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As a huge Oilers fan for a very long time, I have been patient and rather enjoyed watching this rebuild take shape. We have a tremendous core of great young talent and seem to be missing just a couple of key pieces. After winning the lottery my immediate thought was: trade it.
My question is this: do we trade this pick now and try and get into the market while there are some good options? Rick Nash is going to move and Jarome Iginla is likely to move (after his comments last week). Two big guys that could score goals and don't want to be part of a full rebuild: Well, ours is almost complete! Your thoughts?
A: It really was an incredible stroke of good luck. First pick overall carries obvious benefits and the marketability and impact of this pick for certain teams is huge. However, the Oilers are past that stage and are ready to dangle some assets to satisfy their remaining needs. Steve Tambellini says Edmonton would like to add one...maybe two top-end defencemen and the availability of top pick in the NHL Draft will encourage a number of trade discussions between now and June. Last year, Tambellini listened to the tire kickers, but never seriously considered moving the pick that ultimately landed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His approach this spring is different and the willingness to truly investigate all options and scenarios is strong. I don't see Iginla or Nash a fit in Edmonton, but any team willing to part with a top pairing d-man, who fits into the 20-something dynamic of the Oilers blueprint, will most definitely catch Tambellini's attention.
With Brent Sutter gone from Calgary now, do you think he might turn up somewhere else or head back to the Red Deer Rebels in some capacity? Who are some prime coaching candidates who the Flames might be interested in calling?
A: Eric, I'm sure Flames GM Jay Feaster has a list of names he believes is worthy of some consideration. Aside from the usual suspects (unemployed coaches), there are a few men who may get a closer look. Feaster acknowledged Heat coach Troy Ward as an internal candidate, while former NHL coach, Bob Hartley's name was also brought up in Thursday's media conference as a possibility. New York Rangers assistant Mike Sullivan is worth mentioning as well. Sullivan and Rangers coach John Tortorella are very close and have a connection to Feaster based on their time together in Tampa Bay. As for Brent Sutter, there will be NHL interest as Sutter is highly regarded, but he may also choose to step back and focus on a very successful ranch and his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels. Hockey is a passion for Sutter, but he has the luxury of not having to coach for a living.
Ryan Kesler has gotten his share of chirps over the last day or so regarding his play (accusations of embellishing, diving, leaping on hits, chirping). Devil's advocate question - Do you think he's better than this or do you think he's doing his job - just trying to get his team as much as an advantage as possible?
A: Scott, Ryan Kesler plays the game hard, fueled with intensity. His edge is part of what makes him a star player and pushing it close to the lines in all respects works for him. Without his heroics last season, the Canucks do not reach the Stanley Cup final (19pts in 25 games). Does he need to be better...more productive? Yes. No question, if Vancouver advances past the Los Angeles Kings, Kesler will have been a contributing factor. If they don't and the Kings claim an upset victory, it may also be because Kelser was shut down or failed to produce. He's that important to this team.
Did it surprise you that the Canadiens reportedly contacted the L.A. Kings about Ron Hextall? That name is a bit off the beaten path from the usual suspects we've been hearing about!
A: Surprise? Yes and no. I'm not surprised because Ron Hextall is believed to be among those team executives most ready to become and NHL general manager. Hextall's response to me when asked about the reported interest was simple and blunt. He said his focus is only on the playoffs and the Los Angeles Kings. That may change when the Kings are eliminated. Hextall and Luc Robitaille are good examples of the Canadiens scouring the league and making sure the man they hire to replace Pierre Gauthier is truly the right man for the job. I'm told there have been a number of phone conversations with prospective candidates and face to face interviews are expected to commence later this month.
I was a bit surprised that Scott Howson was at TSN on Monday representing the Blue Jackets. After the disastrous season they had, is ownership giving him another shot to right the ship?
A: Erin, you're not alone. Many around the hockey world are surprised Howson remains the Blue Jackets GM, however Columbus ownership deserves some credit for showing restraint and patience while enduring yet another disastrous season. Today, support from ownership is there...that could change overnight, that's the way this business works. However, don't lose sight of the importance of this summer and the potential for a work stoppage if negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA on a new CBA don't go as well as hoped. Most teams would rather stay status quo until there's a better sense as to what the new agreement will look like along with the certainty next season will start on time.