For the third straight year, the Edmonton Oilers have an envious decision to make: Which of the ultra-talented junior players coming into this year's draft will they anoint as the No. 1 selection?
It should be easy, right? Just go with the consensus No. 1-ranked player, Russian Nail Yakupov, who has played the last two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with Sarnia and garnered Ovechkin and Kovalchuk comparisons.
But wait just a minute. The Oilers have earned the No. 1 pick three years in a row, and offence is not a problem (11 teams scored fewer goals than the Oilers this year). Thanks to consecutive selections of Jordan Eberle (Regina Pats), Taylor Hall (Oshawa Generals) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer Rebels), conventional wisdom suggests the stockpiling of young snipers is complete. Why add another sniper? To lose games 8-6 instead of 8-4?
The Oilers need help on defence and, perhaps in goal. General manager Steve Tambellini looks around the NHL playoffs and sees a "defence-first" mentality leading to playoff success. But the Oilers don't have a Shea Weber, an Alex Pietrangelo, a Drew Doughty.
Sunmedia's Steve Simmons says Tambellini is in an enviable position. Instead of taking Yakupov at No. 1, Simmons suggests he should consider trading that pick to a team in need of a sniper and which might have a top-four defenceman to offer in exchange. Then, by picking later in the first round, the Oilers could still snare a potential all-star on defence - perhaps Matthew Dumba of Red Deer or Morgan Rielly of Moose Jaw. (The assumption here is that the top-ranked defenceman, Everett's Ryan Murray, won't last past No. 3 or 4 overall.)
Two top-four defencemen to add to that potentially explosive Oiler offence? It could secure Tambellini's job for 10 more years and eliminate the chuckling that goes on across Canada whenever anyone mentions the phrase "the city of champions."
So how about this for a scenario: Winnipeg sends big defenceman Dustin Byfuglien along with its No. 9 selection in the first round and a second-round selection to the Oilers for the No. 1 pick. Jets get what they need (an offensive star in Yakupov) and the Oilers get Big Buff and then perhaps Dumba or Rielly at No. 9, along with another second-rounder.
Everyone's happy, right? But let's be clear: Byfuglien's no Weber or Pietrangelo or Doughty, but he's a big body and he's a defenceman and for the Oilers, such moves might be a step in the right D.
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• Comedy writer Jerry Perisho: "Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, who ran away from an off-campus party, was caught by a police officer and arrested. Rees had a 0.11 per cent blood alcohol level and the police officer was offered a scholarship as a linebacker."
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• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: "Los Angeles Laker, Metta World Peace, has been suspended for seven games for throwing a vicious elbow at the head of Oklahoma player, James Harden. For three days Harden's head hurt like a Kardashian on 'Jeopardy.'"
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "(Commissioner) David Stern is no pushover. Had Metta World Peace killed James Harden with that elbow, Stern would have ordered World Peace to apologize at the funeral."
• Headline at Fark.com: "Red Sox sign Mark Prior in order to fill a need on the disabled list."
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• Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, explaining the crowd of 70,000 for WrestleMania: "With America forced to go up to 18 months between Adam Sandler movies, we're starved for bad acting."
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• Cote again: "NBC-TV had a three-hour Kentucky Derby preview show Saturday for a two-minute race. Unless the horses started talking, that strikes me as a bit excessive."
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