Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Oilers take Yakupov, Jackets take Murray, Canadiens choose between Galchenyuk, Forsberg or Grigorenko

The mood of Canadiens' fans seems to be turning from excitement and anticipation to angst as the draft draws nearer.  The biggest reason would be that by now, geeky obsessive fans have scoured all the publications and scouting reports, they've watched all the highlights on YouTube, heck some may have actually watched junior games, even attended them live, and by now have made up their mind who their favourite is.  Man crushes have fully bloomed.

For Canadiens fans, the consensus seems to be that Alex Galchenyuk is the most desirable option, and already there are visions of a big, tall, speedy and skilled centre wearing the bleu blanc rouge and sating the perennial famine for the 'gros joueur de centre'.  This is indeed not a new requirement, but rather a perceived need for our team since the seventies.  We did have Peter Mahovlich back then, all 6'5" of him, playing between Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, but somehow that didn't seem good enough, we wanted someone better, bigger, faster, who scored more, another Jean Béliveau perhaps, chop chop.  Over the years, players such as Bobby Smith, Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse came and went, all not quite filling the bill in our eyes.  We'd look past them, searching for someone better.  We had a long dalliance with Vincent Lecavalier which was never consummated.  Last winter there was alleged sexting going on with Eric Staal and Ryan Getzlaf.

So now that we're so close to the object of our affection, we're agonizing that he may slip through our fingers, whisked away by an undeserving American beau, leaving us standing at the altar.  We'd have to enter a marriage of convenience with a less enthralling prospect, one who may be a very sensible choice and would be a very good provider, but doesn't get our pulse racing like the one we had promised our heart to.

I do think an Alex Galchenyuk would look good as a Hab, and it's highly likely we'll get him, but if we end up with someone else I'm not too worried about it.  We'll get a very good prospect no matter what happens on Friday, and I really think we're in a can't lose position.

Let's imagine that the Oilers take Nail Yakupov, or trade down with a team that snatches him at #1.  While there's a lot of noise lately about there not being that much separation between he and all the other prospects, I think a lot of that is media hype and manufactured controversy to feed the clamour we create for draft news and analysis.  I fully expect sanity to prevail and that the player long expected to go #1 will do so.

Next will come the Columbus Blue Jackets, and I expect they will draft Ryan Murray, as he is the most NHL-ready prospect and is the player who will sell the most tickets there and provide the most hope, which this franchise dearly needs to survive now that it's in the process of shopping its franchise player.  With Rick Nash potentially gone next season, the Blue Jackets will be in the business of selling fans on a young exciting team, and they can do that much better by plugging Mr. Murray in their lineup and touting him as the next great defenceman than by drafting a player with a Russian name, considering the Jackets' draft history, and one who will most probably be in Sarnia next fall.

Even if my confidence proves unfounded, and either the Oilers or Blue Jackets or a team they make a deal with chooses Mr. Galchenyuk before we can, there are still two big centres with talent available in Radek Faksa and Mikhail Grigorenko.  The Canadiens could manoeuvre to trade down a few slots to pick up assets and still pick up one of these promising players.  These young gentlemen would ably fill the putative need for a big playmaking centre, if that is what the management team has decided must be done with this once-a-decade high pick.

Or they could snap up Filip Forsberg, who most of us have not seen play, but is highly coveted by scouts who have.  Mr. Forsberg is spurned by those who dream of Alex Galchenyuk, but he must have some definite promise to be included in every scout's Top 5.

In any case, there isn't a Vincent Lecavalier or Sidney Crosby in this draft, a player who is head and shoulders above every prospect and who will turn a franchise around by himself.  Mr. Galchenyuk is certainly an enticing prospect, but he doesn't bring that much potential and isn't that much of a prize, certainly not relative to all the other quality prospects and according to all the professionals who evaluate potential draftees.

So I'm excited to see what unfolds on Friday, will be moderately optimistic no matter who we end up with, and will allow Trevor Timmins and his staff a lot of latitude to do the best they can with the situation they're faced with.

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