Last night in Windsor the hometown Spitfires played host to the visiting Plymouth Whalers which meant prime head-to-head viewing of the top two rated 2010 players for the second last time on the OHL calendar. (Photo: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
With the NHL on hiatus for the Winter Olympics, this might be the first time this season that some NHL GMs would have had the freedom to take in a live game and view Taylor Hall versus Tyler Seguin for themselves.
While most, if not all, General Managers delegate the draft day decisions to their chief scout, when you're talking about potential franchise players it's reasonable to believe some first hand knowledge would be a good thing.
Just because The Pipeline Show has been suggesting Seguin will go 1st overall for quite some time now, that still isn't the opinion held by the majority. A gauge of TV, print, radio and internet coverage by enlarge still describes Hall as the likely first overall pick. "The Taylor Hall Sweepstakes" is what the casual fan considers the lead-up to the 2010 NHL Draft.
Just for a second let's assume the 30th place Edmonton Oilers continue to wallow at the bottom of the standings and do indeed come away from the draft lottery with the 1st overall pick. Oiler fans everywhere would be jumping for joy and slapping high 5's with anyone they see wearing team colours. Most assume that "Hall" would be the name Steve Tambellini announces into the microphone on June 25th in Los Angeles. But what if, and this IS a 'what if', Head Scout Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff tell Tambellini that Seguin is the player they feel is #1? Initial fan reaction would be "We just passed on Taylor Hall??" regardless of whether it's the right choice or not. All most fans know about 2010 is that Taylor Hall has been the marquee name for two years now.
Tambellini has enough on his plate in Edmonton that he doesn't have the time during the NHL regular season to go on scouting trips - that's what he pays the scouting staff for right? Except last night there was a golden opportunity to see both Hall and Seguin (and #3 ranked Cam Fowler) in action, against one another, and it happened to be on an evening while the NHL is still firmly pressing the pause button. Perfect fit right? Only one problem - Tambellini wasn't there.
A call to the Oilers PR department yesterday to set up a time today to get a comment from the GM in regards to the OHL game proved fruitless. "He's not there" I was told. I know that Oiler brass was in Vancouver to watch Jaromir Jagr and the Czech team but surely there is enough of a book on the 38-year-old superstar already that the Edmonton GM didn't have to stay until the Czechs were eliminated. I don't know if Tambellini was still taking in the Olympics or not, I asked but the PR department couldn't confirm the GM's whereabouts either.
The GM was a guest of Oilers radioman Bob Stauffer on Friday's Oilers Lunch but while the duo talked at length about the Olympic experience past and present, there was nothing about last night's game featuring Edmonton's next franchise player.
Perhaps Tambellini is banking on a Windsor/Plymouth playoff series which is quite possible as a second round match up. The NHL season will be nearly over by that time so he'd be completely free to watch then. Or maybe he's content with taking in the U18s in Belarus this year, assuming that Seguin and/or Hall bow out early enough from the OHL playoffs to be available for Hockey Canada that is. He saw Hall at the World Juniors in Saskatoon so perhaps he's got his opinion already formed from there. Maybe he's just happy to let the scouts make the call but I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't want an explanation of some kind if the name from MacGregor is indeed "Seguin". Wouldn't it be helpful if MacGregor could simply say "Well remember that game at the end of February when Hall did this and Seguin did that?"
Is it fair to raise an eyebrow because Tambellini didn't go? Some fans certainly will, like HFBoards member "n00b1AnPr1nc355" (Noobian Princess?) who yesterday suggested that "If Tambo is not at this game, along with every single Oiler scout and anyone else involved in the Oilers development, they should all be gone!"
Oiler fans shouldn't panic because the team was well represented; MacGregor was at the WFCU Centre in Windsor last night, so was Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast and Assistant GM Rick Olczyk and maybe more. But the GM wasn't and on a day off (assuming it was), I find myself wondering why. I'm not suggesting that he was at home with his feet up watching Oprah but he wasn't where I think it's reasonable to have expected him to be.
I know Kevin Lowe made the rounds as much as possible while he was wearing the GM hat - out to the AHL affiliate, even a time or two in Stockton as well as some stops in junior rinks whenever possible. Scott Howson was the same way; I ran into him at the Centrium in Red Deer a few times back in the days before the Oil Kings were around.
Not long ago a contact in Springfield mentioned to me that as far as he knew, Tambellini had made just one appearance on the farm this year. That's not a crime, he's got people in place to take care of the farm team too so, like with the scouting, he doesn't have to get pulled away from his NHL duties for that but it's interesting none the less.
Maybe we’re making a bigger deal out of this then it is. I wonder if Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was there. We've been told that Carolina GM Jim Rutherford wasn’t in attendance last night but he has seen Hall vs Seguin several times already. The Islanders wouldn't confirm or deny that GM Garth Snow was there but a source did say that "I imagine it was a well attended game last night". We're checking with the Bruins, Panthers and Blue Jackets, the other teams in lottery territory, to see how they treated last night's contest.
Perhaps we're making much ado about nothing but on the surface it looks like an opportunity for first hand viewing of two players, one of which the franchise will expect to be THE Oiler for the next decade. Plus Cam Fowler is in the game too and if Edmonton somehow ends up with the 3rd pick they might have to make a decision on him too. It seems to me like even a one-game sample size is better than none.
As for the breakdown on the game, we'll get that from Stu MacGregor when he guests on The Pipeline Show this coming Tuesday evening.
As Dean reported a couple of weeks ago, Oilers prospect Troy Hesketh was listed by the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. We both think it's probably a long shot at best that the Minnesota high school defenceman will turn up in Oil Kings garb but we asked someone closer to the scene to get his opinion. Andy Baggot covers the Wisconsin Badgers hockey team, where Hesketh is headed in 2011. Baggot talked about Wisconsin Assistant coach Mark Osiecki and the impact he's had on defencemen that come through the program. The Badgers are legendary when it comes to producing top blueliners (Tom Gilbert, Davis Drewiske, Brendan Smith, Cody Goloubef, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Suter and Andy Wozniewski to name a few in the last few years). After hearing Baggot's comments (listen here) I think it's an even longer shot and fully expect Hesketh to report to Wisconsin as initially planned. (Photo: David Brewster/Star Tribune)
A while ago I explained that although I think it would be an unwarranted mistake, I expect Kevin Prendergast might be nearing the end of his tenure with the Oilers. Did anyone else find it interesting that the Oiler executives at the Oklahoma City Press Conference were President & CEO Patrick Laforge and Assistant GM/Legal Affairs Rick Olczyk. In no way is this a slight against Olczyk who does also carry the "Director of Hockey Operations" moniker but I found it rather telling that Prendergast wasn't there. After all, on the Oilers site it clearly sates that "Prendergast serves as the Oilers’ representative on the American Hockey League’s board of governors and serves as the Director of Player Personnel for both the Springfield Falcons (AHL) and Stockton Thunder (ECHL)." Is it crazy to think that the guy currently running the farm team would be front and center at the presser announcing the relocation of said AHL affiliate? Is it just me? (Photo: John Clanton/The Oklahoman)