The Puck Stops Here recently had a story regarding the Leafs woes and pointed the finger at their drafting record.
Putting aside the ridiculous situation in management of the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is a simple hockey-related reason the team is doing poorly. That reason is the draft. Toronto has not drafted well.
Now, I am not writing this article to defend the Leafs drafting record but rather to bust the myth that you have to keep your top picks and you have to draft well to be successful. Take a look at this list of players:
Petr Sykora (not the good one)
For those of you who may not have clued in, that is the very unspectacular list of the top 3 picks in each draft year from 1993 to 2001 of the Detroit Red Wings, also known as the most successful team of the past dozen or so years. That is a pretty unspectacular list don’t you think and none of those players would be considered key members of any of their Stanley Cup wins and only Kronwall is of any significant impoartance to the current NHL squad.
Still not convinced? How about this list:
Mike Van Ryn (didn’t sign, re-entered draft)
For those unsure, that is the top 3 draft picks of the New Jesey Devils in each year from 1996 to 2002. Aside from Gomez none of those players played a significant role in any of the Devils 3 Cup wins and none of those palyers are currently playing a significant role with the current New Jersey team that is fighting for second spot in the eastern conference this season. Most people consider New Jersey to be one of the better drafting teams in the NHL. Strange concept when you see the list above.
I want to make it clear that I am not defending the Leafs drafting record which is mixed (though certainly on par with or better than the above lists of players) but rather I want to attempt to put to rest the myth that you can’t win if you trade away your top draft picks or don’t draft well with them. Clearly based on the success of the Red Wings and Devils you can have some, or even lots, of success. It certainly helps to draft well, but it is not a prerequisite and isn’t the only, or even the main, problem with the Leafs.
(For the record, both New Jersey and Detroit drafted some very good players with late round picks but is that really what we should call good drafting or should we call it luck with a bit of good development thrown in. Plus, I have never heard people bitterly complain when the Leafs, or anyone, trade away a 6th or 7th round draft pick.)