Without a pick until midway through the second round of today's NHL entry draft, it almost seems pointless for the Edmonton Oilers to invest a whole lot of time and effort in scouting.
Just have Kevin Lowe walk to the podium when the 45th pick overall finally comes around and say "The Edmonton Oilers are proud to select with their first pick in the NHL draft ... oh, it doesn't matter, just give us whoever's left.''
Turns out it's not that simple.
"You have to treat it the same as every other year, as if you were picking in the top 10,'' said veteran scout Chris McCarthy. "Because if Kevin makes a trade at the last minute and suddenly you are picking in the top 10, we don't want to be standing there shrugging our shoulders.''
A LOT CAN HAPPEN
As of yesterday the Oilers weren't involved in any serious talks to move up (they gave their first pick to Minnesota in the Dwayne Roloson deal), but a lot can happen in the final hours. And it's not like they don't have an expendable veteran or two for trade bait.
"Our guys are ready in case anything happens,'' said assistant general manager Scott Howson. "You have to stay prepared in case something falls out of the sky and you can move up.''
The Oilers have always been steadfast about keeping their first round pick - if they don't have one this year it'll be for the first time in franchise history - but the move to get Roloson paid off in a trip to the Stanley Cup final, so they certainly have no regrets.
"This is a decision we made in March,'' said Howson. "We looked at our organizational depth, at some of our younger players that we have coming, and thought that given the state of our team, it was the right move.
"And we're certainly delighted with how well Dwayne played and how far we got.''
Besides, he says, it's not like they'll be missing out on much.
"That's what our scouts told us as we were going into the trade deadline; if we were ever going to trade away our first rounder, this is the year to do it. Although it would have been better if the pick was 30th instead of 17th.''
Nevertheless, the Oilers believe the talent pool is all pretty even once you get past the obvious standouts.
"It's a very muddled-up draft,'' said Howson. "You might get at 45 what you could have got at 28 or 29. It's a wide-open draft - after the top 10 the next 50 or 60 are close and it's just going to depend on personal preference.''
LATER CHOICES HAVE FARED WELL
And when you consider that in many years Edmonton's later round choices have fared better than their high ones, going without a first-round pick doesn't necessarily mean a poor crop of kids. Shawn Horcoff (99th overall in 1998), Brad Winchester (35th in 2000), Jarret Stoll (36th in 2002), Matt Greene (44th in 2002) and Jussi Markkanen (133rd in 2001) are living proof that there's gold to be found later.
"We've had some good players from that spot,'' said Howson. "So we're comfortable in the second round for sure. And it's a decent second pick, right in the middle of the round, so there's going to be a decent player there for sure.''
LATE HITS: The Oilers don't know where all of the talk about Chris Pronger no longer fitting into Edmonton comes from, but they assure you it's not from them. The Toronto and Ottawa Suns both made references to Pronger and the Oilers possibly parting ways this summer, rumours Howson dismissed out of hand.
"Pure speculation, pure speculation,'' he said, adding Pronger likes Edmonton and Edmonton definitely likes Pronger. "He's had a great year and we just had a great run.''