“But I thought we were rebuilding…..”

By , September 10, 2010 3:16 pm
Growing Pains.. prepare to go through them...

Growing Pains.. prepare to go through them...

I did a bit of quick research because I’m interested in the question of “should you put kids into winning situations” (i.e. wait until your team is good before introducing the rookies) or do you throw them in the water and see if they sink or swim.

Now before people get too excited, I obviously don’t expect that this team in Edmonton is a winning team yet. That is NOT my argument. I think there is a very good chance that this team is going to be a lottery team, yet again, if enough things go wrong. If enough things go right, I still think there is a good chance we miss the playoffs. My entire argument in all of this is whether this environment is the right environment for the kids or not.

However, it is interesting to see how the supposed masters of the rebuild handled their rookies:

Team Rebuild Examples

The Chicago Blackhawks…

Previous to Kane and Toews’ first years, the Blackhawks were out for 4 straight out of playoffs.

In 2007, Patrick Kane was drafted 1st overall by the Hawks, and injected into the team immediately, along with Jonathan Toews (drafted 3rd overall the previous year). This was in addition to youngsters Duncan Keith (then 23 with 1 year of NHL experience under his belt), and Brent Seabrook (then 22 with 2 years of NHL experience).

Once they had the core group of these 4 players, they played a year together in which they did not make the playoffs (ironically finishing tied in points with the Oilers, just barely out of a playoff spot). The next year they went on to finish with a remarkable 104 points and lost in round 3 of the playoffs. The following year (last year), they finished 2nd in the conference, 1 point behind San Jose, and of course won the cup.

The Pittsburgh Penguins…

Previous to Sid the Kid being drafted, the Penguins missed 3 straight years of playoffs action (but actually had not too bad a run before that, all things considered).

When Crosby was drafted in 2005, like Patrick Kane, he was also immediately inserted into the NHL. At this time, Marc-Andre Fleury (then 20/21) and Ryan Whitney (then 22) were also breaking into the NHL (note: Fleury had already played 22 games before this though). In this year, the Penguins missed the playoffs, finishing dead last in their conference and 2nd last in the league.

The following year, 20-year old, 2004 #2 pick Evgeni Malkin came over from Russia to join the crew, as did yet another youngster, their draft pick from that year – Jordan Staal. This year with this core group of 4, the Penguins made it to the playoffs, but lost out in round 1. However, they did finish the regular season with a very respectable 105 points.

The following year, the group made it to the finals. And the year after (08/09), the Penguins won the cup.

The Washington capitals…

Previous to Alexander Ovechkin playing for the caps, the Capitals were out of the playoffs or loast in the 1st round for the past 6 years.

Once Ovechkin was drafted, he of course had to wait a year due to the lockout before he could play NHL hockey (but let’s face it… this guy was going straight into the show). In Ovechkin’s draft year, the Capitals were also lucky enough to draft Mike Greene. The Capitals however didn’t have the same draft luck that other tank-teams have had, and hadn’t amassed a group of budding superstars by the time Ovechkin was ready to go. In fact, by the time he was ready to go, this team appeared to still be in tank mode… refusing to complement their superstar with players of good caliber.

However, the following year (06/07), 2002 1st rounder Alex Semin decided to make his NHL debut (surprise, surprise). Aside from the trio of Greene, Ovechkin and Semin, the Caps seemed to be organizing a group of surrounding players with a little less flair, and perhaps more of what Quinn refers to as jam. In this year with this trio, the caps finished out of the playoffs again. I think they had a good one-two punch of Ovechkin and Semin (and they looked good on the PP together), but they didn’t really have enough around them, I would say.

The following 3 years, the caps have made the playoffs, but struggled to get too far. They’ve had some tough opponents eliminate them though, such as the Stanley cup winner the one year (08/09), as well as a Montreal Canadiens last year that was just absolutely stellar in the playoffs. The Capitals also did win the league’s Presidents trophy last year by a pretty safe margin. So things are looking up for the Capitals.

Well, due to length of this post, I cut it short, but it would be good to also include Phoenix and Colorado, perhaps, as other examples. But I think with the teams above, while they definitely had some good surrounding players (a KEY for us too), we can say that handing the reigns over the young kids did them all some good.

1st overall examples

So, on the note of Taylor Hall alone, Steve-O was going to compile some reasons as to why 1st overall picks shouldn’t be brought into the league right away. Not knowing the answer, I “helpfully” suggested researching way back to see how many 1st overall picks played in the NHL full time for their draft year. And well, much to our surprises, it was pretty overwhelming… especially for forwards.

Draft Year Player Position Next Season in NHL? first year stats GP-G-A-P (year if not the next)
2010 Hall F NA NA
2009 Tavares F Y 82-24-30-54
2008 Stamkos F Y 79-23-23-46
2007 Kane F Y 82-21-51-72
2006 E. Johnson D N 69-5-28-33 (07-08)
2005 Crosby F Y 81-39-63-102
2004 Ovechkin F N (Lockout) 81-52-54-106 (05-06)
2003 Fleury G Y (but then sent to Q followed by 3 years of AHL) 22-3.64-0.896
2002 Nash F Y 74-17-22-39
2001 Kovalchuk F Y 65-29-22-51
2000 DiPietro G Y (but then sent to ihl, then 3 years in and out of the AHL) 20-3.49-0.878
1999 Stefan F Y 72-5-20-25
1998 Lecavalier F Y 82-13-15-28
1997 Thornton F Y 55-3-4-7
1996 Phillips D N 72-5-11-16 (97-98)
1995 Berard D N 82-8-40-48 (96-97)
1994 Jovanovski D N 70-10-11-21 (95-96)
1993 Daigle F Y 84-20-31-51
1992 Hamrlik D Y 67-6-15-21
1991 Lindros F N (Held out…dick) 61-41-34-75 (92-93)
1990 Nolan F Y (6 games in the AHL) 59-3-10-13
1989 Sundin F N 80-23-36-59 (90-91)
1988 Modano F N (2 playoff games though) 80-29-46-75 (89-90)
1987 Turgeon F Y 76-14-28-42
1986 Murphy F N (5 games) 50-10-9-19 (87-88)
1985 Clark F Y 66-34-11-45
1984 Lemieux F Y 73-43-57-100
1983 Lawton F Y 58-10-21-31
1982 Kluzak D Y 70-1-6-7
1981 Hawerchuk F Y 80-45-58-103
1980 Wickenheiser F Y 41-7-8-15

* – thanks Steve-O for the fine table above.

As a quick summary, of the forwards listed.. 20 forwards had opportunity to play in the NHL in their first year. Ovechkin I’ve counted out of this due to the lockout, and Lindros as well, since his stupid ass refused to play for the Nordiques (therefore he went to junior). Well, 17 of those 20 players debuted in the NHL for their draft year. Of those draftees, I’m going to make a subjective opinion here and say that only Daigle and Stefan are the more modern era players that didn’t work out. It could have been to being rushed.. possibly. Or it could just have been that they weren’t very good players. But really, for the remainder of those players to go on to have pretty good careers, says a lot. Of the guys that DIDN’T play in their first year, we have Mats Sundin, Mike Modano and Joe Murphy. I would say that for Sundin and Modano especially, they did have pretty strong careers. However I think the evidence suggests that playing these other guys in the NHL for their draft year didn’t result in these players turning into bad players. They may not all have had great years in year 1, but they all seem to have had some great years over their careers.

So with this table of the 1st overall picks, and my post on the big re-build.. what am I getting at? Well, while I think it’s optimistic to compare to any of these teams, I just wanted to point out that these rookies did each go through a year or two of non-playoff hockey and suffer their own bit of growing pains early on. So it isn’t necessarily so true, the school of thought that “if we’re going to lose anyways, we should just send these guys to development teams (AHL/CHL/College)”. These players got a team handed to them that was climbing out of the ashes, and they helped make them the teams they are today. You might even say, you have to taste rock bottom to really appreciate what the top feels like.

I know I’ll take some heat because it’s Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, and Toews, and you just don’t compare players to them… but I think that there are still comparisons between the Oilers and these teams. We’ve got our young core of Gagner, Eberle, MPS, and Hall for forwards that are developing (also Omark and Rajala are considerations for skilled forwards). For existing NHL skill players, we have Penner and Hemsky. For guys that are uncertain, but have potential, we have Cogliano and Brule. We’ve got a solid NHL defensive group in Whitney, Gilbert, Smid and Foster. Plus we still have Petry, Plante, Chorney, Belle (arguably) in development. In net, this is perhaps our bleakest, at least in the present. We have JDD and Dubnyk who are big question marks, and of course that veteran, oft-injured, soon to be prisoner, Khabibulin. But in the future, we can look forward to Olivier Roy and possibly Tyler Bunz. Add Martin Gerber as a bit of a question mark, as it’s uncertain where he’ll be yet.

Really, aside from goaltending, I’m going to say it… I think the group we have is incredibly enviable. Teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh definitely had the higher end players, but I think we do have a pretty deep talent pool to choose from. For all we know, MPS really is Forsberg 2.0 and Hall is Patrick Kane, and Eberle is all he’s cracked up to be too. This all remains to be seen. Of course they could go the other direction, but we have a bit of a comfort zone in that if one or two don’t work out, we still have one or two prospects that could surprise in Rajala and Omark.

We’ve paid our dues, going through 4 straight years with no playoff hockey. This, like the other teams mentioned above, has given us ample time to build up a solid prospect base and future for the team.

Oh and Steve-O would like to say something… “there you have it…apparently I’m wrong. Or at least have nothing to go on.” He does however feel that Taylor Hall should go back to junior, and was one of few people that can legitimately say that in 2006, they wanted Sam Gagner to go back to Junior. He also feels that being rushed into the NHL hurt Sam Gagner’s development.

For me, I don’t think it helped in fast tracking him in, but I think we’ll see a new Gagner soon… things might have gotten off to a bad start, but that guy we thought we drafted will come out soon.


Anyways, to sum up…. I think we should play Hall, for SURE this year now. As for MPS, Eberle, and Omark… there are arguments there either way. I think it would be good to have at least one of them up here. I think pairing Hall up with another young kid, be it Gagner, Eberle, MPS or another, would be wise too. It’ll build some chemistry now. That said, they’d probably need the cherry minutes not to leak goals and have their ego’s destroyed.

But really, most of all, while I hate to fuel optimism too much, I think we really do have the building blocks for a very good team in the future. Next year I do predict a pretty poor year. But that will just add one more piece (perhaps a great D-man or another goaltender?) to an already great looking future competitor.

So in one line.. let the kids play.


27 Responses to ““But I thought we were rebuilding…..””

  1. Racki says:

    Btw, before anyone mistakes the meaning behind my post… while I do think that putting the kids in now isn’t so bad.. I still think they need to surround them with the right players. But I don’t think they have to send Hall back to the OHL, and MPS, Eberle might even be fine up here too.

    But really, the Oilers do need better glue guys, however. That is outside the scope of the above post, however and a whole other topic for discussion. 😉

  2. Mr.Majestyk says:

    yes, the glue guys matter. I just looked up the Penguins for Crosby’s rookie season. They sucked, but they had guys like Mario Lemieux(atleast for part of the season), Mark Rechhi, Sergei Gonchar, John Leclair, Ziggy Pallfy. So again it isn’t that we shouldn’t play the kids, its that we need to have a back up plan if something goes wrong. I don’t consider ‘tanking’ to be a very good strategy.

  3. Racki says:

    I think I might do a follow up to this later too to include more rebuild teams such as the Kings, Avalanche and Coyotes. Maybe say also what I think this team is missing to get it off in the right direction.

  4. Mr.Majestyk says:

    Gr8one mentioned Stamkos as well. He came to a team with Lecavalier and St.Louis, elite level forwards already on the team. Plus Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi(again!)to help him along.

  5. Chappy says:

    Freaking fantastic work, Racki.

  6. Racki says:

    Mr.Majestyk: Gr8one mentioned Stamkos as well.He came to a team with Lecavalier and St.Louis, elite level forwards already on the team.Plus Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi(again!)to help him along.

    Yes… Stamkos had those kinds of guys to play with. They don’t grow on trees, unfortunately. But I think Penner and Hemsky can serve as poor man’s elite players to our poor mans version of superstar prospects.

    But I really can’t stress how important it will be to have the glue guys though sooner than later.

    As far as the tanking thoughts.. I’m not a fan of it either, I’m just saying that I think with what we are currently looking at right now on this team, it’s going to take a perfect storm for us to get to the playoffs. However, I also think that the kids will get by, even if this team has another bad year this year.

    But really, I’d much rather see a bit of help brought in and spread across the board. It might help to have that stalwart on the blue line, actually. I’ve said it all along that we could really use another PKer and a defensive d-man. However the team is going to try and make Smid that defensive specialist, and Cogliano that Marchant PKer with offensive upside (but better offensively).

    Chappy: Thanks a lot man!

  7. chucker says:

    Not to criticize, but Ovechkin also had Backstrom the last few years. Not initially, but at least they drafted him. 😉

    On the goaltending issue for these teams; Only Fleury was the INITIAL player on any one of those teams to play a significant role before they became superpowers. Varlamov and Niemi were much after the fact that Chicago and Washington were great teams. My point being, that they too had mediocre to average goaltending when they started on the process. Same with Phoenix, Colorado and LA.

    So for the Oilers, it’s a similar path in terms of goaltending. We’ve got some guys we’re not sure about that we drafted and one kid who looks like he could be the real deal in two years, but in the meantime, goaltending will have to be cured by free agency or trades. Heck, even Tampa didn’t draft any of their goalies.

    The fact that we have a lot of great options at forward and will likely get more in next year’s draft bodes well. The goaltending we can always trade for as other teams did, or maybe Roy comes in and seals the deal. For now it likely doesn’t matter too much as long as we have competent/average goaltending.

    It is very interesting to look at those three teams you wrote up and looking at their lineups when these first rounders broke in. They traded for guys to surround these kids with so they wouldn’t have pressure and it worked. Chicago had a pretty good group of meat and potatoes guys to help transition lots of the top draft picks that were there before Kane and Toews. They then slowly removed them once the kids showed up to play. Ovechkin is a once in a lifetime type player, so he can get by with less, but he did have lots of grinders and role players around him.

    I still think we should have added some cheap vets to be around and carry some of the media and playing load. They’re cheap and we have roster spots available for the guys who will get waived after other teams’ camps. Maybe the plan is to pluck one or two of the waiver wire. I hope so.

    Excellent work as always Rackmeisterfullereen.

  8. Racki says:

    Yah I was going to get to Backstrom in the above, but forgot to bring him up when it got to that point. But really, I was criticizing the Caps for going two years without really anyone to complement Ovechkin on his line (Seriously.. Zubrus??)

    On the note of the vets/grinders.. mentioned that in the comment section too… I feel also that we’re sorely lacking in that area. The kids are probably going to be fantastic in a few years, but it’ll be hard to watch next year partly due to the guys filling the gaps on the team.

  9. chucker says:

    Racki: Yah I was going to get to Backstrom in the above, but forgot to bring him up when it got to that point. But really, I was criticizing the Caps for going two years without really anyone to complement Ovechkin on his line (Seriously.. Zubrus??)On the note of the vets/grinders.. mentioned that in the comment section too… I feel also that we’re sorely lacking in that area. The kids are probably going to be fantastic in a few years, but it’ll be hard to watch next year partly due to the guys filling the gaps on the team.

    Yeah, Zubrus at that time is likely comparable to some of our current scoring vets or similar in some ways anyway. He did have some really good years, but very inconsistent.

    I do remember him playing with Clark as his centre for a few years. Ugg, but he’s likley a poorman’s Horcoff. Pun intended. 😛

  10. LateNightOilFan says:

    Wow Racki – that’s doing a bit of ‘quick’ research, and ‘whipping up a post’? Great work!

    So as I was reading your research I thought it supported my gut feel about going with the rookies but chuckers comment about expecting the 3 rookies from a few years to turn the team around injected some recent reality into things as well.

    Overall, goaltending could easily become a problem area but we have to let it play out I guess. I think if Tambi had been in the rebuild mindset last off-season we wouldn’t have Khabi’s contract to deal with. That’s the one glaring mistake he made that could still come back to bite him. However, if Khabi can keep his head straight and play like a starter should then that will be great since he should also provide leadership. If he goes down again or flat out sucks then there will definitely be confidence problems for the rest of the team.

    I’m pretty happy with the D in spite of the Souray situation – I think the additions of Foster and Vandermeer, plus Whitney for a full season will give some stability and leadership to that area, even if Souray gets his trade. I’d be more nervous coming into the season if the D included a bunch of rookies as well.

    So now at forward, we’ve got Horc as the most experienced guy at 9 yrs, then Hemmer with 7 yrs & Penner with 4 yrs. I find I’m always thinking of Penner with more experience than he really has. Those are the leaders though at F – I don’t question Horc’s leadership, I think Penner coming off a strong season will meet the leadership challenge and I hope Hemmer can step up from just being the skill guy to assert himself as more of a leader.

    So then we have the mid-range guys in Gags, Cogs, Brule, Storts, Fraser, Jones who have 2-3 years experience – enough to no longer be starry-eyed but still not overly established.

    That’s the supporting cast as it stands right now if we end up with 3 rookies. First off I think it’s going to be a pretty tight dressing room so that’s a positive. If more glue proves to be needed amongst the forwards I think Cogs is a trade chip towards that as well as one of DD/JD. I think the D is fairly solid and that should give the rookies confidence. If Khabi can live up to his contract that will be a positive for the entire team.

    So yeah, there are a whole lot of ways this team can go south, and we could be looking at a bad experience for the rookies. But if the lineup stays relatively healthy and the more experienced guys carry out their supporting roles and meet their expectations then I think it could be a cohesive team that can build together.

    This is what they appear to be going with anyway, so I’m going to see how it all plays out.

  11. Racki says:

    LNOF: well in fairness, steve-o did up the table. LOL

    Seriously though, I would have liked to have been able to put some more effort into it and analyze more teams, but I was pretty rushed at work.. everyone seemed to need something. But I plan on doing a follow up on this with more teams and other analysis too. Quite frankly, given the length, it was probably better it was split up anyways 😛

  12. dawgtoy says:

    Majestyk, I’d agree 100% with what your saying in regards to “role model” type players to emulate. I’ve mentioned before, listening to an interview with Doug Weight, he mentions sticking around and signing with the Isles because he wanted to help Tavares. If possible, I’d still love to see Smitty type brought back to help with the wee ones.

  13. oilinblood says:

    good OP Racki. NIce to have an intelligent forum with deeper thought than just looking at the newspapers back stat sheet. I had been wondering where you guys dissapeared to and did recall you mentioning this site i just never got around to signing on.

    As for the topic… I think our back end might be our biggest strength. The khabi issue scares me alot but with a defense as strong as it looks with the potential to be VERY good if chemistry manifests, i believe the rookie forwards will be granted alot of opportunity to be able to make mistakes and not have it cost them. Whitney – Gils, SMid – FOster, Belle – PLAnte Struds is a pretty nice top 7 that could be pretty great.
    One debate i often have with myself-yes i debate with myself- is; is it a misconception that skilled forwards need an offensive D to be their 5 on 5 partner OR can an offensive line be more effective playing with a efficient shut down tandem that simply makes headman passes. My mindset is that the defensive tandem would do better if you have forwards that work hard to give D options. If you have smart enough forwards who read and stay in their systems…the defense dont have to be offensively gifted to make the right play. THE right play is often the easiest.
    So if you got rookies who can think the game at a high level and play within the system… i dont think we need our 7 defenders to become Bobby Orrs to make us successful. Stop opposing forwards as quick as possible, move puck up and make simple shots to net.
    Horcoff i had in the middle of Eberle and Hall on most of my ideas. I think he will make the reads defensively to optimize their ice time efficiency and by bi-product their development. AS well he will create insulation for the rookies. With the defense as strong as it is and with Gags and Brule ahead of the group in the rebuild… it should be a better situation than the Pens and Caps and HAwks who had alot of dead weight on their rosters.

  14. oilinblood says:

    oh btw *sings* “show me that smile agaaaaain… dont waste another minute on your crying. WE’re no where near the end. the best is ready to begin. oohoooohhoh”

  15. Mr.Majestyk says:

    oilinblood: oh btw *sings* “show me that smile agaaaaain… dont waste another minute on your crying. WE’re no where near the end. the best is ready to begin. oohoooohhoh”

    It was one of my favourite sitcoms growing up. Kirk Cameron was my hero. He’s really religious now, probably wouldn’t approve of his former tv personality.

  16. oilinblood says:

    Off topic – but all i know is
    1. perhaps that theme song should be our song this year for the Oil.

    2. The chick that Kirk almost got with (she was dressed up in a madonna style torn brides made gown and snapping bubble gum as she talked) was rawr. i remember being rediculously young but still knowing he should have. I Think i recall being about 6 and even being mad at him that he didnt. Then i noticed shes the girl that makes the intro on “Dune” i believe. Everytime i see her i remember her in that dress. Saw her in a movie lately and have no clue what it was. Memory is used for hockey and not much else./

  17. Mr.Majestyk says:

    Haha, I don’t really recall which chick you are referring to. I do know that there was a blonde they cast as his girlfriend on the show, and she did Playboy so they wrote her off the show. Maybe it was her?

  18. oilinblood says:

    man this is gonna bug me. need to do research. ill be back.

  19. oilinblood says:

    oh boy… sorry off topic continues
    Ok i THOUGHT it had been Virginia Madsen – who did the intro to Dune (1984). It wasnt, the episode is in the first season of Growing Pains and was about mike obsessed with a MAdonna look alike and being left with the house alone for a date with her and carol being all worried mike would make a bad choice (a good choice in my mind at the time…and yes still now). Ofcourse mike made the g rated choice. However the girl made an x rated choice, as Dana PLato is the girl who played Kimberley Drummond in “Different Strokes” …both the TV show and later the ADUlt film of the same name. Tag line for the adult movie was “A story of Jack and Jill…and Jill” LOL. She died the year after (1999). Sad.
    But yeah skimming her on imdb it was her.

  20. Racki says:

    Haha, I watched Different Strokes pretty religiously. Same with Growing Pains too.. that was a fave.

    Speaking of 80s, Youngblood is on again on SNet West.. lol

  21. oilinblood says:

    I never watched Different strokes but if i had known that was the same girl… i probably would have tried to fight the bros to watch it…and likely if they knew it was her too there wouldnt have been much fighting involved. Booooooooo! to finding out now.
    Virginia Madsen made no sense i guess considering age… but even now in her late 40s… id hit it. She gorgeous.

  22. gr8one says:

    Virginia Madsen is a total MILF….maybe even GILF.

  23. Racki says:

    To be honest, I wasn’t sure on the name, so I googled, and I remember her (odd I don’t know the name though) and I agree on the MILF comments. *3 thumbs up*

  24. Mr.Majestyk says:

    In the 80’s Virginia Madsen was in a bunch of sexy thrillers. She was Sharon Stone before Sharon Stone emerged.

  25. gr8one says:

    Yeah, I really remember her the most from her role in “Candyman”, and then recently re-remembered her while watching “A Haunting in Connecticut”.

  26. Mr.Majestyk says:

    Check her out in Slam Dance and The Hot Spot.

  27. oilinblood says:

    Thats what i had just watched, “Haunting in COnnecticut” AND “the number 23”
    in the latter she has scenes where she is a brunette… a feisty sex-aholic masochist vixen.
    I didnt get thru the first 20 minutes of the movie though. I only know because there was a promo picture of her (WOW) in lingerie and brunette…and it happened to be the details under the picture that i read…eventually.
    mhmmm MILF

    Oh and if Dana Plato was still alive, id get her in that madonna bridal get up and…..

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