Jones: Now batting, Steve Tambellini

First overall NHL draft pick for 2012 is Nail Yakupov, he is flanked by Oilers head scout Stu...

First overall NHL draft pick for 2012 is Nail Yakupov, he is flanked by Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor (left) and general manager Steve Tambellini at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. on Friday. (QMI Agency/Andre Forget)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

EDMONTON - It’ll take several seasons to find out how head scout Stu MacGregor did with his fascinating, sort of funky, freaky second day selections at the NHL Entry Draft.

MacGregor basically spent the day at the track playing longshots, drafting boom-or-bust guys, hoping to find one or two with size and toughness and enough skating and scoring ability to squint his eyes and possibly see them playing with the young thoroughbreds when properly developed.

Big Stu was able to do step up to the plate like a sultan of swat and afford to take three big swings and possibly strikeout on those guys. He could take those swings with the confidence he has and with the credibility he’s built up. He’s done a great job filling the cupboard so far.

Now batting, Steve Tambellini.

In most of his previous trips to the plate, Tambellini has failed to find the veteran talent to build the bridge to the future. And if he keeps striking out, the Oilers are going to have a tough time getting over that bridge.

The next eight days are Tamby time.

With the Edmonton Oilers adding Nail Yakupov to the stable of future stars, it’s what Tambellini does from now through next Sunday’s July 1 free-agent frenzy and through to whenever they start playing hockey again which will be crucial.

Providing solid support help, particularly on defence and in size and toughness to take this team from 30th, 30th and 29th to the middle of the tables in the next two years has to be done now.

If it gets done, this team will be set up to be on top of the tables when they move into the new downtown arena, hopefully for the 2014-15 season.

Justin Schultz, the prized NHL ready top-four defenceman out of B.C. from the NCAA Wisconsin Badgers, will become a free agent, at midnight Sunday. He’s expected to start hearing pitches from the 29 expected suitors on Wednesday.

Tambellini needs to have his coach in place to deliver the message to the kid about the kind of game the Oilers intend to now play going forward.

If it’s Ralph Krueger that can be revealed here now.

With the Oilers expected to introduced their next head coach here as soon as Monday, Krueger was a very interested observer of this draft for obvious reasons and very much liked the Oilers drafting Nail Yakupov for best-player-available upside rather than for need on defence.

And that tells you something about him.

“Nail is another unique, highly skilled player with a very aggressive attacking game — an exciting and dynamic acquisition for any coaching staff,” said Krueger who has his ideas on how he’d coach the team going forward.

“A head coach must develop a strategy to win that is in line with the tools and skill level at his disposal. If you have offensive skill you can attack, if not, rely on defence and counter-punching. We would take our power-play foundation and attacking principles into our five-on-five game,” is how he phrased it to your correspondent.

As associate coach to Tom Renney with the Oilers last year, Krueger took over the power play. The Oilers ended up third at 20.6% after being 27th at 14.5% the year before. If he can do that five on five, the Oilers are in the playoffs.

Nothing MacGregor did Saturday is going to help the next head coach short term. It has to be supplied by Tambellini trades and free-agent signings.

If MacGregor gets one big winner out of his Saturday fishing trip in this year’s exceptionally weak draft, it’ll be an accomplishment. But give him credit for not showing up at the table for the second day of picks, which took one less hour to select 181 players than it did to choose 30 the night before, to make predictable picks with normal second-, third- and fourth-round payoff percentages.

At No. 32 overall the Oilers picked Mitch Moroz (with insider information and a multitude of viewings) from the Oil Kings. He’s 6’2” and 205 and MacGregor believes he has a chance to be a tank who could find a place with the race cars.

Moroz wasn’t projected to go in the top 120. But he fit the specs. And the development could be under their noses in Edmonton with the Oil Kings.

Jujhar Khaira and Daniil Zharkov are 6’3” and 200 pounds and are similar longshots with a chance who would pay big if MacGregor’s picks pay off.

But they were gambles. Tambellini needs some sure things.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

 


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