik. “We have guys making mistakes that experienced guys shouldn’t make.

“Right now one guy makes a mistake and everybody else kind of watches it happen.”

Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves to improve to 2-0-1 on the season while Justin Peters made 24 saves in the loss.

Renney says he was fired by the Oilers because of his ‘values’


Tom Renney coached the Edmonton Oilers for two seasons, from 2010-12. He didn’t lead the team to the playoffs in either, and was fired (eventually) in May of 2012.

Now the president of Hockey Canada, Renney had a rather interesting thing to say to La Presse newspaper about the Oilers’ decision to let him go.

“I once lost a job because of my values,” Renney said (as translated by @ChristoYoung). “In Edmonton, I was asked to give more playing time to more young players who’d had an operation to play. I reduced their playing time. But we had to play them, because they were really good and we were selling hope. But I acted according to my conscience.”

Taylor Hall, the first overall draft pick in 2010, had shoulder surgery in March of 2012.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in 2011, had issues with his shoulder “for a couple of years” before having surgery in April of 2013.

Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner were other young, hope-inspiring players who missed good chunks of time with injuries while Renney was coach.

Renney was replaced as coach by Ralph Krueger, who lasted just one season before being fired and replaced by Dallas Eakins.

Risk Factors: Arizona Coyotes edition

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From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Arizona Coyotes

1. They’re betting heavily on the idea that Mike Smith can carry this team to the playoffs, but his overall track record isn’t great.

The Coyotes have Smith to thank for their run to the Western Conference Final in 2012, but in the two campaigns that have followed, Smith has been inconsistent at best. Certainly, he’s been nothing like the man that posted a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 67 games in 2011-12.

To be fair, the last two campaigns have been unusual given the lockout and the Olympics; both of which might have had an adverse impact on the 32-year-old goaltender.

“Goaltending through the middle of the season for me wasn’t where it needed to be,” Smith told the Arizona Republic in April. “I was kind of doing some soul-searching, and we lost some games because of that.”

He added, “Mentally, it was kind of tough leading up to the Olympics and not knowing if I was going to be on the team or not.”

At the same time, if you look at his 325-game career track record, his previous two seasons are closer to his norm than his 2011-12 campaign. That’s not to suggest that he’s a bad goaltender or even an average one, but the Coyotes need him to play at an elite level if they are to make the playoffs and that might be hoping for too much.

2. They might finish the season without a single player reaching the 20-goal mark.

This ties into their dependence on Smith. Arizona only had three players that reached the 20-goal mark last season and one was Radim Vrbata, who now plays for Vancouver. Mike Ribeiro finished fifth in goals with just 16 and he’s also gone.

They still have Shane Doan. He scored 23 goals in 69 contests last season and has traditionally been good for 20-plus goals per season, but he’ll turn 38 on Friday, so obviously his age is increasingly becoming a concern.

They aren’t completely devoid of offensive talent. Mikkel Boedker, 24, might take another step up this season for example and Sam Gagner might bounce back after recording just 37 points in 2013-14. Even still, it’s hard to get excited about the Coyotes’ offense, especially after they decided not to start the season with promising young forwards Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, and Lucas Lessio.

3. Can they grow their fanbase when their chances of making the playoffs are slim?

Coyotes GM Don Maloney’s reason for cutting Domi, Samuelsson, and Lessio from their training camp roster is that they “need to be a playoff team.”

In fact, he went on to specifically state that reaching the postseason was the way to excite their fanbase and get people into Gila River Arena. The problem is that their chances of making the playoffs aren’t great regardless of the decision regarding their prospects.

This is a franchise that’s in a somewhat tenuous situation. They finally have an ownership group in place, but the new management’s debut season had mixed results. The Coyotes ranked 30th in the NHL with an average attendance of 13,775 in 2013-14, per ESPN.com. That’s still a step up from the 12,420 fans per game they had in 2011-12, but it’s a downgrade from their shortened-season attendance of 13,923.

Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc admitted in December that he was disappointed in the attendance. On the ice, the Coyotes competed for a playoff spot, but they ultimately fell just short. Their task will only be harder this season with the two 2013-14 Western Conference Wild Card winners — Dallas and Minnesota — upgrading over the summer and with teams that finished below the Coyotes in the Pacific Division — Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton — moving in the right direction.

As Maloney suggested, providing a city with a playoff-caliber team is the best way to grow a fanbase, but that might not be what the Coyotes have done. At least not yet.