The Edmonton Oilers are screwed no matter what they do. On draft day they are going to be facing a no-win situation, at least when it comes to the critics (fans and the media) just waiting to pounce on them for making yet another draft day blunder.
Everyone, including GM Steve Tambellini, appears to be of the opinion that his team is too small to be competitive in the NHL. Tambellini has made it clear that its a priority for him to improve the size of his forwards, especially among the top 6, yet everyone knows that an impact power forward is incredibly hard to trade for and arguably harder to get on the free agent market.
So if you can't trade for one and you can't sign one then the only place to find a scoring forward with muscles to spare is by drafting him and waiting until he's NHL caliber.
Ah... so then that should be the plan come the 2009 NHL Entry Draft right?
The problem is that Edmonton, as it stands now, sits in the 10th spot which is outside the projected cutoff for the uber-elite vanguard out front of the pack of the class of '09. Without moving up, Edmonton's shot at the top power forwards is not good at all. There will still be some terrific players left but according to most projected lists, they'll either be smaller skilled forwards like 5'8 Jordan Schroeder, 6'0 Nazem Kadri or a 5'10 defenceman in Ryan Ellis.
It's expected that there will be a number of capable power forwards still to be had like Zack Kassian (6'3), Carter Ashton (6'2), Chris Kreider (6'2) seen here or Scott Glennie (6'1.5) but on most lists and mocks, those guys might be had between the 15-20 range.
Grabbing one of them might appear to some fans/critics as "Look, the Oilers passed over some smaller impact players just to get bigger... it's 2003 and Zach Parise all over again!!"
On the other hand, if Edmonton takes Best Player Available (BPA) and selects Schroeder, Kadri, Ellis (pictured) or a blueliner like John Moore, Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Simon Despres then other fans/critics will chastise the scouting staff for not sticking to Tambellini's announced plan of getting bigger up front.
It's a catch-22 scenario; they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't.
The only thing that will actually save them is that history eventually proves their choice was not a mistake. If they reach and take a big guy several picks before he's projected to go - he'd better turn out. Likewise if they go small - he'd better be the next Parise or Brian Rafalski.
As pivotal as the next coaching hire is to the GM, the 2009 Draft is for the scouting staff in Edmonton. They don't get to pick top-10 very often and they can't afford to make a mistake. Sam Gagner has proven they can get it right but they need to do it again.
The draft is still 8 weeks away and the projected draft rankings are bound to change more before then. No matter what ISS or Central Scouting project though, Edmonton's list is the only one that's going to matter to Oiler fans. At this point, who do YOU want them to take?
(photos courtesy: OHL and NHL.com)