Kim Owns Every Season of Drew Carey On DVD

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The Leafs are now comfortably ensconced in the the NHL's Baltic Avenue neighbourhood, last night's trip through Memory Five Hole notwithstanding. And Leafs fans and mittenstringers are for once pretty much in agreement. The best possible outcome of this season is to get a high draft pick. And not just any pick. The discussion on TMLfans's ongoing 'Waiting For Tavares' thread, for example, pretty much sums up the same two ideal outcomes you see everywhere.

Get the #1 pick, draft Tavares.

or

Get the #2 pick, hope the Isles take Hedman, draft Tavares.

But is the number one or two spot all it's cracked up to be? Three months spent counting down to the lottery has got me wondering - how often is the eventual best player in the draft selected in one of the first two slots?

Let's take a look at 20 years of drafts, from 1981-2000, AND SOLVE THE MYSTERY TOGETHER....

1981

1 - Dale Hawerchuk 2 - Doug Smith
Best player: see below.

Obviously, Dale Hawerchuk was a pretty damn fine player, but no way is he the best player in this draft. That would be one of Ron Francis (#4 overall), Al McInnis (15), or Chris Chelios (40), depending on your taste. I'd go with Francis, myself. And has anyone ever noticed how much Chelios looks like Tony Bourdain?

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1982

1-Gord Kluzak 2-Brian Bellows
Best player - Scott Stevens (fifth overall)

"WAY TO LAY ON THE ICE LIKE A BROAD, BELLOWS!" Sorry. The guy just missed 500 career goals and that's all I can think of when I see his name. Kluzak's promising career was sunk by knee injuries. Scott Stevens' hits probably ended more careers than booze and sleeping with the coaches wife combined. Damn, he was scary.

1983

1-Brian Lawton 2- Sylvain Turgeon
Best player: Steve Yzerman (4)

Yeah, that's an ugly top two right there. If we are doing SAT analogies, Sylvain Turgeon was to the Adams Division what Bruce Chen was to the AL East. I think he missed playing for Boston, though. Also spearheaded the 'wearing a really high number that's not double digits' trend. As a result, he is the second best #61 ever.

We're 0 for 3 so far.

1984

1-Mario Lemieux 2- Kirk Muller
Best Player - Take a guess, Einstein

Well, that breaks the duck in style. The only other player in Mario's zip code in this draft was Patrick Roy at 51. Of course, goalies are hardly ever taken in the top two, and I doubt one goes in the top ten this year.

1985

1-Wendel Clark, 2-Craig Simpson
Best player - Wendel Clark

I know, I know, but go take a look yourself and tell me who was better than Wendel. Mike Richter? He was a nice goalie and all, but I'm not taking Richter over Wendel Clark. I'm just not. And sure, Igor Larionov was picked in the last round, but I really don't think that counts, considering everyone already knew he was one of the top 5 players in the world and they were just waiting for the Cold War to end.

1986

1- Joe Murphy 2- Jimmy Carson
Best player - Brian Leetch (9)

God, I don't think you could pick two guys who inspired more 'Is this the year Lazyass McBooedalot finally breaks out?' Articles. They both produced too much to be ever called busts, but they always left you wanting more. If either was your best player, you'd be missing the playoffs. Didn't both of them end up playing Tier II during a dispute with the team at one point? Or was that just Carson?

Watching Brian Leetch's all too brief stint in a Leafs uniform made me realize I had never appreciated what a phenomenal player he was. So smart, so smooth, such a passer and point man - he was the rich man's Tomas Kaberle.

1987

1- Pierre Turgeon 2-  Brendan Shanahan
Best player - Joe Sakic (15)

Not bad, even if Turgeon made Craig Janney seem hard-nosed. Sakic walks it, obviously.

And BTW, clicking on the player's name from here on in gets you footage of their selection. Nothing quite as good as this, but a lot of them are well worth a look.

1988

1- Mike Modano 2- Trevor Linden
Best player - Mike Modano

This was close. Modano and Rod Brind' Amour are actually closer than you'd think. And if Rod hadn't been stuck on the second line for most of his peak he may have made up the difference. And he's got the Conn Smythe. Modano's star turn in the Mr Perfect vignettes (around 0:20 in there) just pushed him over the top here.
3 for 8 so far.

1989

1- The Consultant 2 - Dave Chyzowski (ahh, the Islanders)
Best player - Nik Lidstrom (53)

This was a pretty damn good draft year, which must be all the more galling for Isles fans. The Wings also picked up Fedorov and Konstantinov in this draft, which hardly seems fair. Hey Burke! Do that!

1990

1- Owen Nolan 2- Petr Nedved
Best player - Jaromir Jagr (5) or Marty Brodeur (20)

Petr Nedved should have 'enigmatic' attached to his name, it was used so often about him. Remember the year he was a free agent and ended up playing for Team Canada? That was awesome. We lost anyways.

I would take Jagr over Brodeur.

1991

1- Eric Lindros 2- Pat Falloon
Best player - Scott Niedermayer (3)

Courtnall for Kordic gets all the play, but Kurvers for Niedermayer was a million times worse. One's a useful second liner, one's among the top 5 defencemen of the last 20 years. Lindros, of course was traded immediately for a lower selection who had a better career, plus half a contending team. He later played for Toronto, one of the many guys brought in by JFJ (Marchment!) that rooting for made you feel queasy. Christ, what a shitshow.

1992

1- Roman Hamrlik 2- Yashin
Best player: well...

This was not a good year. On peak I guess you'd have to go with Yashin, but if some guys are locker room cancers, he was locker room Ebola. Plus, he was the worst playoff performer I can ever remember seeing. God, I wish there was a Youtube compilation of Alexei Yashin playoff highlights. I'd watch that shit almost as much all "All Heart." Every time I felt a little down on myself, I could fire up his greatest giveaways, getting crunched, goals being scored by a guy he missed, clips of Jacques Martin saying "Alexei will turn it around." Someone needs to make this. So, yeah, I'm going to have to go with Sergei Gonchar (14) here.

1993

1 - Alexandre Daigle 2- Chris Pronger

Pronger in a landslide. Kariya's the only other guy you could even make a case for.

Oh, and

1-Alexandre Daigle

in case you missed it.

Highlight of the Daigle draft clip lined above - McKenzie saying that Daigle has 'the fire in his eyes like Rocket Richard.'

1994

1- Ed Jovanovski  (Radek Bonk's mullet in this clip is tremendous) 2- Oleg Tverdovsky

Best player: Unfortunately, as hard as it is for me to say.... Wait, let me start over. While he may not be a favourite of Leafs fans, this guy has put up--- OK, I'll get it this time. Even though he has captained a hated rival, boarded Tucker, looks like a Muppet, guaranteed a Cup one year, no one can deny--- Oh, fuck it.

Sergei Berezin was the best player taken in 1994.

1995

1-Bryan Berard 2-Wade Redden
Best player: Jarome Iginla (11)

I truly belive Berard would have been great if not for the eye injury. He was phenomenal in his brief time in Toronto. Did you know he's in the KHL now? I didn't. Future Leafs Aki Berg and Chad Kilger were taken 3-4. A few years ago, the Leafs had quite the habit of picking up top choices that had disappointed for one reason or another. By 2005-06 it was freaking "Brylcreem's Island of Misfit Picks".

1996

1- Chris Phillips 2- Andrei Zyuzin

Best player: This draft was weaker than Glass Joe. The best player is either Daniel Briere or late pick Tomas Kaberle. So far, you'd have to give it to #15.

1997

1- Joe Thornton 2- Patrick Marleau

Best player: Thornton

6 for 17 so far.

1998

1- Vincent Lecavalier 2- David Legwand

Best player: Lecavalier, though Datsyuk may have an argument soon. Why did the Leafs work out a trade for Vinny during what was apparently the only two day period in Lightning history that ownership wasn't insane or high? What were the odds of that?

1999-

1- Patrik Stefan 2-The Swedish Cycling team

This draft is even worse than 1996. I guess I'd hold my nose and pick Daniel Sedin, but this one shouldn't even count. I've seen deeper expansion drafts than this. Marty Havlat, Niclas Havelid are the only other contenders. This draft stinks like a dirty diaper filled with Indian food.

2000-

1) Rick DiPietro 2) Dany Heatley

It's Heatley. Also, the DiPietro pick and Luongo trade was really just Milbury at his best, wasn't it? Some may say the Chara deal, some may favour one his other 35 asinine moves. To me, nothing sums up the Milbury Magic like drafting a franchise goalie, then drafting another one and trading the first one for pennies on the dollar cause 'you had to have this one!' Can you imagine what Mike Milbury's garage looks like? His fridge?

Highlight of the above clip: Kumar saying "The Islanders are going to do something a little different" and then the shot of Milbury. I imagine Dick Ripietro lost his Zoodles right there.

So what have we learned?

9 times in 20 years, the best player in the draft goes in one of the top two slots. So that's a 45% chance, which is good, but when the Leafs end up picking later, it's not
the end of the world. In those twenty years the Leafs player who reached the highest level of performance, the man we honour Saturday night, was picked 134th overall.



11 Comments

First off: awesome post. This is why blogging is trumping major media. This is the type of stuff that should be in the sports section. Not endless narratives about how the leafs are lousy because they never had any top draft picks (not that there isn't some truth to that - but c'mon...)

Anyway I have said this before on one of the may other blogs I comment on instead of blogging on my own but WTF is wrong with NHL scouting???

Sorry there is something seriously wrong if you get the top drafts wrong over 55% of the time.

As far as I'm concerned with these type of results any random fan you pick out at any junior hockey game could do as well or better.

So here's a challenge for some intrepid blogger or team of bloggers. Find out who the scouts were who made the good picks vs crappy picks over the past 20 years. I wonder if there is a pattern? Do certain scouts consistently get it right? Are some complete failures?

And what about player development. Maybe some teams aren't that good at drafting but are just better at making sure the players are able to make that next step. Is that Detroit's secret?

Sats Mundin said:

You guys are on fire.

En fuego.

Rill Boot said:

Again, nice post. Can't believe you remember the Daigle comment by McKenzie. Daigle, what a moron, you know when someone poses in a Nurse's uniform he won't amount to much, unless he's a member of Kids in the Hall that is.

Don't know what the strength of the draft is this year - is it deep? - but I'm a bit partial to the idea that if the Leafs do land first over all, they should trade down for players and or picks, not too far down though. If the Leafs can get two picks in the top 15, then it might make sense to trade away first over all, that is if they get it. Of course the problem with this strategy is that the likelihood of drafting an NHL ready player not named Tavares is a bit remote, so it may usher in another season of suckitude, which isn't too terrible when you consider that over 40 years without hoisting La Coupe de Stanley should provide some degree of patience, to some anyway. Honestly, if 1st overall would translate into Ellis and one of Kadri/Scroeder and maybe S-Paarjavi, I'd shift the pick. The Leafs don't necessarily need a messiah to bring them to the promised land and sell tickets for non-available seats, they need skilled players who can help read a map to where that land is.

This is really solid stuff, well done.

And it's always nice to get a heads-up when a really good hockey mullet is captured on youtube.

Back in Black said:

Much as I admire Clark, I think you must have missed Joe Nieuwendyk's name. I'm not surprised that you didn't take JFJ or Paul Maurice from that class, though.

Great list - and I agree about the Stefan draft. It was so horrible it's hard to even condemn Atlanta for picking that bust.

But an important point is that very few of these #1-2 picks are busts. It's obviously very difficult to get a pick exactly right, but most of these guys (Clark, Nolan, Turgeon, Jovanovski, Lindros, DiPietro, etc.) still turned out to be very good players. I would expect to find a huge drop-off between the very-good-player rates at #1 overall and, say, #5, where I'd expect to find a much higher percentage of busts.

Dominik said:

Great stuff! What was great about that '99 draft was people were fairly sure it stunk at the time. Hearing Atlanta talk itself into hyping Stefan was painful.

I have two objections:

1) Ohhh no-no-no: Craig Janney was WAY softer than Pierre Turgeon. I watched both night-after-night (in St. Louis) in their "primes," and it's not even close. The Hunter hit may have spooked Turgeon for a while, but if I got nailed from behind near the blueline a full 5 seconds after scoring the clinching goal, I'd probably spend the rest of my life wondering if a sniper in the rafters might shoot me at any moment.

2) The problem with hoping that the Islanders take Hedman at #1 or deal the top pick is that the Islanders *won't get* #1. The hockey gods hate us, so without Milbury to dump the pick, the gods will make sure we don't even win the damn lottery.

Paul D said:


I don't follow hockey as closely as many, but as a slight tweak, would it make sense to only look at the first 6 years of a players career? That's all you've got a draft pick for, correct? (Assuming he doesn't resign). I don't know if that would make a huge difference, but it might.

One nitpick: 1999 Draft. Henrik Zetterberg was the best player in that draft.

Wohn Jensink said:

Brilliant.

i wonder how the "failure" rate compares to scouts in other sports? Find out, and you'll have a career at SI or ESPN.com in no time...

Dick RiPietro said:

Great write-up (as sad as it is seeing the Isles through the years). I just want to comment on the fact that a lot of you guys think the Leafs have some sort of chance at the number one pick. I know you guys don't have the honour of seeing the Isles play every night but they are not good. You guys are 11 points up on us with about 5 teams in between...you will be luck to get a pick in the top 5.

Doogie2K said:

And he's got the Conn Smythe.

Who has the Conn Smythe? Neither of them do. Nieuwendyk won the year Dallas won the Cup, and Ward won it the year Carolina did.

Best player: Lecavalier, though Datsyuk may have an argument soon.

Fuck that, Datsyuk already won that argument.

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This page contains a single entry by Godd Till published on January 30, 2009 4:28 PM.

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