Following the Belichick Model
Yes, this is a piece on Oilers. But can you believe what Bill Belichick is able to do without Tom Brady?! How about without their future franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo?! Jacoby Brissett is a 3rd round rookie QB and facing one of the NFL’s top defenses (American spelling for the NFL) the Pats still won that game Thursday night going away. You likely hate him, but I don’t know who the knob would be that still refuses to admit it…the guy is the best head coach in sports today, and maybe the best mind in NFL history.
So what does this have to do with hockey? The NHL? The Oilers? Well a lot.
I was listening to Colin Cowherd’s show on Friday morning and if you’re an NFL fan his show is the best show to listen to. The amount of football he talks and the guests he has on are top notch. One of the guests he now has on regularly is Mike Lombardi, who is close with Belichick (worked for him both in Cleveland and in New England). So of course on Friday Colin and Mike were discussing Belichick’s greatness after the big win, and specifically scouting. Lombardi said they have a sign that hung both in Cleveland and today in New England’s offices that reads “we’re not in the talent collection business, we’re in the team building business.”
Yes, yes, hell FREAKING YES! I have been preaching this in my draft write up’s for years now. But more so than me, this made me think of the Oilers and what they’ve done oh so wrong.
For a lot of years the Oilers took that exact opposite approach, specifically post 2006.
This is not to say that building in the NHL is the same as building in the NFL. Obviously in the NHL you’re drafting 18 year old kids and you have to develop them in juniors/college/Europe and then possibly in the minors. But whether it was in trades or drafting, all the Oilers tried to do from 2007-2013 was compile talent, they had zero interest in building a team.
In 09-10 they entered the season with Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Robert Nilsson, Patrick O’Sullivan, Andrew Cogliano, Mike Comrie, and Gilbert Brule all on the roster up front. Seven of your twelve forwards are small and maybe only Comrie and Brule had any bite at all. None of the pieces fit. Remember Pat Quinn putting guys like J.F. Jacques on the top line?! I know Quinn did a poor job that season, but he was desperate to balance the lines a little.
All Lowe and Tambellini did was attempt to win every trade they made. Take the Lubomir Visnovsky trade for example. It was great value, but it could be argued that the deal hurt the Oilers more than it helped. Jarret Stoll was one of the league’s top 3rd line centres and a glue guy in the room, as was Matt Greene who had been developed by then into a very solid stay at home number 4/5 guy. They bring in Visnovsky to run the pp when they already had Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, and at the time still had Joni Pitkanen. Visnovsky was obviously the best PP QB of this group, but point is that they didn’t have much of a need for him.
Fast forward to 2012 when the rebuild was supposed to be near completion. We’ve all heard the rumours of Katz and/or Lowe interfering with the draft. Tambellini and the scouting staff were set to take Ryan Murray and “allegedly” someone with more power in the organization demanded that they take Nail Yakupov. In no way did Yakupov fit with what they had brought in. They were still too small, he didn’t add much speed, they were set on the wings, it was just an awful fit from day one. Murray on the other hand would have been a good fit. Not great, but much better than Yakupov was and by the time the draft rolled around I personally was all for the Murray pick because I felt he made the team better.
Us fans and the media get far too caught up in the sexy things. Taking the “BPA” in the draft is sexy, while taking the player who fits what you really need isn’t. In a day and age where the free agent market is bare, and trades are near impossible to make, fans and media still scream to just simply take the “BPA” in the 1st round of the draft, and then you can make trades later…because, ya know, they’re real easy to make…
Jarmo Kekalainen took the need over the “BPA” in this past draft and I commend him for it and fully believe he made the right decision. No doubt, the Oilers benefitted massively from him doing this. But you don’t win Cups without high end centres, which Pierre-Luc Dubois has a great chance to be. Jesse Puljujarvi is an elite prospect, but since when do wingers lead teams to Cups? He fits perfectly into the Oilers lineup because they already have McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl down the middle. The Jackets had…Dubinsky? Wenneberg? Jenner? None of those guys have number 1 centre abilities. So if you draft Puljujarvi, he may have made them better. This wouldn’t have been good, because it is nearly impossible to find a legit 1st line centre outside the top 5 in the draft, especially in the 2017 draft class. They had to take the centre while they could.
Another thing fans and media find sexy is winning the value of a trade. That’s really damn sexy, while losing the value to make your team better isn’t.
Before I continue, my intention with this piece wasn’t to re-hatch the Hall topic, but it obviously ties in perfectly with what I’m writing about. It’s about building a team, not compiling talent and we all know this is what the Oilers did on June 29th. Peter Chiarelli is the GM. Peter Chiarelli was the GM in Boston. Peter Chiarelli likely has at least something of a relationship with Bill Belichick and if he’s anything smart (and he seems like a pretty intelligent guy) he would have taken some of Belichick’s concepts over the years and applied them to his own teams.
I hate how bad they lost the trade on value, I’ll never disagree with that. I personally would have been looking to add to it on the backend and win that part of it. Perhaps sending a 2018 2nd round pick for a 2017 1st round pick (top 10 protected…or something along those lines). But the trade is what it is, and Chiarelli doesn’t do the deal if he doesn’t think it makes the team much better.
I believe it does. I loved Taylor Hall, but with Lucic ready to sign and Puljujarvi falling to them in the draft, Chiarelli chose to build a team rather than collect talent.
People can sit there and debate things that Chiarelli has done or still needs to do while building this team. I know, they still need a right handed shot PP QB, or even just a righty with a big shot on the PP (I hear a guy just like this voiced his trade demands this past weekend…). They also still could use a veteran right handed shot centre who is great in the dot like a Tyler Bozak (doesn’t have to be him, but along those lines).
But it’s clear that Chiarelli is looking to build a team. And that’s what needs to happen. Oilers fans should feel REALLY good about that. It’s the way Bill Belichick does it, and I would say it’s worked out ok for him.
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