Nail Yakupov vs. Ryan Murray: Did the Oilers Draft Right?


If you watched the Edmonton Oilers telecast on Saturday night, the second intermission was filled with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada panelists trying to act like they know how to fix this hockey team’s issues.  The question was asked by the respected Elliotte Friedman that refers back to the Oilers drafting Nail Yakupov and whether or not they should have selected defenseman Ryan Murray instead.

The blue line in Edmonton continues to be a weak point on the club and had they taken Murray, they would have had their budding superstar defenseman in the making.  Noting that he wouldn’t be the immediate solution to the Oilers defensive woes, he would have been that back end to piece to build a defensive wall around.

The debate raged on about whether Edmonton should have taken Murray to address the team’s most glaring needs, that being on defense.  Instead the panel agreed that the Oilers selected Yakupov as he was deemed the best player available.

Bob McKenzie of TSN took to Twitter to confirm that the decision to take Yakupov was one that was made at a higher level within the Oilers organization despite many of the Oilers scouts wanting Murray.

Without stating who the higher authority was, it’s easy to speculate that Steve Tambellini was the man who ultimately made the decision to go with Yakupov.

Was he wrong?  Providing it was him and not Kevin Lowe that influenced the decision.  Of course it’s easy to sit here after the Oilers start the season 0-2 and pick apart all that is wrong with the club and even go as far back as to last year’s draft, indicating that the team took the wrong player.

But if the majority of the scouts, who spend their entire winters dedicated to watching and rating talent around North America, wanted Murray then why would the authorities not listen?

It’s a fine line to depict who the Oilers should have called to the stage with the first overall pick.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and Yakupov has already provided numerous exciting moments in an Oilers jersey.  Needless to say he’ll have many more to come.

This debate surrounding he and Murray could have been avoided if the team had addressed the hole on their blue line this past off-season.  Free-agency can be hit or miss and may end up being a financial nightmare if the player doesn’t pan out.  This summer’s crop of high-end defenseman was thin to say the least making it imperative that a trade was the best possible route to secure that missing piece on defense.  But not wanting to part ways with their high-end talent up front, a deal never happened and now, after watching poor coverage in their own end, the Oilers are again reeling on the blue line.

Ryan Murray, as stated would not have been the answer, at least not this year.  He’s still a young kid at 20-years of age and is only now leaving his rookie imprint on the Columbus Blue Jackets after missing all of last year due to a broken leg.

Through two games with the Jackets he’s averaging around 15 minutes of ice-time and has skated to a rating of minus-2.  A small sample size that is hardly worth analyzing, similar to the Oilers winless start.

In Yakupov’s defence, he was able to step right into a young and weak Oilers lineup last season, made some lasting impressions and proved he is the real deal and worthy of being selected first overall.  Expect that trend to continue.  Over the next two seasons he may be more valuable than Ryan Murray but over the long haul, knowing that the defense is weak and you had the opportunity to build around one player, should you not jump at the chance?  We may not get our answer to this debate until the next two or three years have passed and if the Oilers make the playoffs in that time frame and even compete for a Stanley Cup title, then the question will barely be remembered.

Of course what Craig MacTavish does between now and then to repair the blue line  remains to be seen which will only leave plenty of opportunity to let this debate rage on.

Agree or disagree with the Oilers selecting Yakupov over Murray?  Leave your comments below.

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