AROUND THE LEAGUE: WEEK ELEVEN

Jason Gregor
December 20 2010 10:58AM

Do you remember the wickedly awesome video game for Intellivision, Slap Shot: Super Pro Hockey? If not, the pic above illustrates the kick-ass graphics, and the advanced thinking of why the NHL should go to a 3-on-3 format before the shootout.

It was a great game in the early 1980s, and while at first glance it might not stack up to NHL 11, depending on your skills as a gamer, it could wear on you.

NHL 11 is like a sexy top-end draft pick. You expect immediate satisfaction and results, whereas super pro hockey looks more like a mid to late round pick that will take some time before you appreciate it for its simplicity.

The Toronto Maple Leafs made their annual trek out west last week, and when they stopped in Calgary and Edmonton the eastern media compared the future of the Leafs to the Oilers and Flames. "Would you rather have a rebuild like the Oilers or the Leafs", and "Which team's future looks better, the Leafs or Flames?"

 

Most seemed to be in agreement that on paper, and in the early stages on the ice,  the Oilers rebuild looked better, while fans were split on who's future looked brighter in Calgary and Toronto.

The Flames and Oilers own their first round pick this coming summer, while the Bruins own the Leafs courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade. In Edmonton, many fans are hoping for one more top-five pick to complete the rebuild, while Flames fans are contemplating trading Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff for picks, get a top-five pick and start the rebuild.

In Toronto, Brian Burke remains adamant that his team can compete without a top pick, while the Canucks aren't even in the conversation because they are a Stanley Cup contender.

RIGHT WAY TO REBUILD?

Is there a blueprint for the perfect rebuild? I'd say there isn't one.

You can look at Chicago's rebuild that started in 2002 by drafting Duncan Keith and finished with Patrick Kane going first overall in 2007, or the Penguins five top-five picks from 2002-2006 and say that losing eventually allows you to win. It worked for them, but it hasn't generated the same success for other teams.

Tthe Islanders had nine top-ten picks from 1994-2000 and never got any better. They are in the midst of another run of top-ten picks and have yet to see any success. Columbus has had a top-ten pick in ten of the last eleven years, but they've only made the playoffs once. They picked 4th, 8th, 1st, 4th, 8th, 6th, 6th, 7th, 6th, 21st and 4th.  The Thrashers had four top-two picks in their first four drafts, 1999-2002, and that led to a measly one playoff berth in 2007.

Getting top-five picks can increase your chances of turning your franchise around, but if you don't draft the right players it won't matter.

In Edmonton, Oiler fans want another top-five pick, Flames fans are pondering what it would feel like to have their first ever top-five pick, while Leaf fans feel if their team doesn't improve, the Phil Kessel trade could do down as one of the most lopsided in NHL history with the Leafs surrendering two top-five picks.

DOES TOP FIVE EQUAL ELITE PLAYER?

 

Looking at the top scorers, goalies and defenders reveals that a team's odds are higher they will get an elite scorer, but it is shows that many of the top players in the game can be found outside of the top five picks.

The current top 30 scorers have a wide range of draft picks.

Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin were 1st overall.

Daniel Sedin, Eric Staal and Dany Heatley were 2nd overall picks.

Henrik Sedin, Jonathon Toews and Matt Duchene went 3rd while Nicklas Backstrom and Andrew Ladd went 4th.

The other 19 scorers were taken in a variety of spots.

FIRST ROUNDERS

Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar 11th overall.
Jarome Iginla 12th.
Alex Semin 13th.
Ryan Getzlaf 19th.
Claude Giroux 22nd.
Mike Richards 22nd.
Corey Perry 28th.

OTHERS

Derek Roy, 2nd round, 32nd overall.
Loui Eriksson, 2nd round, 33rd overall.
Paul Stastny, 2nd round, 44th overall.
Brad Richards, 3rd round, 64th overall.
Milan Hejduk, 4th round, 87th overall.
Patrick Sharp, 3rd round, 95th overall. (Compensatory picks made 95th in 3rd round)
Pavel Datsyuk, 6th round, 171st overall.
Ryan Clowe, 6th round, 175th overall.
Henrik Zetterberg, 7th round, 210th overall.
Dustin Byfuglien, 8th round, 245th overall.
Martin St. Louis, not drafted.

D-MEN: STARS UNCOVERED LATE

In the past 20 years the only truly dominant D-men taken in the top-five were Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and possibly Drew Doughty. Ed Jovanovski is a solid D-man, but I don't consider him a franchise D-man. Out of the current top 30 offensive D-men, only three were taken in the top-ten of the first round.

FIRST ROUNDERS

Jack Johnson, 3rd overall.
Joni Pitkanen, 4th overall.
Ryan Whitney, 5th overall.
Cam Fowler, 12th overall.
Sergei Gonchar, 14th overall.
Brent Seabrook, 14th overall.
Kevin Shattenkirk, 14th overall.
Erik Karlsson, 15th overall.
Brent Burns, 20th overall.
Niklas Kronwall, 29th overall.
 

THE REST

Jordan Leopold, 2nd round, 44th overall.
Nicklas Lidstrom, 3rd round, 53rd overall.
Duncan Keith, 2nd round, 54th overall.
Alex Goligoski, 2nd round, 61st overall.
Kris Letang, 3rd round, 62nd overall.
Alexander Edler, 3rd round, 91st overall.
Keith Yandle, 4th round, 105th overall.
Lubomir Visnovsky, 4th round, 118th overall.
James Wisniewski, 5th round, 156th overall.
Jean-Micheal Liles, 5th round, 159th overall.
Stephane Robidas, 7th round, 164th overall.
Marek Zidlicky, 6th round, 176th overall.
Tomas Kaberle, 8th round, 204th overall.
Tobias Enstrom, 8th round, 239th overall.
Dustin Byfuglien, 8th round, 245th.
Kimmo Timonen, 10th round, 250th overall.
Dan Girardi not drafted.
Mark Giordano not drafted.
Brian Rafalski not drafted.
Dan Boyle not drafted.

GOALIES: LATE BLOOMERS 
 

Even fewer elite goalies are drafted in the first round, and many of them are taken late in the draft. Out of the top twenty goalies only five were taken in the first round.

Marc-Andre Fleury, 1st overall.
Kari Lehtonen, 2nd overall.
Roberto Luongo, 4th overall.
Carey Price, 5th overall.
Cam Ward, 25th overall.

THE REST

Michal Neuvirth, 2nd round 34th overall.
Ondrej Pavelec, 2nd round, 41st overall.
Ilya Bryzgalov, 2nd round, 44th overall.
Corey Crawford, 2nd round, 52nd overall.
Jimmy Howard, 2nd round, 64th overall.
Jonathon Quick, 3rd round, 72nd overall.
Craig Anderson, 3rd round, 73rd overall.
Miikka Kiprusoff, 5th round, 116th overall.
Ryan Miller, 5th round, 138th overall.
Henrik Lundqvist, 7th round, 205th overall.
Tim Thomas, 9th round, 217th overall.
Tomas Vokoun, 9th round, 226th overall.
Jaroslav Halak, 9th round, 271st overall.
Nicklas Backstrom, not drafted.
Sergei Bobrovsky, not drafted.
Jonas Hiller, not drafted.
 

Note: JS Giguere was also a first rounder, 13th, in 1995 but he isn't in top 20.

If you want an elite scorer getting a top-three pick definitely helps, but if you need depth on the blueline or in goal you can draft those players outside the first round and still develop them into becoming solid NHLers. The list of teams that have multiple top-five picks, but never win, is longer than those with top-five picks that do win.

Another top-five pick should help the Oilers in the long run, but there is no guarantee it will, and if the current crop of kids continues to play well, and they end up with a top-ten pick instead they still should be okay if their scouting staff chooses the right player.

TOP FIVE PICKS IN FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Flames have never had a top-five pick. They've had the #6 three times, and only found one decent player in that slot; Cory Stillman in 1992. Daniel Tkaczuk and Rico Fata in 1997 and 1998 respectively were both busts and a major reason why the Flames missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons until their miraculous run to the Cup in 2004.

The Oilers have only had two top-five picks, Taylor Hall in 2010 and Jason Bonsignore in 1994. Hall looks like a player while Bonsignore was a bust. The Oilers have had decent success in the #6 slot, with Paul Coffey in 1980, Ryan Smyth in 1994 and Sam Gagner in 2007, while Boyd Devereaux and Steve Kelly never really panned out.

The Canucks have had thirteen top-five picks in franchise history, and have had more misses than hits. Dale Tallon (2nd overall, 1970), Jocelyn Guevremont (3rd, 1971), Don Lever (3rd 1972), Dennis Ververgaert (3rd, 1973), Jere Gillis (4th, 1977), Bill Derlago (4th, 1978), Rick Vaive (5th, 1979),  Jim Sandlak (4th, 1985), Trevor Linden (2nd, 1988), Petr Nedved (2nd, 1990), Bryan Allen (4th, 1998) and the Sedins (2nd and 3rd in 1999). 

Linden is revered in Vancouver, and is one of the truly great people in the game, but he wasn't a franchise player. Only the twins have turned into cornerstone pieces for the Canucks, and that's a big reason why they have yet to win a Cup.

In the modern era (1970-present) the Leafs have had six top-ten picks. Lanny McDonald (4th,1973), Gary Nylund (3rd, 1982), Al Iafrate (4th, 1984), Wendel Clark (1st, 1985), Scott Thornton (3rd, 1989) and Luke Schenn (5th, 2008).  Not bad choices, but four top-four picks in seven years never translated to being a dominant team.

RANDOM THOUGHTS 

  • Alex Ovechkin has become more of a playmaker this year, but he only has 12 goals, and the most surprising stat for Ovie is he only has TWO powerplay goals. In his first five years he's tallied 21, 16, 22, 19 and 13 on the PP. He is second in the league in PP assists with 12, but he needs to start shooting more on the man advantage. He is tied for 102nd in PP goals. Ouch.
     
  • What is Steve Yzerman waiting for? He needs a goalie bad in Tampa Bay. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have cost his team probably six to eight points already. The Bolts have the third worst GAA in the league, but they've given up the second fewest shots per game. That is a clear indication that his goalies stink, and if he can't land Evgeni Nabokov he needs to find a goalie soon. If he doesn't the Bolts won't be getting home ice advantage in any playoff round.
     
  • Logan Couture played 25 games last year, and because he didn't play 26 he is considered a rookie. He did play 15 games in the playoffs, and some voters might hold that against him in the Calder voting. Couture currently leads NHL rookies in scoring with 24 points, one ahead of Jeff Skinner and two ahead of Jordan Eberle. He does have 17 goals though, which is seven more than second place Taylor Hall. If Couture is close with one of those three in April, his playoff experience from last year could hurt him in the voting.
     
  • The Philadelphia Flyers are the best team in the NHL. They have loads of offensive depth along with size and grit up front. They have the best set of D-men in the league and Bobrovsky is giving them something they haven't had since Ron Hextall; a legitimate goalie. If they are healthy come playoff time, they'd be my favourite.
     
  • Who is the best tandem in the league? The Sedins? Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf? Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis or Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom? Stamkos and St. Louis have combined for 37 goals and 86 points. The Sedins have 22 goals and 75 points, the Ducks' Duo has 29 goals and 73 points while Ovechkin and Backstrom have 23 goals and 72 points. The Bolts pair is the most productive now, but I wonder if Ovechkin finds his scoring touch if they can close the gap?
     
  • If Sidney Crosby had a decent winger, Chris Kunitz has 20 points, you know he would be in the conversation. In fact, even with Kunitz's 20 points they would sit right behind the Sedins with 74 points. Just another stat to show how dominant Crosby has been, and he's pretty much doing it by himself.
     
  • The Predators are the streakiest team in the league. They started the season 5-0-3, then lost five straight, then went 4-3-2 and now are on a 8-1-1 streak. They have two solid goalies. Pekka Rinne started 19 of their first 24, with a GAA of 2.38 and SV% of 0.918. He got hurt and now Anders Lindback has started eight straight going 6-1-1 and has a 2.27 GAA and .0925 SV% on the season. I wonder if Yzerman is calling David Poile?
     
  • Matt Duchene has eleven goals and 20 points in his last 15 games, and he has really stepped up since Chris Stewart broke his hand fighting Kyle Brodziak. In the ten games without Stewart, Duchene has seven goals and 13 points. The Avs were ecstatic when Duchene dropped to number three in 2009, and it looks like Duchene might turn out to be a better player than John Tavares.
Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
Avatar
#51 Wax Man Riley
December 20 2010, 04:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
9 Inches Uncut wrote:

I think the Calder is unimportant and people shouldn't worry or care who wins it.

I disagree. It could be said that the #1 overall pick is unimportant as well, as we look at Gregor's article (great read BTW).

It is the recognition to the scouts and management that they have done their job drafting impact players. Having 2 (arguably 3....very arguably) rookies in the mix for the Calder speaks to the scouting staff.

I think Couture is a really good player, but if he wins I would be disappointed. It is almost like winning because of a loophole. He came into this season with 50 games of NHL experience, and even further, 25 of those games were playoff games where the intensity, as we all know is so much higher.

With all of the talent there has been for the Oilers since their inception into the NHL, and all of the accolades and personal success of players, there has never been a Calder winner. I would like to see a Calder winner wearing the Oil Drop.

Avatar
#52 Wax Man Riley
December 20 2010, 04:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

On a side note, talking about tandems, I have Stamkos in my pool, but I just traded Datsyuk and Timmonen away for St.Louis, Pronger (I made the deal before he was hurt-crap) and Shattenkirk. So I now have Stamkos and St. Louis. Any thoughts on if losing Datsyuk is a bad idea? It kinda hurt to let him go.

Avatar
#53 thebiggestmanintheworld
December 20 2010, 05:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@NastyNate-i was referring to the MSM. Not Renney. I don't think they ask him any tough questions. For the record, I am a big fan of Renney and he is a nice change of pace but when is someone going to grow some stones and grill him about the PK? Or why JFJ is still in the lineup? Not just, "boy, taylor looked good tonight didn't he?" It just seems like everyone asking questions is being paid by the Oil. just what it looks like to me, but then again, I'm just some putz from Slovenia who doesn't know a lot about this ice hockey...

Avatar
#55 NastyNate
December 20 2010, 05:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@thebiggestmanintheworld

Gotcha, like i said i don't really tune into to presser comments. Does anyone know who the PK Coach is? I was under the impression that Buchy was coaching the PP, maybe someone should take off their rose colored glasses and get him coaching the PK because lord knows he shouldn't be anywhere near the PP

Avatar
#56 Dennis
December 20 2010, 05:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Gregor wrote:

@WG

You two keep suggesting that the PK has to be an article. Do you think the PK has stayed the same all year? It hasn't. They have tried different systems. They don't just play a diamond.

If you watched the Columbus game you should have noticed that they got their D-man to pressure the guy on the wall. They did that specific for CBJ, because Nash is great on the wall. And if the D-man goes to that guy, and they move the puck down low it is imperative that the high forward on the opposite side slides down and takes the forward.

Their PK isn't the game every game, and suggetsing that they haven't tried new things would lead me to believe you haven't watched the games that closely.

They thought Fraser and Cogliano would be decent PKers. Same with Penner and Horcoff.

You keep throwing out the same point every article, and it is old and boring. "They should have got good penalty killers. Well which ones should they have went after?

Who are these so-called great penalty killers?

Do you think one player makes a great PK. If all guys don't work in unison with one another they break down. Just because a guy is a good killer on one team, doesn't mean he'd come here and be just as effective.

The bigger issue is faceoffs. Problem is they don't have guys who are getting better. I could write about their faceoff woes weekly, but it won't make them better unfortunately.

So, you can only bring in one good PKer if you also bring in his partner?:)

Avatar
#57 Woodguy
December 20 2010, 06:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jason,

Pretty sure this is one of the first times I've mentioned the PK on ON.

You said:

You keep throwing out the same point every article, and it is old and boring. "They should have got good penalty killers. Well which ones should they have went after?

Actually I said:

When a veteran PK'er like Horcoff is getting lit up at over 3 times his previous year's average, and the rest of the team is the same, I think the coaching staff should be questioned on the scheme.

Oilers need better PK'ers? Sure The players are entirely at fault for this horrid PK? Not a chance.

The Oiler PK this year is one of the worst of all time and I have yet to see an article in the Sun or Journal about. It is a big story. One of the worst or best all time anything is a story

Avatar
#58 Shaun Doe
December 20 2010, 07:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Has anyone mentioned yet that Nashville is a goalie producing machine? Well if not, then I just did. Is it their system, is it their defence or do they just draft really well? I would suggest the system as few of their goalies have done all that well after being moved out of town.

Avatar
#59 Aitch
December 21 2010, 09:56AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Shaun... I was thinking the same thing until I did a little research. In their brief NHL history, they've used 6 goalies on a semi-regular basis:

1) Mike Dunham - he was okay. Didn't do much after leaving Nashville, with only a decent half-season on broadway to show before three sub .900 save % seasons.

2) Tomas Vokoun - as consistent a goalie as there has been in hockey during his post-Habs career with a save% around .920 and a GAA hovering around the 2.50 mark. Too bad he's never had a winner in front of him.

3) Chris Mason - he's been a decent NHL goalie, but no one has been willing to make him the #1 of a winning team.

4) Dan Ellis - good in Nashville for one season. Since then he's been threatening to beat the snot out of the Mendoza line on save%. He certainly hasn't thrived in Tampa this season.

5) Pekka Rinne - typical Nashville goalie numbers. About .910 on the save% and just under 2.50 for GAA on average says he's the 2nd best goalie to Vokoun on this list.

6) Anders Lindback - small sample size, but he's posting good numbers early on.

At this point, I'd say Nashville has gone through a lot of good goalies, but given the consistency shown from their keepers as a whole, I'd think it has as much to do with the system the team plays as the goalies themselves, as other than Vokoun, none of the other three that have left, have really established themselves as a true #1 anywhere else.

Avatar
#62 Bucknuck
December 21 2010, 12:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Woodguy wrote:

I never said anything about Hall.

My entire post was about Couture.

Good for you.

The context of the article was comparing the two, so I kicked in my two cents.

Avatar
#63 John Chambers
December 21 2010, 01:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Aitch

Nice homework, Aitch.

Nashville must play a defensive style that is complementary to goaltenders - allowing lots of perimeter shots to increase sv%.

But as your analysis concludes, most of these guys haven't been all that spectacular once they leave Nashville, except for Vokoun of course and a half-season from Chris Mason.

Avatar
#64 Dennis
December 21 2010, 02:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Gregor wrote:

I just don't know all these great Pkers are that you think would have been so easy to bring in. They struck out on Malhotra, and the reality is that few veteran guys want to sign on a rebuilding team.

We all agree a faceoff guy would have been a smart addition, and some thought Fraser was that, but he hasn't been that at all. It's the stop gap part of a rebuild.

They need some players want to commmit to being better on the PK. If guys don't realize this might be their last chance in Edmonton, who is a bottom feeder, then they might wake up out of a job next year.

I'm just saying that it isn't as easy as saying, sign this guy or that guy.

I'm old and mature enough to just say let's agree to disagree:)

I think the club thought some guys could fill certain roles just because they Thought they could and they had no evidence to go on. And if the PK continues at something even close to this pace then there's no defending them.

It's not enough to Try; you succeed or you fail. If the skilled guys can't kill penalties then you get guys for your bottom who can do it.

So you find those guys or you failed.

Avatar
#65 Wax Man Riley
December 21 2010, 04:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Dennis

So do or do not, there is no try. Young Padawan.

..Ok, sorry, I'll never quote Star Wars again

*crosses every finger he has

But I have to agree with Gregor only for the fact that there are only so many guys out there, and only so many that will come to a rebuilding team, and only so many teams that have those guys to trade. It is easy to say "Oh, just trade for them", but Edmonton isn't really bargaining from a power perspective. I'm sure there are some ridiculous offers for a guy like Konopka, or Reasoner.

In a rebuild, you have to look to making the future better, not just the today, as the team has done in the past. That would be following the Toronto rebuild model.

Avatar
#66 Team Brodziak
December 21 2010, 05:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The most interesting point in this whole article? Someone broke their hand fighting Brodziak. Who would have thought?

Comments are closed for this article.