May 17, 2016

Inside the War Room

It’s 5:43 p.m. and General Manager Kyle Walters is seated at the head of the boardroom table, as straight-faced as you will see the boss of football operations. Head Coach Mike O’Shea sits to his left, and President & CEO Wade Miller to his right. The draft is about 15 minutes from commencing on national television, and a TSN TV crew accompanied by Sara Orlesky is stationed across the hall.

As I step out of the room to speak with TSN, Kyle does as well with his phone pressed to his ear. We congregate in the hallway of our office area, and he says:

“Okay, we have a trade in place, pending availability of a player.”

He goes over the details of a trade that would move us well into the first round. Heading into the draft, we had five players targeted that we had decided we would trade up to acquire, providing one of the five was still available at the pick we had agreed to trade for.

We’re going ahead with it.

Pick one, two and three go by. Some of the five are still on the board. The room is tense. Nobody is speaking; everyone in the room knows the plan.

We are now one pick away from the agreed upon trade, our guy doesn’t get chosen, and there is a huge sigh of relief. It’s done.IMG_8178

We’re about to call in the trade, acquire a first round pick, and select this player…. Gulp.

But just as quickly, the team on the other end of the trade sends Kyle a text:  “no deal.”

They don’t give a reason, nor do they have to, but my guess is the player THEY wanted is still on the board, to their surprise.

The room goes silent. “Well, that’s disappointing,” Kyle mutters to the assembled room.

We wait. As the picks continue; six, seven… and as Edmonton is on the clock at number eight, our player is still available and we’re all hoping his name doesn’t get called.

It isn’t, and not only do we get an offensive lineman, we also get defensive lineman Trent Corney who was high on ‘our ten’ (a list of ten confidential names Kyle had supplied me with, saying “we will be taking two of these ten guys at nine and ten”).

Trent was also ranked very high on all mock drafts, so getting BOTH Corney and OL Mike Couture is cause for pure elation.

Kyle on phoneKyle calls in both picks, and the war room is as excited a draft room as I’ve ever seen.

“Had you told me we would get both of those guys at nine and ten, I would’ve traded 19 for that alone,” Kyle says to Mike and Wade.

A great start, and after doing a quick interview with TSN outside of the draft room, Kyle is immediately back to business, surveying pick number 19.

As our third pick approaches, a few names are bounced around: Some that could come in and help immediately, and others that may take a few years to either get to the pro level or take some time to return from the NFL.
It dawns on me then – there is no more immediate ‘let’s draft him because we need him to play’, but rather a calmness about Kyle and management that speaks to an outlook reaching far beyond this season.

Kyle always said he wanted to build it right, and I sure believe he is. As the night goes on, I observe our football boss and realize the knowledge and depth he has of the Canadian draft and each and every player; it’s quite remarkable. He spends a full year preparing for this three-hour event, starting the very next day for the 2017 Draft.

As the night concluded, Kyle leaned back in the captain’s chair at the head of the table. “Well, this was a good night.”

As we walk to his post-draft press conference, our first chance to take a breath and talk a bit more calmly, he says, “We got a lot better tonight. It’s funny, as they say; sometimes the best move is no move at all. Who would’ve thought?”

See you at Fan Fest this weekend!

Until next time.