It seems The Puck Stops Here and I are having a bit of a disagreement about the importance of drafting well in building a cup contending team. The most recent round was The Puck Stop’s Here argument against my claim that the draft isn’t the only way to build a top level team.
First off I think a significant difference in our opinions can be linked to how much credit we should give a team for drafting star players in the late rounds. The truth is Detroit hasn’t drafted very well at all in the first few rounds but have had a lot of success with late round pick. In particular Holmstrom was drafted 257th overall, Zetterberg 210th, and Datsyuk 171st. Now The Puck Stops Here would claim that those players are a result of good drafting. It is my claim that those players are a result of a good development system and a whole lot of luck. The truth is if ones scouting department had any kind of clue that those players would be half as good as they turned out to be they would have been drafted in the first or at the very latest in the second round. But they weren’t considered serious prospects at all at the time they were drafted so they got lucky.
The Puck Stops Here then tries to rebut a couple other examples of teams that I cite as not having a significant number of draft picks on their roster. One is Calgary.
In the comments of that post, David tried round two. Calgary is a pretty good team and only six players on their team were acquired via draft. Of those six, only Dion Phaneuf can be considered a star.
It is true that Calgary is pretty good, but they are not great. They currently sit in 11th place in the NHL and aside from 2004 have not won a single playoff series since 1989.
Calgary is 11th in the league if you just look at points but they have played fewer games than most teams. Calgary is 8 games above .500 (58 points in 50 games) and only Detroit and San Jose are more games above .500 in the western conference and the western conference is significantly better than the eastern conference. You could argue that Calgary is as good as any team in the league not named Red Wings.
The Puck Stops Here then goes on to say:
Calgary shows that you do not have to draft your young core to win, but you do need to acquire a young core somehow.
Hmmm, thanks for agreeing with me that the drafting isn’t necessary regarding the draft.
That said, I am not sure I completely agree about the young core statement. Detroit has consistently been one of the oldest teams in the league but are also one of the most successful teams in the league. They currently have only Filppula (23) and Hudler (24) on their roster under the age of 25. When they won in 2001-02 all of their top players were above age 30.
There is also a myth that in the new CBA you need a constant supply of cheap young talent. I disagree. I do believe you need a constant supply of cheap talent, but that talent does not need to be young and often a team is better served if it is not young. It is rare that young teams win a Stanley Cup and it is a very common occurence that young teams struggle to win in the playoffs. See the Ottawa Senators as a perfect example that has consistently lost to less talented older teams.
Speaking of the Senators they currently have Patrick Eaves on the roster making $942,000. Eaves has 4 goals and 10 points in 26 games this year and had 14 goals, 32 points in 73 games last year. Eaves at age 23 has shown himself to be a decent player who should have a decent career ahead of hims as a second/third/fourth line player. But in all honesty he is a dime a dozen player. There are a lot of Patrick Eaves out there right now. It is my belief that the Ottawa Senators would be better served having an older veteren player with Stanley Cup winning experience on their roster than a 23 year old Patrick Eaves. Patrick Eaves makes $942,000 this season. For about a million dollars there are a number of veteren players that would be better suited to help the Senators win a Stanley Cup. Trevor Linden and Jeremy Roenick makes less than Eaves and I would argue they have a far superior impact on their teams than Eaves does in Ottawa. Even a guy like Boyd Devereaux on the Leafs could likely provide the Senators with more than Eaves can. Sure Eaves probably has more offensive upside but do the Senators really need more offense? No, but Devereaux has Stanley Cup winning experience, can play any of the three forward positions, is a good forechecker, has more speed than Eaves, is good defensively and can kill penalties.
The point I am trying to make in all of this is it isn’t a good supply of young talent that wins you hockey games and Stanley Cups, it is a good supply of talent (at a reasonable salary) that wins Stanley Cups regardless of age or how it was acquired be it through the draft, a trade or free agency.