EDMONTON - Instead of heading directly to the airport, Steve Tambellini should have taken the lucky tie that he wore to the NHL Draft Lottery three straight years, and dropped it off at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Why would you want to get rid of Steve Tambellini as general manager? He’s the luckiest man in hockey.
Nobody in the era of the NHL Draft Lottery has ever been able to pick first three years in a row. Not once since the bingo balls started rolling in 1995 has a 29th-place team won the lottery before.
They didn’t Fail For Nail, but the Edmonton Oilers failed just enough to end up with Nail Yakupov anyhow.
Understand what has happened here.
Suddenly, the Oilers — 30th, 30th and 29th in the last three years — have first-round picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and, if they choose, Nail Yakupov to go with Jordan Eberle as top six forwards.
But there could be a bonus round.
Imagine what might be going through the head of Justin Schultz right now? He’s the kid from Kelowna who was drafted 43rd by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008 and is considered the No. 1 defenceman in the NCAA, and becomes a free agent July 1. Suddenly he’s got to be thinking how much fun it might be to play with The Nuge, Hall and Eberle.
It could be the last piece in changing the lay of the land — a dominant defencemen choosing Edmonton in free agency.
The Oilers can take this first pick, the player that every scouting service and almost every scout concedes to be head-and-shoulders above anybody else in this draft. Or they could trade the pick for any combination of lower picks, established players, or players and picks.
The prize of winning this pick is the possibly of getting a player who has been most often compared to Pavel Bure.
Or — as was the case of the Quebec Nordiques, the only other team ever to select first in the NHL entry draft three years in a row — the combination of players (including Peter Forsberg) they got for Eric Lindros.
That’s the sort of stuff that started bouncing around the cranium of Tambellini the moment NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly opened the envelope with the Oilers logo.
“So many things went flying through my head,” said the Edmonton GM, who didn’t do a fist pump or throw his arms in the air but just burst into a great big grin.
“It’s an unexpected gift,” he must have repeated four times in talking to your correspondent by cellphone as he headed to the airport for the flight home.
“It’s just so unexpected. I really wasn’t thinking about winning it this year. You look at the odds. What were the odds of picking No. 1 again this year? The odds were pretty overwhelming for Columbus to get it,” said Tambellini. who in each of the last two years sat in the chair where Scott Howson sat this year.
“Marc Crawford was in the studio before the show and he told me ‘I think you guys are going to win tonight.’ I said ‘The odds are so in favour of Columbus, I really don’t think that will happen.’ But I guess if you keep coming here, you might as well win it.
“I’m sitting there, while we’re still on the air, and instantly 1,000 different scenarios are flying through my head.
“With the No. 1 pick, I know we’re going to get a great player. Or, we can trade down and get a player and a pick. It opens up a lot of options. Take the pick. Move down. Trade it for a player. The impact of this …
“To be able to add to what we have again …
“I never expected to be in this position of holding that card again. It’s pretty exciting.
“First of all, we do our homework. We haven’t got to the part where we ask ourselves ‘What do we really believe?’
“We haven’t asked ourselves the other questions.
“Do we want a top defenceman? Do we want a centre who is big? Do we want a dynamic winger like Bure?
“It’s so early on in the process. I’m really looking forward to the part of the process of really getting to know why these guys are so good and to find out if they really want to be the No. 1 pick.
“When we talked to Taylor Hall, we knew he was a No. 1 pick. When we talked to RNH, in an entirely different way, we knew he was a No. 1 pick. That’s one of the things we have to do.
“It’ll be interesting to match up the character qualities of the kids we rate at the top and see how they match up with those of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle.
“But right now, I just really, really, really feel like we’ve been presented with a gift. I’m a happy manager.”
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