EDMONTON – Taylor or Tyler?
Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini isn’t saying, but the rebuilding job he faces got a big boost Tuesday as the Oilers retained the first selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and the right to pick Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.
“I didn’t think I’d be nervous,” Tambellini said. “But when I was there and Bill (Daly) came up with the cards and started flipping them over. When it got to three, I was a little bit.
“I was watching on a monitor all the people in Edmonton at a draft lottery party. I had four other managers sitting next to me and they’re going, ‘You guys have a draft lottery party in Edmonton?’ They said that was incredible.
“No one has ever seen something like that, which speaks to the type of market. That is incredible. Tell me, if you’re a player, why you don’t want to play in something like this?”
Tambellini isn’t saying whether he prefers Seguin, a centre with the Plymouth Whalers ranked No. 1 by NHL Central Scouting, or Hall, a left-winger with the Windsor Spitfires who is ranked second. Either way, the consensus is Edmonton will get a cornerstone player with the first overall pick in the history of the franchise.
“Somebody asked me, would you rather have two (the second pick)?” Tambellini said. “I said, ‘No, we want to be in control of that situation.’
“You want to be able to put your scouts through that process, make them make a decision. Who is better now? Who is going to be better later? They’re still in the assessment mindset. They need to go through the process of the final interviews, the combine.
“We have not had our final meetings yet, where all the information will be put on the table. We have some time, yet, to go through that.”
With good news a rare commodity during a season in which the Oilers finished 30th with a record of 27-47-8, the opportunity to select Hall or Seguin is as good a place as any to start rebuilding a team that has missed the playoffs for four straight seasons.
Seguin, in his second OHL season, and Hall, in his third, finished tied atop league scoring with 106 points each.
One of them stands to be part of a youth movement that is expected to include former first-rounders Sam Gagner (sixth in 2007), Jordan Eberle (22nd in 2008) and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (10th in 2009).
“A lot of it is going to be dependant on if they’re ready to play,” Tambellini said of the possibility of having a roster laden with rookies.
“Jordan is signed. He’s spent some time in the AHL. He had a wonderful junior career. We’d like to get our top pick from Sweden (Paajarvi-Svensson) signed. Do we want them to play as soon as possible? Yes, but let’s just make sure they’re ready.”
With the top pick secured, Tambellini expects to hear from his peers around the NHL between now and draft day.
“I’m sure there are 29 other managers who have wonderful ideas how they’re going to make my team better if I give them that pick,” smiled Tambellini.
Tambellini took time to address comments made by defenceman Sheldon Souray Monday.
Souray, 33, who just completed the third season of a five-year contract worth US$27 million with the Oilers, accused management of pressuring him to come back from off-season shoulder surgery before he was ready to play at the start of the 2007-08 season.
Souray also made public his desire to be traded by the Oilers.
“I know he didn’t help the situation,” Tambellini said. “It’s been no secret that Sheldon wants out of Edmonton.
“I’ve had numerous meetings with him over the last year, I would say, mostly all revolving around the fact he wants to be traded. That’s fine. Again, the situation presents clarity for us of who we have to move, how we have to move to go forward.”
Souray reiterated his discontent when he addressed reporters Tuesday.
“It’s tough to say. It’s tough to read and it’s tough to stand in front of you guys and, you know, talk about it,” Souray said. “What should have been an ideal situation has turned out to be something that’s a lot less than that for me and for the organization.”
That leaves Tambellini to try and trade Souray, who missed 45 games this season with a concussion and broken right hand, suffered in a fight with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla.
Souray missed 58 games in 2007-09 after re-injuring his surgically repaired shoulder in a fight with Byron Ritchie of Vancouver. He played 81 games last season, registering 23 goals and 53 points.
“I’m sick and tired and I don’t want to hear people complain about this city, this organization,” Tambellini said. “I don’t like the coach. I don’t like the manager. I don’t like the city. It’s too cold.
“This is the risk you run sometimes. Someone can have success in another market, but you don’t know. … I keep going back to if you can’t develop your core, the expectations of what an Oiler truly is, respect for that logo, this city, you’re always going to be spinning your wheels.”