Thursday, June 21, 2012
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Great Draft Debate
This week, we bring in-depth answers to all your NHL draft questions.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we drew up a handy blueprint for surviving the Stanlocalypse. This week, we're going to forget that a certain awards show ever existed and instead focus on what's really important: the NHL draft.
Up to a half-dozen GMs in hockey would agree: Drafting is the most important key to building a winner. A team's ability to choose the right 18 year-old Canadian farmboy can sink or swim an entire franchise. One or two good picks, especially in the later rounds, and you can be declared a draft genius despite a decade of abysmal drafting. One blown first-overall pick, and a few years later you're throwing down with small children.
Needless to say, drafting is an inexact science, the equivalent of walking into the freshman dorm of an all-girl's Catholic high school, demanding to see them workout in their skivvies and then choosing which one of the hundreds will actually follow through on becoming a marine biologist a decade down the road ... not that we would know anything about that.
Fortunately for confused fans and ineffective GMs alike, we've cobbled together the greatest collection of draft experts humanly possible, and they're ready to put to rest all the great debates surrounding this risky enigma. For this week's panel, we've invited draftniks Brian Burke, Mike Milbury, and David Poile.
Me: (taps nose, winks suggestively) "Gentlemen...?"
Brian Burke: "Let's get this over with quickly. I've got three barn fights to finish before 3 p.m. or else I lose my deposit."
Me: "Shush. Anyways, I've brought you three here to-day to discuss and share your insights into the drafting process. There are several timeless questions surrounding this process, and hopefully we can get some intelligent resolution of these issues and provide a blueprint for futur—what the hell is that smell?"
David Poile: "My bad. I've been eating nothing but ramen noodle MSG packets for the past 11 months."
Mike Milbury: "Seriously? I've had nothing but 50-ounce filet mignons every night for two decades, and sometimes for breakfast too."
(Poile looks down at his shaking hands, mutters something about 'apostates,' cries softly while everyone else watches)
Me: "....er.... moving on then. So, Burke, let's start with you. What is the single most important aspect of a player you look for? Shooting ability? Playmaking chops? Defensive commitment?"
Me: "Ah, you're referring to 'physical play' and 'toughn—"
Burke: "Nope, just fighting. If you expect to be any sort of success in this league, you've got to be able to take the barn onto the ice. Opposing fourth-line goons aren't going to fight themselves, you know."
Me: "If fighting is such a premium, then why have your last seven #1 picks, of both the Ducks and the Maple Leafs, combined for exactly three NHL fights in eight years— all of which were from Bobby Ryan and his career record of 0-1-2?"
Burke: "Do you want me to hit you in the face right here?"
Me: "Yes. I. Do."
(Burke swings a wild haymaker from his chair that falls six feet short.)
Burke: (breathless) "Had enough?"
Milbury: (to Burke) "Use your shoe next time."
Me: "That brings me to my next questi—Poile, why are you chewing on your armrest?"
Poile: (looks up, startled, his mouth full of delicious upholstery) "Mmhmm?"
Me: "Anyways... Mr. Milbury, let's answer my next pressing question: Is it better to draft the best available player, or should you draft to fill your biggest need?"
Milbury: "My grandpappy used to tell me that you can't make a Kvasyashin omelet without trading all of your amazing first round draft picks."
Me: "Okaaaaaayyyy ... but what about your career-defining crowning achievement, the DiPietro pick?"
Milbury: "Oh, that? Well, we had this hot young goalie with tons of upside in Luongo, so we decided to draft a slightly colder, slightly younger goalie with less upside to replace him. Anyone with 3% of a brain could see it would work out brilliantly. Drafting 101, really."
Burke: "This DiPietro kid sounds legit. I'll fistfight you for him."
Milbury: "It's go time." (Burke pulls a lever behind his chair, and instantly his tie becomes unraveled. The two start slugging it out right next to Poile and myself. The sound and smell of two medium-rare steaks slapping together fills the Pegasus News interview closet)
Me: "So, Poile. Tell me about your amazing ability to find draft gems. What's your secret?"
Poile: "You just gotta stay hungry, y'know? Poke around the couch cushions for loose raisins, that sort of thing. Year-old discarded Hot Pockets aren't just going to find themselves."
Me: "The East Coast hockey media has often praised your amazing drafting ability, and why not? After all —(checks Predators draft history, gasps)— oh my god ... I'm so sorry. I—I didn't know."
Poile: "You don't have to say it."
Me: "I just ... but I thought ... just two third-line grinders in your last six draft classes? That's almost as bad as the Red Wings!"
Me: "So you don't think that mortgaging your franchise's future for 99 games of Mike Fisher and 14 games of Paul Gaustad might not be the best idea ever? Especially when your 2003 draft, where you stockpiled high draft picks, turned out to be the draft where you acquired the cornerstones of your franchise?"
Poile: "No. And neither should you."
Me: "Well, best of luck signing Ryan Suter, the last #1 draft pick (2003) you made that had any positive impact whatsoever."
Poile: "You're forgetting about Alexander Radulov."
Me: (slaps him)
Burke: (red-faced, with Milbury in a headlock) "Did somebody mention Alexander Radulov?"
That's it for this week's Cupcheck. Tune in next week when he discuss the Dallas Stars' shocking draft-day move, and why four more goalies in the system is exactly what we need for some reason.