After checking out the recent transactions of the Edmonton Oilers I was struck by the relatively low number put up by Joffrey Lupul. He produced very similar numbers against the Oilers as compared to most other teams, although he did tend to score more goals and collect fewer assists. Kevin Lowe has taken a lot of deserved criticism for the return on the Pronger trade. This has been exacerbated by the fact that Getzlaf, Perry and now Ryan have all turned into very good players. But how were they all performing at the time of the trade? How did their general performance compare with their performance against the Oilers? I think these are relevant questions. I will only be using a one year sample instead of the regular two years for this exercise since most of the players in question were rookies in 2005-06. Here is the performance of the Anaheim young stars in that season:
I think that it's significant that Joffrey Lupul is at the very bottom of this list. It implies one of two things: (1) he may not have been Kevin Lowe's first choice of young forward given his other acquisitions over the last few seasons or (2) recent performance against the Oilers was not a significant factor in his acquisition.
The first thing worth noting is that Bobby Ryan isn't in the NHL at this point. Instead he's putting up 95 points in 59 regular season OHL games along with a -1 rating. He also scored 12 points in 11 OHL playoff games before his team was eliminated. After they were knocked out Ryan moved to the AHL playoffs where he scored 1-7-8 in 19 playoff games. Ryan would probably not have provided immediate help to the Oilers and I imagine the Ducks would have insisted he be one of the two main pieces (according to Guy Flaming this is what the Oilers were seeking) going back to Edmonton in any deal. The Oilers seem to have thought that Smid could play in the NHL immediately and decided they wanted him as part of the package. I can certainly understand not wanting Smid and Ryan to make up the bulk of the package coming back for Pronger and, as such, think it's pretty defensible that Lowe took Lupul over Ryan.
The elements at work here show some other interesting things. Firstly, Corey Perry doesn't look like a guy about to become an offensive star. He concluded his age 20 season with 28 points in 67 games which is a pretty paltry total. At the same age Lupul had 34 points in 75 games. I think Lowe can be forgiven for choosing Lupul over Perry.
If I had to bet, I'd say it's Getzlaf, Penner and Lupul that the Oilers were strongly considering. While Penner had played well against the Oilers and had registered a dominant AHL season, he was still a 23 year-old NHL rookie. I can see why the Oilers would have passed on Penner in favour of Lupul.
Last is Getzlaf. I think it's pretty likely that Getzlaf was the Oilers first choice for a forward. He had size on Lupul and his 20 year-old season is definitely more impressive. His play against the Oilers was also quite good. Much has been made about the "five assets" that Kevin Lowe was trying to get but as I noted earlier, it would seem the Oilers primary objective was securing two good young talents and extras. It seems quite plausible to me that the Oilers got the second round pick as a throw-in for taking Lupul instead of Getzlaf. The "five assets" mantra may not have started until after the second 1st rounder was sealed with the Ducks Cup run and after the disappointing performances of Smid and Lupul. In may have been a later narrative created to save face (P.S. It didn't work).
Including his playoffs Lupul had put up 64 points in 97 games in his 22 year-old season. Some of the underlying numbers may not have been good, but the boxcars were and I can see how Oilers management thought that Lupul would be ready to explode offensively. Then there's the reaction of some astute fellows from around the Oilogosphere at the time of the trade. No one was glowingly positive and that's for sure, but there wasn't as much, "what about frakking Getzlaf!!!" as there is now. Here's Vic Ferrari's take:
"Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Pronger deal is a terrible trade, just that there is no right now! component."
Tyler Dellow on the same subject:
"Suffice it to say that I haven’t been a big fan of Joffrey Lupul in the past... I’m cautiously optimistic that, if fed PP minutes with Hemsky, Lupul can be a real producer on the PP. He just wasn’t a good EV player last year and I see no reason to expect that to change in the coming season; Lupul was EV+33 and EV-39. Given that he was playing in front of really good goaltending last season, this probably overstates his competence. He’s a good young offensive player but he’s going to need to be fed some soft TOI in order to keep him from sinking the ship. I’m somewhat concerned that the Oilers are starting to pile up guys like this: Hemsky, Torres, Stoll and Lupul are a lot of putative top 9 forwards to hide at ES."
And Pat McLean:
"I thought he was a good young player who would likely become a great player. I also thought he was a punk. Well, now he's our punk... But [Lowe] got a shooter, something the Oilers need, and he's a 22 year old who scored 28 goals playing with, who, Todd Marchant? That's a nice pickup."
This isn't a comprehensive look at the Oilogosphere's reaction, but I think it's pretty fair to say the general complaint was about getting someone that could help the team immediately, not about getting the wrong kid out of Anaheim. The trade was a poor one and that's the truth but I think it was poor because of the overall "young pieces that don't help now" strategy. I think talk of Getzlaf or especially Ryan/Perry/Penner needing to be included in the deal smacks a bit of revisionism when we know a lot better how each of these guys turns out.