Myth Busting: Must you draft well to win?

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:

Anders Eriksson
Jon Coleman
Kevin Hilton
Yan Golubovsky
Mathieu Dandeneault
Sean Gillam
Maxim Kuznetsov
Phillippe Audet
Darryl Laplante
Jesse Wallin
Aren Miller
Johan Forsander
Yuri Butsayev
Petr Sykora (not the good one)
Quintin Laing
Jiri Fischer
Ryan Barnes
Tomek Valtonen
Jari Tolsa
Andrei Maximenko
Kent McDonnell
Niklas Kronwall
Tomas Kopecky
Stegan Liv
Igor Grigorenko
Drew MacIntyre
Miroslav Blatak

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:

Lance Ward
Wes Mason
Josh DeWolf
Jean-Francois Damphousse
Stansislav Gron
Licas Nehrling
Mike Van Ryn (didn’t sign, re-entered draft)
Scott Gomez
Christian Berglund
Ari Ahonen
Mike Commodore
Brett Chloutier
David Hale
Teemu Laine
Alexander Suglobov
Adrian Foster
Igor Pohanka
Tuomas Pihlman
Anton Kadeykin
Barry Tallackson
Jason Ryznar

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.)

Posted in NHL

This article has 31 Comments

  1. David

    Your analysis is here gets completely the wrong conclusion. I believe you deliberately set your parameters in order to get the wrong conclusions.

    Lets use this simple study. Name the 5 best players selected by the three teams in question who are still in the NHL and produced the most value to the teams in question.

    Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Osgood, Tomas Holmstrom.

    One future hall of famer. Two young players who are stars and might be on Hall of Fame tracks. One more player who is appearing in his 4th all star game this season and a player who is slightly below all star calibre. You set your parameters such that none of them are counted in your study.

    New Jersey: Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Gomez, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta.

    There are two future hall of famers. One more who is appearing in his 2nd carerr all star game this year. Two players with potential to appear in some all star games in the future. You set your study so that only one (Gomez) counts.

    Toronto: Tomas Kaberle, Nik Antropov, Alexander Steen, Kyle Wellwood, Ian White.

    Kaberle is appearing in his 3rd all star game this year. The other four are unlikely to ever have an all star appearance (though they may surprise).

    Should Toronto be able to trade their 5 players for those of either of the other teams, they would have had much more success in the past and present and might have won a Stanley Cup. I don’t think there is much of an argument against that.

    It appears you picked Detroit and New Jersey because they were good teams that routinely picked near the end of the first round – and that would mimic the effect of Toronto regularly trading their first pick. You set the start and end dates so as to excluide several accpmplished players and you cut off the later rounds to exclude others. Had Toronto drafted as good players as Detroit and New Jersey in late rounds of the draft, all would be good. The Leafs would be a top team. But the fact is they didn’t

    The draft is by its nature a bit of a crapshoot. Beyong the first few picks there are few sure things. All teams pick a few duds. You chose your parameters to highlight them and ignore the successes of the other teams.

    Toronto’s problem is partly that they traded far too many prime draft picks. Its also that they rarely ever struck gold on the later picks like Detroit (especially) and New Jersey have.
    In short your study is flawed and does not prove what you set out to prove. May simple study I offer in this comment shows that.

  2. The fact that S. Niedermayer was selected by the Devils with a draft pick that originally belonged to the Leafs says a lot.

    Mortgaging the future for so long is precisely why the Leafs are where they are now. The Niedermayer/Kurvers deal, Jonsson and Luongo for Schneider and Wendel Clark Redux, now Raycroft/Rask… Then again, hindsight is 20/20.

  3. Nik Lidstrom, 3rd round, 53rd overall
    Pavel Datsyuk, 6th round, 171st overall
    Henrik Zetterberg, 7th round, 210 overall
    Chris Osgood, 3rd round, 54th overall
    Tomas Holmstrom, 10th round, 257th overall

    Now, which of those were great draft picks? Is drafting Datsyuk in the 7th round a great draft pick or just plain lucky? Well, if the Red Wings actually thought he’d be half the player he is now, he would have been drafted in the top 3 rounds. But they didn’t. They were lucky in that he developed late and he turned into a pretty good player. There may be a bit of skill in drafting players that may be late developers but my guess is that it is primarilly luck, and then some good player development thrown in and not skill at the draft table.

    You chose your parameters to highlight them and ignore the successes of the other teams.

    Sorry, is choosing The Red Wings top 3 picks for 8 straight years beeing too choosey? Eight years is a pretty long time.

    What Detroit and the Devils do well is they don’t rush prospects and burn them out early and they bring prospects into a winning atmosphere so they learn to win and the rookies are never brought in to be the teams saviour. Most current Red Wing players had their rookie years at ages 21-23, not 18-19 like what often happens on weaker teams (like the Leafs). Lidstrom was 21, Holmstrom was 23, Datsyuk was 23 and Zetterberg was 22.

    Now let’s consider the Leafs. Is Tlusty better served being playing 10 minutes a game with the losing Leafs with very limited personal success this season or would he be better served playing 20 minutes a game with the winning Marlies and being a major contributor. I would say the latter is true and I am sure the Red Wings would too. There are some exceptions but most players are not best served playing in the NHL as 18, 19 or even 20 year olds.

  4. I think in this analysis you are all being a tad too “choosy” by neglecting Leafs from the draft years mentioned that had impact over the previous 10 seasons in the NHL but may not be with the team currently.

    The fact that the Leafs also drafted Sergei Berezin (who scored 37 goals for the Leafs in 98-99, and 4 seasons with 20 or more goals for the Leafs), Yanic Perreault, Fredrik Modin (who was traded in only his 3rd season but eventually won a Stanley Cup as a solid contributor with the Lightning), and even on the current Leafs squad you left out Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Matt Stajan.

    Admittedly few of those players are of “All-Star” calibre, but the first 3 did contribute in a positive manner to numerous playoff runs for the Leafs during the late ’90s and the last 2 are far from what could be considered below average players. Ponikarovsky is a legitimate 20 goal scorer in the league.

    Also it should be noted Steen, Stajan, and White were all taken in 2002. 3 contributing players from 1 draft year is pretty solid frankly. If Colaiacovo wasn’t so injury prone, and if they actually bothered to play Kronwall that would be 6 players from 2 years worth of Drafting.

    Frankly the problem isn’t “Drafting” so much as it is Development. The Leafs have been horrible at holding on to their younger players in an effort to develop them for YEARS. They’ve tended to trade them away, for older players who provide returns immediately.

    And with this morning’s announcement it looks like that isn’t going to change any time soon… expect more trades and less dedication to “development”.

  5. Yanic Perreault only played 13 games with the Leafs after they draftzed he before he was gone. Of course he did come back for two more tours of duty later. I omitted him because 13 games is nothing special.

    Frederik Modin had 3 years before he was gone and arguably could replace Ian White on the list – though likely White will outdo him in his total contribution to the Leafs unless White is soon traded. But that really doesnt change the results of the study in any meaningful way.

    My criteria was the 5 players drafted by the team who gave the best value to the team.

    It should be noted that Chris Osgood is on his second tour of duty with the Wings – so perhaps only his first 3 (of 4) All Star Games should truly be included. Again this does little to change the ruslts of the little study.

    Detroit and New Jersey have drafted far more quality than Toronto. That is one main reasons they are doing better and have done better. David refuses to see this possibly because he is blind to the Leafs errors and thus will pretend that Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg et al were not actually drafted by Detroit since they came too late in the draft.

  6. Greg, you refuse to answer my question. Is a 210th pick overall developing into a star like Zetterberg good drafting, good development or good luck? Again, I suggest the latter two have infinitely more impact than good drafting.

    Plus the ultimate premise of my argument is to dispute that you can’t be successful if you trade away your top picks or don’t draft well with them and the fact that Detroit hardly drafted anyone substantial with their high draft picks for 8 years but still managed to be perennial Stanley Cup contenders, if not winners, backs up that claim.

    Of course, it is easier to win if you draft well but the idea that it is an absolute prerequisite is pure hogwash.

  7. Why not use every single team? Why only use 1 or 2 teams to try and prove your point? Bill Bellichick uses this line on Tom Brady and I think it’s useful for late rounders who turn into stars, ‘We missed on Brady as well, we just missed less so than every other team.’ That may not be the exact quote, but the point remains the same.

    Neither study proves anything, you’d need to do a long drawn out study using many many years, and every team in the NHL. Besides, everyone knows you don’t need to draft great, but you do need a combination of good drafting, astute free agent pick ups, and trading. Not all drafting is drafting to play guys on your NHL team, sometimes it’s drafting to trade the prospects.

  8. Later round draft picks are always partly luck. But its partly skill. Its a matter of knowing which longer odds players might payoff. The Leafs have not had the same payoffs on later round picks as the Wings. In fact, the Wings have probably done better at it then anyone else in the league. That is a skill. That is something you completely ignore in your flawed study.

  9. “Why not use every single team? Why only use 1 or 2 teams to try and prove your point?”–cinthree

    Simple. If you want to disprove a statement it suffices to show a counter example.

    “That is a skill.” –Greg

    I am not convinced it is and I guess that is where we differ.

  10. That’s not disproving a statement, it’s just showing that 1 team may be able to do something differently. It’s called an outlier. If you want to prove that statement false, you need to show that a majority or almost all teams can not draft well (all rounds, not just selected rounds) and still succeed. 1 or 2 teams are not enough of a sample size.

  11. If someone says ‘All Smarties are red’ I can prove that statement wrong by finding a green one.

    If someone say ‘You have to keep your high draft picks and draft and develop good players with them to win’ and I can identify a team that has not kept their draft picks or drafted well with them but won, then I have disproved that statement just as the green smartie disproved the all smarties are red statement.

  12. He’s trying to prove the premise that you must draft well to win wrong… it’s the title of the damn article.

    If the statement is “You MUST draft well to win”… then providing 1 counter-example where success is found DESPITE not drafting well, then you’ve disproven the statement.

    It is impossible to prove a negative statement. It is also VERY easy to disprove a positive one. Hence why Proof is so difficult to find in the first place.

  13. C’mon David – this is simply silly. Obviously drafting can go hugely wrong and your team can still win, but if you look at New Jersey, you’ll see their inability to go deep in the playoffs is almost certainly caused by their total lack of prospect depth and inability to deal off any picks or prospects to augment their squad at the deadline. Used to be every year they were fobbing off a Willie Mitchell or Sheldon Souray to help the club out in the playoffs. – now they haven’t got that kind of talent and when they do, they absolutely have to keep it.

    You don’t have to draft great every year. But the Devils in the late 80s and early 90s consistently drafted 2-3 players a year who ended up making the NHL, plus All-Stars like Guerin, Brodeur, Sykora, and Elias. The Red Wings had probably the greatest draft year of all time in 1989 when they took Sillinger, Drake, Lidstrom, Fedorov, and Konstantinov.

    I will admit that selecting Zetterberg and Datysuk is a bit of luck – late round picks are obviously fluky. Still, the Red Wings and Devils consistently either pick up solid players with late-round picks or undrafted free agents. That’s how you cover up drafting holes in the earlier rounds. New Jersey currently has 5 players on their roster that they signed as undrafted or unsigned free agents. Both clubs have also successfully pawned off busts or disappointments for help at the deadline as well.

    You don’t have to draft particularly well to have continued success in the salary cap era. But you’ve got to find the talent somewhere. The Leafs haven’t done that – they’ve gone after the Korolevs and Garry Valks consistently, and they will undoubtedly continue to do so.

  14. obviously there are exceptions to the rule. but i think if u dont draft well odds are u wont be a succesful team “in the cap era”. i think thats the important fact here. in the 90’s everything was different. so u could get away with not drafting that well because your pocketbook or shrewd trades could make up for it. but now, how often do u see blockbuster trades? how often do u see a team load up on free agents (while keeping the players they currently have on the team)? u dont see that anymore. free agents are expensive. the trend nowadays is a no trade or no movement clause. that just causes cap problems. rookies are cheap, and if u draft well fill holes in the roster, as well, their contracts allow for cap flexibility in that they dont have to clear waivers.

    so its simple. the better u draft, the better chance u have of having a strong team. now its much much easier to draft a good player with a 1st or 2nd rounder, but its not 100% luck drafting a star in the later rounds. u have to look for certain qualities, scouts look at potential, intelligence, fitness etc. NCAA players (football + basketball) are drafted at 21-22. its much easier to judge a players worth and potential at that age than at 17-18. but there are signs to look for. those “flashes” of brilliance that u see. detroit and jersey have really good scouts. development is obviously a strong point but u need some sort of skill to begin with.

    In all honesty David, your going nowhere arguing that drafting isnt important. while its not “necessary” to create a winner, the odds of drafting consistently drafting poorly and being a competitive team are slim.

  15. Daniel, I don’t dispute that drafting well improves your chances of winning but the point I am trying to make is that it isn’t the be all and end all. All I hear from the Toronto media and most Toronto fans is the same crap about laying all the blame for the Leafs woes on their inability to draft. It annoys me because it isn’t completely true and I want to try to show everyone that most of them are over rating the draft as a tool to build a team. It is a tool, but certainly not the only tool. Ideally you are good at utilizing all the tools available but if you don’t optimize the drafting tool it doesn’t mean you can’t compensate for that with other team building tools, and of course with a bit of luck thrown in.

    The only players on Calgary’s roster drafted by Calgary are:


    Calgary and Philadelphia seem to do just fine.

    Compare that to the Leafs:

    The Leafs crew compares quite favourably to Calgary’s and Phaneuf is the only reason you may even consider choosing Calgary’s draftees over the Leafs.

    So again, my point isn’t to show that the draft is meaningless, but rather to show that most people dramatically over rate it and assume it is the primary, if not only, way to build a successful team.

  16. David

    In your attempt to shift the goalposts so that you have a winning argument you have founbd a new position with some merit. And you are no longer arguing with my initial post.

    In order to be a good team in the NHL, it is necessary for a team to acquire a talented young core of players. It is not necessary for that team to draft those players.

    If we take the case of Calgary, they traded for Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr before either had played any NHL games. they traded for Miikka Kiprusoff and Kristian Huselius before either became stars. They drafted Dion Phaneuf. That gave them a good young core and made them the solid team they are today. But lets be honest, they are not exactly the model franchise. Aside from 2004, they have not even won a playoff series since 1989.

    One problem with the Leafs is they do not have this young core. They do not have it because they have not drafted well. They also did not acquire it through any other method. The main reason for this problem existing is that the team has always been willing to trade the future to obtain that “final piece” to try to win the Cup now (and then not made it that close to the cup). They have not made forward looking trades. They have not acquired good young players through any other method and since they have also drafted poorly and traded away too many draft picks, they are a bad team. That is a big part of their problem.

  17. In order to be a good team in the NHL, it is necessary for a team to acquire a talented young core of players. It is not necessary for that team to draft those players.

    The core of the Detroit Red Wings has almost always been in the 30’s. Even now most of their core players aside from Zetterberg and Kronwall are age 29 and older. It is actually pretty rare for young teams to win Stanley Cups. Success in my mind is to have a core of veterens that you can complement with youth and not the other way around partially because youth generally develop better with veterens around.

    One problem with the Leafs is they do not have this young core.

    You could easily argue that the Leafs 26 and under players are better than the Red Wings. The only 26 and under players the Red Wings have on their roster are Lebda, Filppula, Hudler, Ellis, and Kopecky. Those are decent players but no better than Stajan, Steen, Tlusty, Wellwood, White and Stralman.

  18. I think the problem with any analysis that justifies a “young core” as a route to success ignores the fact that most successful “young” teams have many older players on their rosters.

    Columbus, Washington, and Pittsburgh are all relatively young teams. The Penguins have 4 players who were considered NHL rookies before 2000. Sergei Gonchar, Daryl Sydor, Georges Laraque and Petr Sykora are all integral members of that team though.

    Washington also sits at the younger end of the spectrum with only 4 players who were rookies before 2000. Brashear, Kozlov, Poti, and Kolzig are again all integral members of the team though.

    Columbus has 4 players who were rookies before 2000 also. Manny Malholtra, Fredrik Modin, Mike Peca, Adam Foote are all pretty important to them. Federov isn’t currently on their roster and he also began before 2000, so that would be 5.

    The Flyers are a team people tout as young, but they have 9 players whose rookie season fell before 2000.

    The Leafs have 10 players who had their rookie years before 2000. Antropov, Belak, Blake, Devereaux, Kilger, Sundin, Tucker, Gill, Kaberle, and Kubina… all of whom make up most of the team’s “core”.

    Ottawa has 8 players who were rookies before 2000, including Alfredsson, Donovan, Fisher, McCammond, Robitaille, Phillips, Redden, and Richardson. 3 of their top forwards, and 2 of their top D.

    Even LA, who most consider to be going through a “youth movement” have 7 players who had rookie years before 2000.

    The Red Wings have 11 players on their roster who were rookies before 2000. The Flames have 14 players who were rookies before 2000. The Avalanche have 8 players who were rookies before 2000. Minnesota only has 6 players who were rookies before 2000. St. Louis has 7. Chicago has 6, but 2 of those are their goalies.

    Most teams that are going with “youth” have a smattering of important leadership that is more experienced.

    The best teams in the league are not made up predominantly of young players. Pittsburgh is an exception to this rule.

  19. Most of those young teams you mentioned will miss the playoffs. Pittsburgh probably will make the playoffs but I am not sure they are a real contender for anything based on their inexpreience, inconsistant play and weak goaltending. Teams that win generally have their core players 27 and older. When Tampa won the cup they were a bit of an exception but they had no rookies or second year players playing any significant role so even they were probably more experienced than Pittsburgh is right now.

  20. Sorry David, but you have a view similar to MLSE. Your premise is similar to MLSE because they view outcome and not process, and their definition of win is not winning the Cup but being competitive (e.g. the Yanks vs. the Braves).

    The thinking behind the draft is a commitment to the draft process – not just drafting well in the top 3 rounds. That is your interpretation – and a very Leaf one at that. Commitment means spending money on scouts, spending money on development, drafting as best as you can THROUGHOUT the draft (luck is but one part of the equation), investigating where other teams rank prospects and drafting accordingly, KEEPING one’s draft picks and prospects, trading prospects wisely and only when necessary (i.e. to win the Cup – not to make the playoffs), developing prospects and finally, not trading away picks or prospects for present help – unless you have a chance to win the Cup (the definition of win) and just to maintain revenue (the definition of win w.r.t. MLSE).

    The Leafs do not commit to the draft like successful (i.e. Cup-winning) teams – despite your biased example. A larger and less biased purview of history has shown successful teams MUST develop through the draft. The draft process – not the first three rounds. Examples after expansion? The Islanders. The Oilers. The Devils (past the first three rounds, and over a larger calender period, yeah?). The Wings (ditto). The Avs (didn’t mention them – interesting considering what the Avs/Nords were able to do with resources acquired through the draft). And potentially the Sens. Exceptions?….. to prove this – you must show a team won the Cup through means other than the draft i.e. a majority of the team’s success was due to free agents vs. homegrown talent/players acquired due to homegrown talent. I can’t think of one offhand. You?

  21. 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes consisted of the following roster:

    Home Grown
    Eric Staal
    Cam Ward
    Niclas Wallin
    Andrew Ladd
    Chad Larose
    Glen Wesley (sort of, he was re-acquired)

    Not Home Grown
    Aaron Ward
    K. Adams
    C. Adams

    There you go. The majority of the team was not home grown including the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th leading playoff scorers for the team. In fact Gerber, Cullen, Stillman, Brind’amour, Recchi, Weight, Whitney, Kaberle and Commodore were all in their first season with Carolina. If that isn’t building the team through trades/free agent signings I don’t know what is.

  22. I’ll do David one better. Last year’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

    Home Grown
    Ryan Getzlaf
    Corey Perry
    Andy McDonald
    Dustin Penner
    Chris Kunitz
    Ryan Shannon
    Ilya Bryzgalov

    Not Home Grown
    Teemu Selanne
    Chris Pronger
    Scott Niedermayer
    Rob Niedermayer
    Travis Moen
    Samuel Pahlsson
    Francois Beauchemin
    Todd Marchant
    Richard Jackman
    Sean O’Donnell
    Brad May
    Kent Huskins
    Joe DiPenta
    Shawn Thornton
    J.S. Giguere

    So the majority of the team was not home grown. I would also venture to say that the reason the team won the Cup was more their Defensive core than their Offence. Considering Pronger, Niedermayer, Beauchemin, Pahlsson, and Giguere all came from other franchises I don’t quite see where we’re going with all of this.

    Obviously if you sign the right free agents and make the right trades you’re going to be successful.

    If the argument is that Pronger was obtained through a deal involving Lupul and Smid, then one could also argue that the current Leafs were built using Wendel Clark to obtain Sundin; Steen, Stajan, Tlusty, Wellwood, Antropov, White, Colaiacovo, Ponikarovsky and Kaberle were all drafted; Raycroft, Toskala, Bell, Belak, Pohl, McCabe and Tucker were obtained through trade.

    Even Wozniewski was an undrafted free agent.

    The only “free agent” signings currently on Toronto are Pavel Kubina, Jason Blake, and Hal Gill. The other Leafs, Kilger, Deveraux, and Moore, were all waiver wire pickups.

    I really don’t understand the logic of arguing that the Leafs aren’t dedicated to “developing” their players at this stage of the game. The argument that they just “fill holes by trying to sign free agents” doesn’t make much sense when you look at their current roster.

    Admittedly they haven’t done that WELL at developing players, but they have been trying to, even if Toronto fans want to think otherwise.

  23. What does “commit to the draft” even mean? Does it mean hiring scouts? actually drafting players? I’m just curious to read a definition to that phrase since it basically sounds like some sort of amorphous management speak. “I’m really committed to the draft!”… it’s not marriage… or an insane asylum… how the hell do you quantify or qualify draft “commitment”?

  24. Oh, and for the record, the Leafs drafted 6 players last year. Detroit drafted 5. Chicago drafted 7. Washington drafted 10. Pittsburgh drafted 8.

    How many players does a team need to draft to be “committed to the draft”? I mean, nobody seems to be questioning if Detroit is committed to the draft… but they drafted fewer players than Toronto did last year, so I just want to reiterate, how exactly does one quantify all of this?

  25. I think you missed this line in the post: “trading prospects wisely and only when necessary (i.e. to win the Cup – not to make the playoffs)”

    And Steve, my first paragraph describes what I mean by “commit to the draft” – it’s the process, not just who you pick in the first 3 rounds as David claims.

  26. David,

    The Carolina Hurricanes will go down as one of the flukiest Stanley Cup winners of all time. They are not a team to be emulated. The Leafs could get a team like that in theory, if all the stars aligned. That’s not how you run a franchise – signing all sorts of veterans and hoping that somehow everything turns out all right. The Hurricanes are unlikely to be favored to win a playoff round in the next 3 seasons, and their 2002 run was very similar in terms of its luck (and subsequent demise).

    The Ducks acquired Chris Pronger because they had Ladislav Smid and Joffrey Lupul to trade away. They acquired Teemu Selanne the first time because they had Oleg Tverdovsky and Chad Kilger to trade away. These young pieces simply must be in the pipeline somewhere to win.

    Look, you don’t have to draft perfectly to win. But in the salary cap era, your core cannot all be on the wrong side of 30 or you will not be able to keep your team together. You absolutely MUST MUST MUST have a player who is well overperforming his salary in order to win. Eric Staal and Ryan Getzlaf were performing at a 5 million dollar+ level for a fraction of that.

    But, on the other hand, the Leafs’ problem isn’t really about drafting anymore – it’s about making foolish signings and not having an overall plan about how they are going to win. Sometimes you’ve got to let your best players walk when it’s between that and paying them too much money. The Leafs have rarely been able to do this – and thus McCabe and Darcy Tucker. Pavel Kubina was also an especially foolish signing given his skill set – he is the kind of defender in the Boris Mironov/Kevin Hatcher mold who breaks down early.

  27. You could easily argue that the Leafs 26 and under players are better than the Red Wings. The only 26 and under players the Red Wings have on their roster are Lebda, Filppula, Hudler, Ellis, and Kopecky. Those are decent players but no better than Stajan, Steen, Tlusty, Wellwood, White and Stralman.

    I just seen that comment and all i have to say is ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! ur looking at some of the future talent for the wings and the only person on toronto who deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as hudler and filppula is wellwood.

    And might i add it is a lot more difficult to draft in the first 3 rounds when ur picks r constantly in the high twenties (detroit) compared to the teens (toronto)

  28. I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but Glen Wesley was actually a draft pick of the Bruins, not the Whalercanes.

  29. As for the question at hand – drafting helps, but it certainly isnt’t the only way to win. Actual player development, as someone else pointed out, is just as important, if not moreso.

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