Friday, May 20, 2011

Drafting: BPA vs Need

Best Player Available versus Need. A time long debate that been going on for decades. I understand the concept of BPA and it seems to be the safer solution for those teams wanting to gather foolproof prospects. But what if your team is the Edmonton Oilers or the New York Islanders and your team has issues attracting players to your team? Losing has contributed to most of that, but how do you get out of that funk if you can't better your team? Its the chicken and the egg argument.

The problem that teams like the Oilers and Islanders face is having to build through the draft, but at the same time try and build a competitive team. So BPA isn't always the best solution for these teams when they are trying to build teams on the fly. They have holes to fill and certain types of players to fill them. The BPA philosophy could in theory have a team filled with 23 mighty mights that skate like the wind, but we all know in todays NHL that probably wouldn't fly very well. Strength like speed is still a big part of today's NHL.

Which brings me to conundrum that the Oilers face. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins vs Adam Larsson vs Sean Couturier. Nugent-Hopkins is likely the most dynamic player in the draft and if I was starting an expansion team I would likely pick first overall. But since the Oilers already have a team in motion that has Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and mix in some Ryan Whitney, this tells me the Oilers are strong on the wings and have a #1 Dman for the forseeable future. Weaknesses for the Oilers lie at the center position now and into the future.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as I have described is a heckuva player. Very cerebral, very Datsyukian like. The problems that arise if the Oilers draft Nugent-Hopkins are:
- Strength becomes an issue in the top 6, therefore becomes a problem all over the team since the first two lines play the majority of the game. If you conceive a line of Hall-RNH-Eberle its a line thats likely not going to have the puck a lot, therefore forced to defend which isn't the forte of any of these players.
- Not enough pucks for this line. RNH likes to handle the puck, Hall likes to handle the puck. Eberle can play away from the puck with the best of them. Might be a little bit of mismatching going on. At least until someone conforms to play better away from the puck.
- RNH is probably at least a year away from making an impact at the NHL to deal with his strength issues. He could make the Oilers this year, but if he does, Lord have mercy on their souls. Small, young NHL players for the rest of the NHL to feast upon. Even ones as dynamic as these three are, are going to face a lot of long frusterating nights.

The Oilers are one of the slightly disadvantaged teams in the sense there oppurtunity of winning is smaller than those of big market teams. Through UFA's and NTC's, the Oilers have to fight these things and likely overpay for these things, therefore have a smaller opening to execute winning. The question is how much more losing is Taylor Hall going to put up with while he watches his counterpart Tyler Seguin helping the Boston Bruins in big playoff games. When you have a long history of losing its a hard thing to all of the sudden start winning. A well executed plan is a must, along with some luck along the way.

Which brings me to Adam Larsson. Larsson is an excellant defender and an excellant athlete. He is the safe pick because of his defending skills alone, he will likely have an NHL career, the impact of that career remains to be seen. I would think it would take at least 3-4 years before Larsson becomes a top pairing Dman, if he becomes one at all. I'm thinking it'll take one year to get accustomed to the NHL schedule and speed of the game, another year to find his niche in the NHL, and then from there hopefully see some growth in his game. Playing defense is a taxing job in the NHL, therefore the growth becomes a baptism under fire. its the reason why teams have short fuses with the Dmen they draft.

Sean Couturier. The player I'm personally hoping the Oilers take. Reasons being:
- Strength, strength, strength. Mix that in with a solid two-way game and I think is a better complimentary for Hall and Eberle. Remember, the Oilers should be building around Taylor Hall, he is the new face of the franchise and building around him is a must.
- Couturier is a traditional center. Only takes chances if they are there, which means he is comfortable playing on the defensive side of the puck. But supports the offense very well, but not at the sacrifice of the defense. This will allow Hall and Eberle to push the puck from the wings and not have to worry about defense as much as they would otherwise have to. Like they say, offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.
- Only concern I have about Couturier is occasional uninspired play. Is he going to go all Dustin Penner on us when the games matter? Hmmmm.

I guess this is where it all lies. BPA vs Need. Nugent-Hopkins vs Couturier vs Larsson. This pick will likely mold the direction of where the Oilers are going. Either heading for the top or straight into the gutter. My heart says Couturier is the right fit and my head says the Oilers will take the BPA and take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

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