So the question is - do the Oilers do a good job of developing players? I think its an important question, especially seeing how two first round picks, Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp, are surely going to be shipped out by Canada Day at the very latest, while many other Oiler youngsters have struggled this season. The lifeblood of an organization is drafting and development. If you don't do this right then you'll go nowhere for a very long time.
For the Oilers this was made that much more important by their inability/unwillingness to pay veteran players and also by the fact that they have always been a middle of the road club and as a result they did not have the picks in the top five or even the top ten, with the exception of Sam Gagner a couple of years back. When you're picking 15th or 17th or 21st every year then you had better get it right.
The Oilers have had one major cockup in recent memory, the year where they did not have their own farm club. That was a huge problem. And this season looks like there may have been some odd decisions down in Springfield; the club has struggled and it remains to be seen whether this could impact a lot of prospects who are on their way up.
Anyhow if you look at the Oilers its very obvious that MacT can develop young players. Saying that he does a shitty job at this ignores a long list of guys who have become NHL players under his watch. And Hemsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Comrie are examples of 'skill' guys who have done well under him, putting to rest the notion that he cannot coach skill or that he turns guys into grinders. Strangely enough Comrie never really did as well elsewhere as he did in Edmonton, weird considering his comments and the bitter divorce between he and Edmonton.You might argue that Hemsky was born on third base but he's not the only guy so I don't think its the blind squirrel thing.
And we still have to see how Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson turn out. All exceeded expectations last year. All have struggled this year at times. With Nilsson its a question of maturity. With the other two it may be growing pains, injury, coaching (Cogliano certainly went south once Moreau became his linemate). It remains to be seen.
But even with these guys and this next generation coming along its safe to say that the Oilers have done a decent job on bringing their young guys a long. All of the guys aforementioned plus Horcoff, Pisani, Brodziak, Stortini, Reddox, Greene, Stoll, Torres, Smid, Chimera, Cleary.
Not bad. But not great either and definitely a tilt towards guys at the bottom end of the roster in a lot of cases. Better that these picks turned into something then nothing but also these types of guys are replaceable for cheap.
So this might be a case of being wishy washy but I think that the next couple of years will really tell the tale and cement the legacy of Lowe and MacT either way. If the youngsters that Lowe has acquired do turn out then he gets forgiven, at least partially, for what he did after June 19, 2006, and he cements his reputation as a guy who did decent work in the draft. If they do not then its either his failure or MacT's.
As for MacT well I think his legacy depends on the current crop of kids. If Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Pouliot, Schremp and Jacques are all failures then I think you would have to pin a lot of that on coaching. MacT's quotes about how Pouliot and Brule need to find their roles don't strike me as, well, very smart, to be honest. Pouliot in particular strikes me a guy who could be a good NHL player with the right coaching. I may be wrong and when he goes elsewhere if he fails folks will point to that and say that, see, MacT was right and he was just a failed pick.
That is an accepted argument by most but I don't know if I buy it. Time lost to injury can ruin a career - see Doug Lynch and probably Ryan O'Marra as well - well then can it not be argued that years of misuse would have the same effect? If a guy spends two or three years of his prime developmental years being miscast then would that not derail his career? I think that is a legitimate argument.
As for Schremp well he is the other test case. He will be gone elsewhere this summer and will probably get a shot next fall. He will put up points - of course the question is whether he will be a guy who can help his team win.
And so in Rob Schremp and Marc Pouliot we have the ultimate referendum on the Lowe/MacT era. Are they guys who never got a fair shot who will blossom elsewhere? Or is they just bad picks by Kevin Lowe?
Or is the truth somewhere in between - that they were flawed guys who are in that 15-30 pick range where you get some quality and some dross and that Lowe picking them was a reasonable bet that just did not pan out and never would have, regardless of the coaching they received. Schremp did get passed over by the majority of the league for a reason, I would say.
My head hurts.