Archive for the ‘draft special’ Category

Quality and Quantity

June 26, 2009

Well, it appears that we’ve received every draft preview we could so let’s wrap this thing up.

First: if you missed a post at some point (understandable since there are more than 20), every single one is linked on the “draft coverage” sidebar. Amazingly, there are two Edmonton Oilers contributions.

The only teams that went un-covered were the Sharks (didn’t ask anyone because they barely have any draft picks this year), the Penguins, the Blues and the Blue Jackets. Considering all the bloggers who are on vacation (literally and/or figuratively), we’d say that this special was an overwhelming success.

We think that we have a fun idea for the free agent period, but we’ll see how many people we can convince to come back a week after contributing such in-depth and amazing stuff. Big thanks to the bloggers and places that linked to the special itself.

Lastly, we’re wondering: is there anything you’d like us to change about these big specials? Obviously, the posts came in at a barrage but at least it wasn’t all in one day like our epic (and labor intensive) trade deadline stuff. But, enough of that, do you have any suggestions, valued readers?

Have a fun draft day and stick around this summer. We won’t slow down for a while.

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Strange Deadfellows double-team the Edmonton Oilers draft

June 26, 2009


My brain is made of mush now, so let’s keep this simple: big thanks to “thickoil” and “raventalon40” for their contributions. They collectively run one of the remaining great blogs in the “oilogosphere” in Strange Deadfellows so make sure to check them out.

First, “thickoil”:

1. What do you expect the Oilers to do with 10th pick? Talk about some of the prospects (who might realistically be available around that time) who you have your eyes on. Who would you like to see the Oilers draft?

After the main 7 go in the draft, the draft opens up more and the Oilers have a bunch of options. The Oilers could draft the best player possible (BPA), which could be someone like Ryan Ellis. Ellis, the 5’10” 170 pound offensive defensemen may not be the most ideal choice for the Oilers. The Oilers currently have an abundance of offensive D-Men in the system (Petry, Chorney, Wild, etc.). Also going against Ellis is his small frame. With Tambellini and Quinn preaching a more physical style of game, Ellis isn’t likely to play that style.

Personally from an Oilers perspective I would like either Scott Glennie or Zach Kassian. Though Kassian is predicted to go in the mid/late teens in most Fantasy Drafts, he is forged from the Milan Lucic mold of player and is easily one of the toughest players in the draft. (Ironically the Oilers gave Boston the draft pick that got them Lucic in the Samsonov-Reasoner deal in 2006). Glennie also is a player in the power forward mold, but isn’t as tough as Kassian but had a larger statistical output. However the concern with Glennie is that he was on a line with Brayden Schenn, and the Oilers are all too familiar picking players with inflated stats due to being linemates of highly dominant players (cough, Pouliot playing with Crosby, cough).

2. Do you think the Oilers will make any draft day moves? If the Oilers had to move a pick to land, say Heatley, would it be worth it?

I think the Oilers will make a move though I don’t think it will involve Heatley. I believe Heatley won’t be moved till July 1st because of his 4 million dollar bonus that the receiving team would have to pay. However I would like the Oilers to possibly make a stab at maybe Jbo’s rights and Florida’s 14th Overall. This would allow us to grab Kassian. Supposedly Florida is asking only for a 1st round pick. If I was Tambo I offer our 10th and a mid-range prospect for Jbo’s rights and the 14th.

3. Take us back for some of your favorite Oilers draft memories. Obviously, the Gretzky era probably contains many of those moments. Are there any other steals/bargains/etc that stand out?

The Oilers drafting was abysmal in the mid/late 90’s and early 00’s. The Oilers haven’t really had much steals or bargains in the draft. Horcoff was picked 99th overall, which I guess would be probably one of the better bargains in the draft.

4. On the other hand, the Oilers have probably had their fair share of blunders. Talk about some of the more head-splitting/”what if?” moments.

What if we picked Getzlaf, Parise, Richards instead of Pouliot…The 2003 draft was easily one of our worst moments drafting. Of the 30 guys picked in the 1st round, roughly 25 are highly successful.

Also would be the 1995 draft, which was held in Edmonton, we had the 6th overall pick and at the time everyone thought we would grab Shane Doan. Right before the pick was made, the crowd was chanting “Doan, Doan, Doan”. Instead the Oilers picked Steve Kelly who played an amazing 149 games for 21 points.

Some people like to point to the 2002 Draft where the Oilers got Jesse Niinimaki, but in my opinion that was a pretty terrible draft overall.

Soapbox Time:

Feel free to use this as a moment to get something off your chest. Talk about the future of the franchise, the underrated perks of living in Edmonton or whatever else.

The future of the Oilers looks good with Tambellini running the show and Quinn and Renney behind the bench. Quinn specifically likes hard-nosed hockey and that should allow the Oilers to get back to that blue-collared style of hockey that I love.

***

Finally, “raventalon40”

1. What do you expect the Oilers to do with 10th pick? Talk about some of the prospects (who might realistically be available around that time) who you have your eyes on. Who would you like to see the Oilers draft?

I’ve been keeping my eyes on about 3 players who are most likely to be available at the 10th position, assuming Tambellini doesn’t move up in the draft. Those 3 players are Scott Glennie, Dmitry Kulikov, and John Moore. I’m a firm believer that you always take the best player available before you address organization need by position.

Though the Oilers have an abundance of offensive defenseman in the minors, my vote would go to Dmitry Kulikov and here’s why: the Russian defenseman has played the North American game, he has the widest range of skills, and is described by many scouts to be the most complete defenseman in the draft. Some even rank him above OHL phenom Ryan Ellis. The best part is, most GMs believe that Kulikov is NHL ready – but whether he’s ready in the way that Drew Doughty was or Oscar Möller is yet to be seen. It wouldn’t matter if Kulikov had to spend a couple years in the AHL to hone his skill.

As for Scott Glennie, he comes out of the WHL which is a familiar league for the Oilers scouts. Some raise concerns on whether his “sidekick” role with regards to Brayden Schenn will have hurt his personal development and I say bollocks to that.

In reverse, I wonder how much of Schenn’s performance is inflated by Glennie’s own contributions? Whatever the case, the Wheat Kings have a tradition of producing players with skill and desire, with the likes of Ryan Stone (a current Oiler), Eric Fehr, and Matt Calvert. Glennie is a true western boy with good hockey sense and an ability to find himself or his linemates in the right position. Schenn or not, Glennie has the smarts and that’s half the battle when it comes to making the NHL.

John Moore hails from the USHL, a league that has produced mixed results for the Oilers in recent drafts, with the likes of Petry and Vandevelde emerging from the league. Vandevelde is beginning to emerge from a development snag in the Oilers system that saw the team split farm teams with the Pittsburgh Penguins; Petry is one of the top prospects in the system. There is not much evidence left to fairly proclaim that the USHL is an inferior league and all indications are that John Moore may or may not outperform current Oilers big D prospect Alex Plante, though Plante’s own development has been delayed by injury. Moore is praised for his skating, composure, and slick passing ability. He could be a future powerplay quarterback.

2. Do you think the Oilers will make any draft day moves? If the Oilers had to move a pick to land, say Heatley, would it be worth it?

I wouldn’t move the 10th overall pick to acquire Heatley. Ottawa GM Murray has had his hand forced and all indications are that he will have no choice but to accept less than market value for his elite sniper. Landing Heatley will still take more than your average Joe top 6 forward, but I wouldn’t expect the deal to be of the blockbuster proportion that graced the pages of the Tkachuk to Atlanta or Joe Thornton to San Jose deals.

In order to move the 10th overall pick to acquire Heatley, I would imagine the Oilers would also be getting a significant roster ready player in return, to even out the roster vaccum created by acquiring Heatley.

Overall, it’s simpler to just look elsewhere if Ottawa wants a 1st round pick for Heatley.

3. Take us back for some of your favorite Oilers draft memories. Obviously, the Gretzky era probably contains many of those moments. Is there any other steals/bargains/etc that stands out?

I would have to say that my favourite Oiler draft memory was when they took Andrew Cogliano as I was hoping all along that the Oilers would take him and it actually happened. I still hold out hope that Cogliano becomes a franchise Oiler.

A close second would be the Sam Gagner draft year. I had him pegged along with Jakub Voracek and felt they were relatively equal and it turned out great that Columbus GM Howson took him first because the former WJC and Russian Super Series star Gagner turned out to be the more NHL ready pick.

A memorable steal that comes to mind is Linus Omark in the 4th round but as it stands right now, he may never suit up in an Oiler uniform, so we’ll wait and see about that.

4. On the other hand, the Oilers have probably had their fair share of blunders. Talk about some of the more head-splitting/”what if?” moments.

I wouldn’t call picking Jani Rita or Alexei Mikhnov blunders as much as I would consider them failures in development, but history has judged them to be almost as bad as Jason Bonsignore or Jesse Niinimaaki. Rita never stood a fair chance against other prospects in the system but he did score a goal in his first NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings.

The biggest question mark that comes to mind is former Oiler defenseman Chris Hajt. The Oilers spent many good seasons developing this player to absolutely no avail. I remember reading countless reports on how good Hajt was and finding out eventually that Hajt was really nothing to write home about.

5. Soapbox Time: Feel free to use this as a moment to get something off your chest. Talk about the future of the franchise, the underrated perks of living in Edmonton or whatever else.

Living in Edmonton is great. The winter season is all excitement and hockey. The summer season is beautiful and the river valley is second to none in terms of civic parks. It is more than 10 times larger and more extensive than New York’s Central Park and that’s no small feat.

The franchise has always had a kind of undying loyalty aspect to it. There have been criticisms of the “Boys on the Bus” mentality of the Oilers, but it’s true what they say: an Oiler for life. Doug Weight, Boris Mironov, Jim Dowd, Ryan Smyth, Wayne Gretzky, Igor Ulanov: these and many more former Oilers have been quoted as remembering their Oiler years as their best in the NHL.

And that’s not insignificant, considering a few of these players have done pretty well for themselves elsewhere in the league.

The Oilers have had a rough few seasons with the departure of Pronger, Smyth, and Smith. When Oilers GM Tambellini talks about going back to what defined an Oiler as an Oiler, he talks about that undying loyalty. Oiler hockey is not necessarily what makes the rest of the NHL go around. We’re not about the Pat Lafontaines, or Brett Hulls, or the Pierre Turgeons. Certainly, the Oilers have had their own list of accomplished snipers in Craig Simpson, Jari Kurri, and Glenn Anderson. But the Oilers have always mixed skill with desire, grit, and sacrifice.

Ask Mark Messier. Ask Ken Linseman. Ask Ryan Smyth. Ask Jason Smith.

Desire, grit, and sacrifice. It’s an exciting time to be an Oiler fan.

Storming the Crease discusses the Washington Capitals draft scenario

June 26, 2009

Storming the Crease is yet another one of the most CLS-friendly blogs out there. Rob, the blog’s faithful editor, was a reliable source of Capitals perspective in a mini-blog for the Pens-Caps series. Make sure to check out his great blog.

1. What direction do you expect Washington to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

GM George McPhee has done well with picking players either later in the first round or with subsequent selections. Granted, since the team wasn’t that good for a while, the Caps did benefit from some high selections such as Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004.

The current Caps are all about winning the Cup now. That means the most drama emanating from the team’s table in Montreal will revolve around trades, specifically focusing on Michael Nylander and Jose Theodore. Both players seem to be headed out of town, assuming McPhee can swing a deal. It probably wouldn’t involve the team’s first-round pick, but you never know.

McPhee is great about keeping the proverbial cards close to his vest — and this year is no different.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Capitals’ history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Washington fans will never forget?

There’s little debate that the Caps’ all-time draft steal came in the 1990 draft: Peter Bondra, the franchise’s all-time leading goal-scorer, was selected in the eighth round, 156th overall. Bondra scored 472 goals in 14 seasons with the franchise.

Other late-round values include Richard Zednik (10th round, 249th overall in 1994) and Gaetan Duchesne (8th round, 152nd overall in 1981).

The busts started at the franchise’s beginning: Greg Joly, selected first overall in 1974, scored just 21 goals in nine NHL seasons. Other disappointments include 1995 first-rounder (17th overall) Brad Church (two NHL games played) and 1996 first-rounder (fourth overall) Alexandre Volchkov (three NHL games played).

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Caps and/or NHL in general.

There’s no doubt the Caps are still steaming from the 6-2 game seven loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in this year’s playoffs. But in order for the Caps to follow the Pens’ path to a title, they need to do more than just stew. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

That means the team needs to add an offensive-minded veteran center and a defensive-minded defenseman (or two). The Caps also need to become more consistent—which means no more nights off, no more 3-1 series deficits and no more thinking that “flipping the switch” when facing a deficit will earn them a Stanley Cup.

The Caps need to emulate the Pens and Detroit Red Wings in work ethic and determination. Adding new players will help, but the main source of the change has to come from the current roster.

Dual draft post: Canes Country and The Life and Times of a Caniac on the Hurricanes

June 26, 2009

(We had the bright idea to ask two Hurricanes bloggers to contribute and they both sent us something. Big thanks to both of them. For the sake of [moderate] brevity we’ll do without extensive introductions this time.)

First, Canes Country:

1. What direction do you expect Carolina to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

GM Jim Rutherford has expressed a desire to go bigger. In recent drafts, they have selected smaller, more skilled players. (Zach Boychuk). The team needs bigger bodies and this might be the draft to do it.

In my opinion, I agree with him. The team definitely needs to get bigger. While he would be a gamble, Zach Budish is the type of player the teams needs.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Hurricanes history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Carolina fans will never forget?

High points included when the Canes drafted Eric Staal in 2003. I was able to attend the draft that year and Carolina management was ecstatic. They really felt they had a franchise type player with him. Another high point was when the draft was in Raleigh in 2004. The crowd was going nuts when the Canes traded up to draft Andrew Ladd, at the time the number one rated skater in North America. That was really a lot of fun.

Low points were first round selections of Igor Knyazev, (bust), Nikos Tselios, (bust), and the disappointment of how Jeff Heerema worked out after he was so highly rated.

I can’t really think of a time that the Canes “stole” someone, other than perhaps Cam Ward when he was drafted at 25th in the first round in 2002. They were also extremely pleased that Zac Dalpe slipped to them in the second round last year. We will see how he works out.

***
Now, for Ashley from the Life and Times of a Caniac:

For some bizarre reason, I keep getting the NHL Draft confused with the NFL draft. I was beginning to think up a post about how the drafting strategy of trading down to get more picks and create competition between players at training camp has worked out well – but then I realized I was thinking of Packers GM Ted Thompson, and not Canes GM Jim Rutherford, because the last thing Rutherford does is collect picks – he tends to trade them away like they grow on trees.

So then, when I was trying to think of draft busts A.J. Hawk immediately came to mind, but then I was thinking that he hasn’t really been a bust, just not yet living up to his potential, and I’d give him another year, especially with the change to a 3-4 defense… oh crap, there aren’t linebackers in the sport I’m trying to talk about.

And I keep getting confused because in football your draft picks can come in and make an immediate impact, whereas in hockey you can draft a guy in the first round and he more than likely won’t be ready to make the team for another year. So, really, the only way to judge the effectiveness of a draft is to look at who you drafted a few years down the road. Which, if you’re a Canes fan, doesn’t leave you with that much of a warm and fuzzy feeling…

1. What direction do you expect Carolina to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

As long as Rutherford gets somebody over 6 foot, I think I’ll be happy. While short guys like LaRose, Walker, and Whitney seem to excel in Carolina, it would be really rather nice to get some size on our forwards. A regularly competentdefenseman with a physical edge would be nice too. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rutherford drafts a goaltender – for a while he seemed bent on having a collection of them – and we could probably use a solid backup goaltender as it doesn’t seem like Michael Leighton will work out long-term. In other words, size, physicality, and competence would be good on either side of the puck.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Hurricanes history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Carolina fans will never forget?

Has there ever been a “steal” for the Canes? If you peruse the draft history, there’s not too many players from the later rounds that have succeeded in the NHL. I mean, I guess there’s Wallin from the third round back in ’00 and Cole from the third in ’98, but beyond that the Canes’ drafts haven’t really panned out any steals (unless you count Eric Staal and Cam Ward, but as first round picks I tend to say that they’re merely “living up to potential”).

Groan-inducing moments? I don’t have a specific one that occurred on draft day, but I can assure you that going over the past Canes’ drafts definitely leaves you with some head-scratchers. Like, in 2001 the Canes picked Igor Knyazev over Tim Gleason. What? Jeff Heerema over Alex Tanguay? Huh? How is this stuff even possible? Maybe hindsight is 20/20 but beyond Staal and Ward I really don’t see a lot that has come out of the draft for the Canes.

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Canes and/or NHL in general.

I think it’s awesome that the NHL changes the host city for the draft every year. It allows different fans to be able to see what happens on the draft floor, not just those in one metropolitan area. (And, yes, I am looking at the NFL, which has its draft in New York every year. Which means you listen to the Jets and Giants fans boo every draft pick every year.) When the draft was in Raleigh back in ’04, it was a big party for the Caniac Nation. An opportunity for all of the fans to see not just their own upper management, but those of the other teams (standing ovation for Gretzky? Yes!), and an opportunity to see the next big stars of the NHL, when they’re just regular people like us. There might be a lot of things that the NHL is doing wrong, but the moving draft caravan is certainly something that’s a good way to open the game to fans in all parts of North America.

Four Habs Fans shares Montreal Canadiens draft thoughts

June 26, 2009

Four Habs Fans adheres to many of our favorite Internet traditions, throwing out equal parts clever, cruel and … curvaceous. Don’t be fooled by the random eye candy, though, because under that exterior is a core of fabulous hockey writing.

In traditional FHF fashion, their post is brief but blistering. Make sure to follow their work during an off-season that could change the Canadiens for a long time.

1. What direction do you expect the Canadiens to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

As always, no direction at all. Habs will take who they think the best player is at the position they draft. Alternatively, any American college defenseman will do.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Habs history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Montreal fans will never forget?

You really can’t beat Patrick Roy at 51st overall for a highlight. There is a three hundred-way tie for worst moment from all our first round stiffs – Lindsay Vallis, Doug Wickenheiser, José Charbonneau, Brent Bilodeau, David Wilkie, Terry Ryan, Eric Chouinard, Jason Ward, Alfie Turcotte, etc., etc., etc.

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Canadiens and/or NHL in general.

Please enjoy fine Molson products. We need the cash to sign our UFA’s.

Vancity Canuck talks about Vancouver’s upcoming draft

June 25, 2009

Vancity Canuck is another great friend of the blog. Along with providing the Vancouver perspective quite frequently, they came through in a big way when the Canucks were in the playoffs.

Make sure to follow Vancity Canuck’s work regarding Vancouver (and also the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Hockey Bay).

1. What direction do you expect Vancouver to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

Since we are picking at 22, I think we should really just pick the best player available at the position. The Canucks do need defensive prospects because our cupboards are looking pretty bare. Luc Bourdon was our best defensive prospect, but now the Canucks have no Top 4 D developing in Winnipeg.

I know, I know, not that Winnipeg team but isn’t that logo bad ass?

My preference, would be a defenceman like John Moore, but that’s crazy talk for him to drop to 22 right? Damn. More realistically I see the Canucks taking Ryan Ellis or Stefan Elliot if they are still available. Elliot is a BC kid, and unlike the other BC-born boy, with the last name of Ferraro, at least when you draft him, you don’t also get his dad.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Canucks history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Vancouver fans will never forget?

Recently, a high moment of last year’s draft was taking Cody Hodgson last year at 10th. More importantly, was the choice not the draft Kyle Beech (have fun with that Chicago). Other than drafting Trevor Linden, the Sedins, and more recently Kesler, the Canucks have not had success in their ‘drafting abilities’. Nonis also like to trade away draft picks for players that no longer play for our team. What, you have to build a team through the draft? Nonis must have missed that lesson in GM school.

Kyle Beech-ed whale. G-g-get it?

Recent groan? Who is Patrick White and why didn’t we draft David Perron instead of him.

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Canucks and/or NHL in general.

Mike Gillis will have an interesting week in front of him. I can’t say I envy him at all right now. The Canucks may end up having a similar look for next 5 or 6 years with the Sedins’ and their cycling or if they aren’t re-signed, the Canucks could look drastically different (cue the Luongo traders if no contract happens). I read today that Vancouver was on Heatley’s wish list. Um, thanks but no thanks. And Gaborik in Vancouver? Can you imagine the two Slovaks (Demitra & Gaborik) playing together? Maybe they can chat about being BFF’s as they both sit out on the IR together.

HockeeNight’s Forklift provides Chicago Blackhawks draft thoughts

June 25, 2009

Unlike bloggers who must hide their identity because they have “jobs” and “reputations” I’ve decided to go by my name. Why? Well, because I’m vain. Oh and also because simply googling “James O’Brien” won’t get you anywhere near my blog … apparently there’s about a million more successful people with my name.

Still, it’s rare that people get to know me beyond snarky blog posts but the guys at Hockee Night invited me over for a podcast a few months ago. We had quite a time, discussing the Blackhawks and more important issues like Big Van Vader’s man boobs.

ANYWAY, we’ve enjoyed Hockee Night thoroughly since then. Their weekly podcasts are a great way to follow the Blackhawks without all that tedious “reading” although they do provide plenty of good stuff on that front too. Make sure to check it out.

Thanks, guys!

1. What direction do you expect Chicago to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

The Hawks are drafting 28th in the first round – the latest they’ve ever gone in the first. When you pick this late, you’re not going to find any sure-fire studs – the best you can hope for is someone who has a missing component that can attain. If there’s a goal scorer available, chances are he’s either lazy or chickenshit. If there’s a “character” player out there, he probably can’t shoot the puck into the ocean off a pier. There’s no easy answers. All that is certain is, at the 28th pick, there’s going to be some kid sitting in a very empty players’ section, and he’ll look like a guy strapped into an electric chair when the Governor calls.

Can you draft to need at 28? I guess you can – the Blackhawks’ organization is pretty thin at defenseman, so a decent blueliner in the pipeline wouldn’t be the worst thing inthe world. The Hawks are ass-deep in forwards, both in Junior and the minors. That would indicate where GM Dale Tallon (a former defenseman himself) would like to go.

However, the most sound strategy (and the Hawks have been decent at drafting lately) would be to just have a ranking of players who might be available, and take the best one who is left at 28. Whoever it is won’t be able to help the Hawks immediately anyway, and who knows what a year or two can bring, as far as injuries, trades, and free agency goes.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Blackhawks history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that Chicago fans will never forget?

High moments? Probably the back-to-back drafting of Jonathan Toews (#3 overall in 2006) and Patrick Kane (#1 in 2007). These two will be the backbone of the organization for (hopefully) the next decade. As far as the biggest steals, two that are fairly ancient history spring to mind…in 1980 the Hawks took a sixth-rounder (120th overall) that may very well be my favorite Hawk not named Mikita…Steve Larmer. The man is still just the balls. Three years later, they took a goalie in the 10th round (199th overall) who had a far more distinguished career elsewhere than he ever did as a Blackhawk – Dominik Hasek. As far as groan inducing? Maybe The Great Adam Bennett (6th overall in 1989) – who went 4 spots before Bobby Holik or The Great Jimmy Waite (8th overall in 1978, 7 spots before Joe Sakic), although this is a shit-or-get-off-the-pot year for the 7th overall in 2005, Jack Skille.

Overall, this shouldn’t be too compelling, since Tallon doesn’t figure to trade up or down.

As much fun as it is to have a top 3 pick, and wonder which wunderkind will pose in a Hawks’ sweater and cap, I prefer winning hockey and going out with my wife on draft night.

Kent of Five Hole Fanatics/Matchsticks & Gasoline provides Calgary Flames draft perspective

June 25, 2009

Kent is one of the earliest supporters of Cycle like the Sedins … and certainly one of the most generous. Every time we’ve asked him to contribute something, he’s come through.

So, naturally, we asked him to provide some Calgary Flames draft thoughts. Since we knew that Kent takes a deep (but still coherent to the Average Joe Stain Shirt in all of us) look at stats at Five Hole Fanatics, we thought we’d ask him a specific question before we got to the general stuff.

Make sure to follow Kent’s work at Five Hole Fanatics as well as Matchsticks & Gasoline, the Calgary Flames blog at Sports Blog Nation.

1. We’ve asked a lot of bloggers about their given teams’ plans, but we’ve really enjoyed reading your statistical analysis-related works. So we thought we’d ask you: if you were a GM, which factors (intangible as well as statistical) would weigh most heavily for you when deciding on a prospect?

1.) In terms of statistical factors, a ton of good work has been done on this topic recently. Before we get to the more advanced material, I’ll discuss the basic numbers stuff I personally look for:

a.) Contextually based offense. Like in the big leagues, a prospect whose output is based on favorable circumstances (good linemates, lots of PP time) is a red flag to me. For example, I wrote this recently about Carter Ashton in a draft preview:

…while he was leading goal scorer on his club, he was actually 5th in terms of total points (50) and 6th in terms of PPG pace (0.71). Of the top 10 scorers on the Hurricanes, Carter scored the most PP goals (10) and had the worst plus/minus (-5). Remmerde also notes that Ashton slumped in the second half of the season after being taken off a line with leading assist man and point getter Colton Sceviour. The downturn was a marked one and visible by glancing at the game-by-game results: from January – March, a period of 31 games, Ashton scored just 9 goals and was a cumulative -18. Yikes. That slump continued into the post season where he scored just 1 goal and 3 points in 11 games (and was a team worst -8).

Link here.

Time will tell if my misgivings about Ashton prove correct. Point is, stats can suggest which players are driving results and which ones are riding coattails.

b.) Year-over-year Progression. A more “macro” approach to prospect evaluation is looking at how a given player improves every year. While a year or two isn’t a big issue for grown men, it can be significant for teenagers. In the CHL, a 16 year old rookie would be playing against 18, 19 and 20 year old guys for example. A kid who doesn’t take a few steps forward every year is another red flag: his numbers should improve just by virtue of aging and playing in a league with markedly younger and more physically immature guys. In addition, every prospect aside from the odd phenom has to improve by several orders of magnitude in order to eventually make the big league – and he only has a limited “development window” before he ceases being a prospect. A guy who isn’t moving in the right direction each season is bad news, right Angelo Esposito?

Now on to the advanced stuff. Oilers super blogger Lowetide had a good post recently on “NHLE” or NHL Equivalency ratings based on the stellar work of behindthenet.ca owner and operator Gabrieal Desjardins. Desjardins has created a method of converting a prospects junior stats to an equivalent output at the NHL level based on their age and what amateur league they played in. The methodology is a bit complicated, but basically it takes a players PPG (point per game) rate and multiplies it by a ratio to get the converted “expected” NHL output of the prospect in question.

Another Oilers blogger, Jonathan Willis, has started to look at the percentage of team offense to grade prospects. Basically, that means taking a kids point production in his draft season and dividing it by his club’s goals for total. It’s a simple calculation, but an elegant idea: it “corrects” for team circumstances and gives us an idea of the degree to which the guy contributed to his club’s offensive totals. His initial investigations into this method are encouraging, with the percentage ranking outperforming scouts in the ’98 and ’00 drafts.

As far as tools and intangibles, I prefer prospects who can skate well and have high utility (can contribute in more than one area of the ice). I’m also not as enamored with big guys as most scouts and fans seem to be meaning I would have no qualms taking a little guy who performs over a big guy that “projects well”.

2. Tell us about some of the steals and busts in Flames’ drafting history.

Steals:

1.) Joe Nieuwendyk, 27th overall, 1985.

The Flames picked a lanky center from Cornell University who managed 21 goals and 45 points in 29 games during his Freshman year. He went on to score 51 goals in his rookie season in 87/88 and won the Calder trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. He was a major part of the 1989 cup winning team and probably stands as one of the best Flames players and draft picks ever. The cherry on top is the fact that Nieuwendyk was dealt for a relatively unknown 11th overall pick named Jarome Iginla in 1995.

2.) Theoren Fleury, 166th overall, 1987.

Calgary scouts took a chance in the 8th round on a tiny, explosive dynamo who was ripping up the WHL at the time, but who was passed over by other teams due to “size concerns”. Fleury scored a mind-boggling 61 goals and 129 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors in his draft season and followed it up with a 68 goals, 160 point performance the next year. At the NHL level, it only took Fleury 3 seasons to breach the 50 goal, 100 point mark. Over the course of his career with Calgary, he’d score 30+ goals and 70+ points 6 times (it would have been 7 save for the lock-out in 94). He had held the Flames Franchise record for goals scored (830) which was recently broken only this past season by the aforementioned Iginla.

3.) Brett Hull, 117th overall, 1984.

Although he played just 57 games as a Calgary Flame, the hall-of-famer stands indisuptibly as the best pure scorer ever chosen by the organization. In addition, his trade to the St. Louis Blues brought Doug Gilmour to town, setting the stage for the Flames Stanley Cup win in ’89.

Busts:

1.) Trevor Kidd, 11th overall, 1990.

Tabbed as the future franchise goalie, Kidd was the first goaltender chosen in the 1990 entry draft. And while he did go on to have something of a decent if unspectacular 387 game career in the NHL, the real reason he’s on this list is the second goalie picked that year (at 20th overall) by the New Jersey Devils was Martin Brodeur. For more than a decade afterward, the Flames franchise floundered and sunk, due in no small part to on-going problems in net. In contrast, The Devils (backed by one of greatest puck stoppers of all time) became an NHL super power.

2.) Daniel Tkaczuk, 6th overall, 1997.

Another reason the Flames stunk in the mid-90’s was their woeful drafting record. Tkaczuk was a scoring winger out of the OHL that never managed to put things together at the next level, partially due to concussion issues. By taking him 6th overall, the Flames left Sergei Samsonov (8th), Marian Hossa (12th), Scott Hannan (23rd) and Brendan Morrow on the table.

3.) Rico Fata, 6th overall, 1998.

Another high value pick, another big whiff. A swift skating winger out of the OHL, Fata had a single good year as a Junior – his draft year (98) where he put up 43 goals and 76 points. The fact that he was an 11 and 19 goal scorer the previous two seasons (and was only the 4th highest scorer on the club during the year in question) should have been a tip-off to the hapless Flames scouts at the time, but alas. Fata bounced around the NHL for several years, cobbling together a 230 game career somehow, but never really made a dent to any significant degree. By taking Fata 6th, the Flames missed out on Manny Malholtra (7th), Nik Antropov (10th), Alex Tanguay (12th), Martin Skoula (17th), Robyn Regehr (19th), Simon Gagne (22nd) and Scott Gomez (30th). Luckily the org was able to save this draft year by moving Theoren Fleury for a yet un-tested Robyn Regehr in 1999. As for Fata, his name remains a punchline in Flames fan circles to this day.

Joe from Sacrifice the Body talks Red Wings draft

June 25, 2009

Joe (aka IAMJoe) is one of the best friends of CLS. He provided clutch posts during the playoffs, including posts in the Red Wings-Ducks mini-blog and during the (glorious) Stanley Cup Finals.

After a while, Joe was fed up with the hack job blog we’re running here so he decided to start his own NHL blog Sacrifice the Body. StB is brand new, so make sure that you give Joe your support (and hugs?). It should be a great source of NHL-related opinions, with an emphasis on stat analysis.

(Note: I’m not sure if Joe meant for this first paragraph to be in here, but it’s pretty funny so why not right?)

I don’t do much on the draft. So I don’t know any players. And I’m not going to bullshit you and go get a bunch of prospects’ names off a mock draft somewhere and tell you how Billy O’Prospect is going to make everything wonderful. I talk out of my ass from time to time, but I’ll at least be honest about it. So this is my thoughts on the draft, sans players. Which, when you’re talking about the draft, pretty much means I’m just rambling. Frankly, I don’t think anyone cares about who is drafting who after you get outside of the top 10 or 15 anyways.

What direction do you expect Detroit to go in this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

First of all, I expect the lucky draft pick will have a weird name, and probably be European. On top of that, he’ll also have to be patient, because it usually takes a very long time for a youngster to get into the Wings’ lineup. I’ve never checked the numbers, but I’d imagine the Wings probably end up with a lot of guys making debuts at about 2-3 years later than they would on most other teams. However, I think the Wings are on the brink of a major (at least for them) youth movement, with the no-longer increasing cap forcing them to let go of some older guys and replace them with (cheap!) quality depth from Grand Rapids that we’ve heard so much about for years.

One of the things that I thought was most shocking about the Cup Final this year (aside from the fact that the Wings lost) was how bad their defense looked. It was an ongoing problem throughout the regular season, and it seemed to right itself for a while in the playoffs, but it really came undone against the Penguins. I’ll give Lidstrom a free pass, even though he was skating worse than me, because he had a busted testicle, and frankly, its the first time I’ve seen him NOT have a good series. That said, seeing Lidstrom so completely nullified out there was frankly pretty scary. I don’t have much faith in Lilja/Lebda, and one good playoff run for Brad Stuart doesn’t make me feel safe. Lidstrom’s injury reminded everyone that he won’t be around forever, and he won’t always be the best defenseman in the NHL even while he’s still around. I want a new defenseman who in about 2 years or so can step in to the roster spot left by Lidstrom’s retirement, and replace Lebda/Lilja initially.

That said, I think the Wing’s forward depth is going to get donkey punched this offseason. Basically, one of Hossa/Hudler will stay, and then a handful of forwards (like you, Samuelsson!) will get let go. On top of that, depending exactly where the cap finally sets at, a buyout or two might be necessary. I think in response to this, Ken Holland is going to grab a forward to help restock that part of the shelf. I won’t argue with the master, but it won’t make me feel as secure as replacing a couple of idiot defensemen would.

I don’t think Detroit will be interested in a goaltender. Jimmy Howard, the “goalie of the future” for the last 5+ years, needs to either make the big club, or jump off a cliff. I’ve already given up hope on Jimmy Howard, but I’m very much interested in Daniel Larsson (gee, a Swede!). Frankly, I wouldn’t be opposed to buying Ozzie out, and going with Howard/Larsson to fight it out for the spot between the pipes for the next 10 years.

Favorite Draft Day Memories?

Well, I’m not much for the NHL draft. I’m not much for prospects either. But as for draft steals? I won’t go back too farI’d have to say getting the best defenseman in NHL history at #53 overall is a real good deal. Of course, getting a couple of the most complete players in the game right now at #171 (Datsyuk) and #210 (Zetterberg) is cool too. Part of that is certainly drafting the right players, but a lot of that also is the right developmental system. How many failures on other teams have flourished under the Detroit developmental systems?

Draft Day Busts?

It’s hard to have busts when you’re consistently picking in the lower parts of the 1st round, or trading those picks for “win now” pieces. But Jimmy Howard is one season away from getting on there in my book. We’ve been told he’s the goalie of the future for a long time now, and yet the 64th overall pick in the 2003 Entry Draft has only 9 NHL appearances. At some point, especially with the carousel in the Detroit crease since Hasek’s (first) retirement, shouldn’t he have gotten a chance to sink or swim? Not many Red Wings prospects get significant hype on the way to the big club, but Howard has been one of the few, and that definitely sets him in my sights.

Soapbox time!

Could we please stop trying to tailor our sport to get a bunch of people who dislike hockey to like it? I mean, seriously. The game as it is right now is pretty good. Most of the game’s problems are not necessarily problems with the game itself, but problems with the league, which are detracting from the product on the ice. Just because our game isn’t getting constant coverage on ESPN like Terrell friggin Owens doesn’t mean our game sucks. Just because some idiot columnists keep talking about how hockey isn’t a real sport doesn’t mean our game sucks. Just because our game is different doesn’t mean our game sucks. And just because our game isn’t as popular doesn’t mean our game sucks.

Everyone is so worried about the casual sports fan. You wanna know a secret? The “casual sports fan” who cannot follow anything that Sportscenter doesn’t shove down his throat is a dumbass, and we shouldn’t give a damn about changing a game that we love in order to get him to tune in or to take it seriously. We’re part of a secret club, and we all know a great secret, that the rest of the world is too stupid to pay attention to. I don’t know if anything irritates me as much as people that think the game needs changed or the league needs to suck on the ESPN teat in order to somehow be important in the national sports scene.

Hockey is a grassroots thing, and the best thing the league can do to grow its revenues is to give those roots more time to grow and spread in a post lockout scene, and in the 90’s expansion markets, where kids who were first introduced to the game are now getting old enough to have kids and introduce them to the game. We don’t need to convince the casual fan. We just need to grow it ourselves. Support your local rink, or get one built in your city park. Donate your old equipment to charities. Play in a beer league, or even start one if you want. Make some babies and give ’em hockey sticks. Maybe its not flashy, but its true.

In Lou We Trust shares Devils draft prospective

June 25, 2009

The Red Wings receive a lot of credit for coming up with great draft picks despite consistently picking in the lower depths of the first round, but the Devils have historically found their fair share of gems. Will the trend of bringing in the Zach Parise-type bargains continue?

To find out, we asked John at In Lou We Trust to share his thoughts on New Jersey’s upcoming draft. John’s been a steady contributor for quite some time, so make sure to follow his blogging efforts.

Even when the team isn’t being betrayed by various siblings.

1. What direction do you expect New Jersey to go in with this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

I expect and prefer the New Jersey Devils to continue to do what they have been doing – select the best player available regardless of where they are from. That said, they still have their preferences. While the Devils are willing to select a goaltender with their first round pick (Jean-Francois Damphousse, 1997; Ari Ahonen, 1999), considering the Devils haven’t drafted a goaltender since Jeff Frazee in 2005, I wouldn’t hold my breath for one – definitely not in the first round. They may draft one in the later rounds.

Based on draft history since 1994, I expect to see at least one defender drafted and given that the Devils loaded up on centers in 2008, I expect to see more wingers taken. As far as the source of picks, while the conventional wisdom says that the Devils prefer college players, they’ve selected more players from major junior than anywhere else since 1994. Of course, if the best player available in each round are all centers or defensemen or goalies from the USHL or SEL or wherever, then the Devils will take them regardless. It is a cliche, but the Devils truly practice it.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Devils history. What are some of the “steals” and groan-inducing moments that New Jersey fans will never forget?

The highest draft moments tend to come in hindsight – trading down to select Martin Brodeur in 1990; but two stick out in memory as being particularly bold.

The first involved a deal with Toronto that eventually got the Devils the third overall pick in 1991. New Jersey knocked that one out of the park, eschewing Aaron Ward, Scott Lachance, Alex Stojanov, Peter Forsberg (OK, he would have been an alright pick!), and Richard Matvichuk by selecting Scott Niedermayer. Yeah, that was a good pick.

The second is more recent, taking place in 2003. The Devils won their third Stanley Cup that year, but as part of the compensation from St. Louis in a player tampering case, the Devils were able to swap first round picks to move up 22nd overall, if I recall correctly. The Devils noticed that Zach Parise was falling – even past his father’s team, the Islanders, at #15 (Robert Nilsson) and San Jose at #16 (Steve Bernier). They contacted Edmonton and offered to swap first rounders, with the Oilers getting New Jersey’s second round pick to make it work. The Oilers bit and the Devils were able to snag the supremely talented Parise after winning the Stanley Cup!

The lowest draft moments in Devils history? Admittedly, I’m only familiar with the more recent drafts – Devils fans from 1982 and onward I’m sure have a few stories about that. Anyway, you can attribute some of this to hindsight (Lance Ward in 1996); but the selections of J-F Damphousse and then Ahonen 2 years later both made me groan at the time. The decision to select Adrian Foster with 2001’s first round pick was also a head-scratcher; I should have known when the draft was delayed because the league had to confirm that he was actually a player! Likewise, the Devils going off the board with their first pick – in the second round, mind you – to pick Anton Kadeykin induced some sighs. I’m not even sure where Kadeykin actually is these days, come to think of it.

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Devils and/or NHL in general.

As far as a soapbox is concerned, I would like everyone just to check out In Lou We Trust for consistent thoughts about the Devils and I would like to, once again, congratulate Lou Lamoriello on his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame while still serving as GM, President, and CEO. Lou truly is the best around.