Monday, January 17, 2011

Draft by Decade: Criteria and THE LIST

This is a monumentous occasion as it is surely the most scrutanized (and hopefully) only in-depth ranking of each NHL team's record at the draft table for the first decade of the 2000s.

Criteria for ranking a team was established to level the playing field.  Teams that have benefited from strong draft positions were given marks for making the right selection in the early first rounds, but that would count for about as many points as say finding a Jamie Benn in the fifth as Dallas did in 2007.  Also taken in to consideration was a teams perceived importance on draft. Not taken in to account were team performance or retention and development of picks; this was only a look at what they did at the draft table, and not after. Number of players on an NHL roster that were team picks was also taken in to account, and not just their NHL roster but others if they were traded, re-drafted, released, etc...

Without further adieu, chronologically, from worst to first

30 - Calgary Flames
29 - Minnesota Wild
28 - Tampa Bay Lightning
27 - Phoenix Coyotes
26 - Toronto Maple Leafs
25 - Ottawa Senators
24 - New York Islanders
23 - New York Rangers
22 - Columbus Blue Jackets
21 - Pittsburgh Penguins
20 - Carolina Hurricanes
19 - New Jersey Devils
18 - St. Louis Blues
17 - Los Angeles Kings
16 - Atlanta Thrashers
15 - Edmonton Oilers
14 - Dallas Stars
13 - Vancouver Canucks
12 - Buffalo Sabres
11 - Colorado Avalanche
10 - Boston Bruins
9 - Montreal Canadiens
8 - Florida Panthers
7 - Anaheim Ducks
6 - Philledelphia Flyers
5 - Washington Capitals
4 - San Jose Sharks
3 - Nashville Predators
2 - Detroit Red Wings
1 - Chicago Black Hawks

It's all up for debate, of course.  I'm sure I wouldn't rank this the same way twice in a row if I read it for the 50th and 51st times, but after much scrutiny Dallas climbed the rankings, and New Jersey fell.  Honestly, it is so strange that the two New York and Ontario teams finished right beside each other, and it's even weirder that the top three are all in the same conference.  The top tier drafters were no easier to seperate than the middle of the pack or even the bottom (except for Minnesota who narrowly edged out Calgary as the two undisputed worst), because there are just so many variables.

That said it's tough to supplant Detroit, who I thought would take top spot, with anyone, let alone the Hawks, but it isn't just the Hawks top tier talent that has given them my ranking of top spot, it's the depth players they took in deep rounds, and I think the importance of that is proven as many of these players were lost after this year's cup win.  The Hawks haven't been the same team without them, and wouldn't have been if they didn't draft and develop.

This is the crux of the study, the argument that draft prowess is the biggest key to success.  How else can one team stay at the top so long, like Detroit, and perpetually have no high first round picks, or any first round picks at all?  How else can a team go from no fan base to cup champ in three drafts? Yes, I mean Chicago.  The third ranked team, Nashville, is in the playoffs almost every year despite a horribly difficult division and shoe-string budget. Teams 4 through 7 perennially challenge for the Cup, and the core of their teams is largely built through the draft, and not just top five picks.  Philly took Carter, Richards, Grioux, in the mid/late first round.  Anaheims Perry and Getzlaf were mid first round picks.  Washington's starting goalie, top d-man and leading scorer were taken between 15 and 29 in their respective years.  The top three teams were clear, but San Jose at 4th is a notch above Philly, Washington and Anaheim because of picks like Ryan Clowe in the 6th round, Joe Pavelski at 205th, Torry Mitchell in the 4th, Marc Vlasic in the 2nd, Derek Joslin in the 5th and Jason Demers in the 7th, all currently on the team's roster.  It's amazing, really.

I don't see a list of past cup winners who can brag to be amazing at signing free agents.  Pro scouting is probably the next most important thing, and the reason that player scouting and development, professional or amature, is most important is because teams that win are succesful and teams that lose go broke.

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