- January 12, 2015 - As we hit the middle of January, it’s becoming pretty obvious who the main contenders for the top two picks, and the rights to Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, are.
Now obviously, the NHL Draft works under a lottery system so whoever has a lottery pick theoretically can land McDavid. And wouldn’t it be a real kick in the giblets if someone like, I don’t know, the Philadelphia Flyers landed him? Try to find anyone outside of Philly that would be happy about it. Go ahead, try.
That said, we’re going to focus on the four teams right now that have the best shot of finishing in the basement and, on paper, would have the best shot of landing young Mr. McDavid. More importantly than that, here’s why each team should land him…and why they most definitely should be kept away from him.
Edmonton Oilers (10-24-9, 29 points)
Why they should land him: Because one of these top picks has to pan out eventually, right? Seriously though, add McDavid to a group already consisting of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse and you’ve got a pretty impressive group of youngsters that could – and should – lead the Oilers back to prominence. Also, imagine the heights he could take Hall, a bonafide superstar in his own right, to as his center.
More importantly, how great would it be if McDavid could make hockey in Edmonton a big deal again? Sure, the fans in Edmonton love the Oilers, but if he could lead the back to anything resembling a contender, he’d be the most beloved figure in Alberta sports since Gretzky.
Why they absolutely should not land him: Have you seen how things are going there? It’s a tire fire in every sense of the word right now and there doesn’t appear to be a fix in sight. The front office is comprised of the exact wrong kind of people: folks who don’t seem to have a plan or direction and an owner more interested in bringing back the ghosts of the ‘80s than actually winning anything anytime soon.
On top of that, supposedly Taylor Hall is on the trading block, there are still huge questions on defense and in goal, Eberle is rumored to be dealt out of town literally every day and despite all of those top 10 picks, they still have a glaring issue at center that doesn’t have an immediate fix on the horizon. There’s a reason this team has been at the bottom of the standings for the better part of the last decade.
Carolina Hurricanes (13-24-5, 31 points)
Why they should land him: Though they haven’t been so overtly and obviously bad as the Oilers and the soon-to-be-mentioned Sabres, the Hurricanes have quietly put together a nice group of prospects over the last few years.
Center Elias Lindholm is already up with the big club, but Victor Rask, Brock McGinn, Haydn Fleury, Ryan Murphy and Alex Nedeljkovic all wait in the wings to help bring the ‘Canes back to the big time. Adding McDavid into the mix would immediately give them one of the best young groups going, but would give them their next superstar to take the torch from captain and former top pick Eric Staal.
Why they absolutely should not land him: Sure, they’ve been bad, but they’re not in full-on rebuild mode. Eric Staal and Alex Semin continue to be overpaid while under producing, Jordan Staal cost them a ton in both assets and dollars while no living up to expectations, Cam Ward has yet to live up to his Conn Smythe win of a decade ago and Jeff Skinner can’t stay healthy long enough for anyone to really trust that he’ll be around.
More importantly than that, the Hurricanes play in front of a sparse crowd in Raleigh, one that could barely get behind the Hurricanes when they were the defending Stanley Cup Champions, let alone when they aren’t playoff contenders. Let the world enjoy McDavid’s gifts, don’t let him toil away in front of NASCAR fans who would rather “WOOO!” with Ric Flair than watch the game.
Buffalo Sabres (14-26-3, 31 points)
Why they should land him: Even without McDavid or Eichel, this is still one of the deeper and more talented prospect groups in the NHL. Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, Sam Reinhart, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jake McCabe, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Johan Larsson and JT Compher all have a chance to become regulars or better in Buffalo. Plus, with three picks in one of the deepest drafts in ages, this group is only going to get deeper.
More so, general manager Tim Murray has been excellent since his arrival. He understands the direction he wants the team to go in and he’s doing all he can to assure that development continues. With as bad as the team is now, it’s easy to forget that they still have very good building blocks in Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers among others.
This is a team that could experience a huge turnaround in 2015-16 with McDavid and the graduating prospects ready to make the jump to Buffalo.
Why they absolutely should not land him: Let’s face facts: Buffalo is tortured. The Bills are at 15 years and counting of missing the playoffs and that’s following four consecutive Super Bowl losses. The Sabres haven’t been back to the Finals in 16 years and that one only ended in one of the most controversial finishes in Stanley Cup Playoff history.
Arizona Coyotes (16-21-4, 36 points)
Why they should land him: Arizona is hanging on by a thread as a franchise. They’ve been stuck in ownership limbo seemingly forever and the loyal folks who continue to go to games and cheer on the franchise in the face of relocation jokes deserve something to really cheer for.
A guy like McDavid could be the turnaround the Coyotes need to finally get stable ownership, be the draw that gets fans in the building and be the cornerstone the franchise has never really had before. Simply put: Connor McDavid could save hockey in Arizona.
Why they absolutely should not land him: Basically for the reasons listed above, but in reverse. What if McDavid can’t draw the casual fan in? What if they just don’t care about hockey enough in the desert to ever consistently fill a building? What if this was all a great big waste of time?
Not only that, but like the Hurricanes, the Coyotes haven’t been overtly bad of late. They have a few nice prospects – Max Domi, Brandon Gormley, Brendan Perlini – but still have more questions than answers across their roster right now.
So where should he go? Full disclosure: I’m not the most objective guy. I’ve been a Sabres fan my whole life and would obviously like him to go there. After all, it’s the point of being as bad as the Sabres are right now. Not only that, but in my lifetime, they’ve never drafted a guy like McDavid.
Having said that, Buffalo actually makes the most sense on paper: they have a deep and talented group of prospects ready to take Buffalo by storm in 2015-16, they have an organized, smart front office that has a plan and is executing it, and they have a passionate fan base right by the Canadian border that absolutely loves its Sabres. No massive front office issues like in Edmonton, nor a rebuild that hasn’t officially begun like in Carolina or Arizona.
Simply put: for his own future, Connor McDavid had better hope to see blue and gold come up #1 in the draft lottery.
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