Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Look Back at the Draft - by Michael Fabrig

Well, it has been some time since the draft has come and gone. How do I feel? About the same as how I felt when I saw Feaster smile and trade-away pick number 14 - still disgusted. As much as Jankowski was a steal-of-a-pick at 21 (NOT) – going to be the best player in 10 years, according to Jay, there is no way I’d ever give-up my pick with a guy like Teuvo Terevainen available. No amount of picks could make-up for what a player of his caliber can do. Some people out there argue that there is a reason that Terevainen hadn’t been taken earlier – as true as that MIGHT be, I think it was solely on the fact that, based on team needs and the teams that were choosing from 1-17, a player of Terevainen’s mold wasn’t as HIGH a priority as getting a D-man, or, landing a BIG, lanky Centre (or Winger). Picks 1-4 were pretty easy to project – the teams had more than valid reason to take their guys. When you look at picks 5-10, you saw a plethora of D-man being selected – no surprise there. On a side-note – I was more than impressed with Martin Madden and the Anaheim Ducks. Lindholm seemed to really prove that teams, though they don’t claim to do so, in fact do, draft based on organizational need. Lindholm is a sleek, smart, crafty, and large specimen. The progression-factor is just off the charts. As much as fans laughed when Pierre McGuire called him a steal at 6, I couldn’t agree more. I would’ve loved to see the Penguins take Grigorenko at 8 – potentially replace Jordan Staal…and then some. The first round, as unpredictable as it was first projected to be, seemed to unfold accordingly.

According to my list and who I thought did the best, it’s no surprise that the Flames weren’t one of my favorite teams at the draft. I’m a fan of prospects and drafting…I’m not saying I know everything; I’m not saying that the Flames’ staff know nothing…what I am saying is that, based on what I know and what preferences and rankings I had, Calgary’s picks weren’t that great.

Here’s a list and some explanation of who I think did the best at the draft:

1. Anaheim Ducks

Note of players taken:

Hampus Lindholm – D – Pick #6
A super-skilled D-man, Lindholm just got better the longer he played for Rogle’s senior team. You look at the Ducks’ situation – not having much on the back-end and THEN trading Visnovsky and losing Justin Schultz (to free agency) – it’s easy to see that the team was looking to fill a void, for both the short and long term. A player of Lindholm’s mold, you’re bound to get a guy that can compliment Cam Fowler – both offensively and defensively. I think Lindholm has a higher ceiling defensively, for sure…offensively – definitely a possibility.

Nicolas Kerdiles – C/LW – Pick #36
An under-rated two-way forward that can score a ton, Kerdiles can play anywhere you need him to. I had Kerdiles ranked 18 on my list – I think he’ll be a top-6 pro with a scoring touch. Did I mention that I love the way he powers his way on the ice?

Fredrik Andersen – G – Pick #87
Though Andersen isn’t that young, he’s easily proven he’s the real-deal posting a 1.62 GAA, playing 39 games with Frolunda. After completion of the ’11-12 season, Andersen has finished playing his 4th year against men. So, being 22 and not being signed by Carolina, IMO, wouldn’t be enough justification not to take this 6’4” beast. As a third-round pick, Madden & Co. made a super-smart, low-risk move.

Kevin Roy - LW/C - Pick #97
A 5’10” LW/C that reminds me so much of Loui Eriksson, Kevin Roy was the next player selected by Madden. Though he was an over-age player, Roy destroyed the statistics – scoring 54 goals and 104 points in 59 games with Lincoln. Madden compares him to Jason Blake; either way, I think he will be able to contribute in the short-run – at Northeastern (NCAA) – and in the long run – playing in the NHL. The question: is this pick comparable to the one the Blue Jackets made in 2008, when they selected over-age eligible, Cam Atkinson?

Brian Cooper - D – Pick #127
A skilled D-man, Cooper is a smaller, offensive d-man that will put up the points…wherever he goes. He is a very smart d-man that has some real, raw talent. When I see his game, it reminds me of what you see with Mike Reilly (CBJ pick – 98th in 2011) – a player that uses his mind and his offensive skills to his advantage, thus, being a positive contributor – both offensively and defensively.

2. Montreal Canadiens

Notable players taken: Alex Galchenyuk, Sebastian Collberg, Dalton Thrower, Tim Bozon, and Charles Hudon.

3. Nashville Predators

Notable players taken: Pontus Aberg, Colton Sissons, Jimmy Vesey, Brendan Leipsic, Zach Stepan, Mikko Vainonen, Simon Fernholm, and Max Gortz.

4. Dallas Stars

Notable players taken: Radek Faksa, Ludvig Bystrom, Mike Winther, Esa Lindell, Gemel Smith, and Branden Troock.

5. Chicago Blackhawks

Notable players taken: Teuvo Terevainen, Dillon Fournier, Chris Calnan, Garret Ross, Travis Brown, and Vince Hinostroza.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

Notable players taken: Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta, Theodor Blueger, Matt Murray, Matia Marcantuoni, Sean Maguire, and Anton Zlobin.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets

Notable players taken: Ryan Murray, Oscar Dansk, Joonas Korpisalo, Daniel Zaar, and Gianluca Curcuruto.

8. Edmonton Oilers

Notable players taken: Nail Yakupov, Joey Laleggia, Jujhar Khaira, Daniil Zharkov, and Mitch Moroz.

9. St. Louis Blues

Notable players taken: Jordon Schmaltz, Sam Kurker, Mackenzie MacEachern, Nick Walters, Francois Tremblay, and Petteri Lindbohm.

10. New York Rangers

Notable players taken – all 4 taken by Gordie Clark: Brady Skjei, Cristoval Nieves, Calle Andersson, and Thomas Spelling.

Time will tell how these prospects will turn-out. I’m quite surprised that Lundberg, Vatrano, Djuse, and Slepyshev didn’t get selected. But hey, it’s not like they can’t get taken next year.

My Flames thoughts: Since his tenure in 1997, Tod Button hasn’t had much success as the Director of Amateur Scouting. Jay Feaster came in and brought-aboard John Weisbrod…a guy who was a pro scout for the Bruins…yes, scouting college free agents. My question: how many players on the Bruins’ roster were college free agents? There's my point – this team doesn’t want to get rid of people that need to go; the people that are coming in aren’t making strong enough cases of what their skills are and how it will make a positive contribution to the issues the team has and wants to fix - drafting. Sometimes, personnel don’t work with an organization…if that’s the case, they need to be relieved. If you look at a lot of the Flames’ brain trust, you’ll see that most of their staff is the old guard that have been around the last 15 years (and then some). I wonder if that has positive correlation to why they are and continue to be a mediocre-at-best team…hmm. Feaster laughs at rebuild; made claims that he was against trading draft picks, yet, has already traded 2 IMPORTANT second round picks within the last year (2012 2nd to Buffalo; 2013 2nd to Montreal). He’s saying what he needs to please the public – “we need to get better…and will do…” His actions don’t reconcile with his words – he states the obvious and then makes moves he justifies by saying – “Write it down. We’ll make playoffs.”

Allan Markin and Murray Edwards, the team owners, are the real ones to blame. Just because the organization is a top-10 revenue-generating team, they are satisfied (with the hockey operations). Owners that really care about their organization would do their due diligence…based on performance management, make decisions. Last time I checked, Ken King, the President of both Hockey and Business operations (By the way – what other team in the league has 1 representative for both sides of the business? None) was given a promotion after the team failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year. The same guy that wanted to fight those fans that suggested for a re-build. I believe, as much as people hate me for saying, that as long as you have owners like Markin and Edwards, guys like Ken King will never lose their job. If he doesn’t lose his job, he gets to stick around and make ill-advised moves like hiring a non-hockey guy, Jay Feaster. Todd Button will continue to make picks like taking Greg Nemisz in the first-round and comparing him to Jeff Carter. Because, according to Tod Button, it takes years of experience to get a ‘proper’ read on high school players for accurate projections – and that’s why the Jankowski pick was the "right one."

When you look at all the facts and what is needed for succession management, there’s no way you can break-down and understand the string of poor moves made by this organization; you can’t justify many of their moves being made on the basis of a hockey nor a business decision.

There is an Old Boys Club in Calgary…Ken must be doing something else real-good to save his job, and it’s definitely not making hockey decisions. It’s fair to say that the Flames are just a mediocre team. Though they always spend up to the cap, they always just have an ok team. Just imagine – how much worse would the Flames be if they didn’t have deep pockets? I wonder how bad of a job their brain trust would do if they had expected higher turnovers – had to depend more on drafting and brining- in new, home grown players. That's a scary concept. I love how this team, every year, complains that they never have a no.1 center and the right backup goalie. And then every year, in the beginning, they make public announcements that they have filled that void, that goalie X will now play 15-30 games giving Kiprusoff some time off…and then every year, by game 55, you know that Kipper is exhausted and there isn’t a good enough goalie to give him the support.

Looking at this year, again, the same apparent issues seem to be the case. Like they’ve done in the past, the Flames have tried to get cheap fillers to try and cover that hole at center. As much progression as Irving has had (according to the club) – the last time I checked, he lost his job to free agent Danny Taylor in Abbottsford. Irving only played 7 games in the NHL in the 2011-2012 campaign. Posting a 3.19 GAA, there aren't strong enough statistics to be assured that he is the future goalie of the team. At 24, the time is ticking.

If it was my decision, Martin Madden would be my hockey guy. In just the last 4 drafts with the Ducks, Madden has added a plethora of hot prospects (2009 – Peter Holland, Kyle Palmieri, Igor Bobkov, and Sami Vatanen; 2010 – Cam Fowler, Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Chris Wagner; 2011 – Rikard Rakell, John Gibson, William Karlsson, and Max Friberg). I’ve liked what he’s done more in the 4 years than what Button has done in the last 15.

You may ask the question: Is he a Flames fan? I’m from Calgary and loved the product the Flames had in the 80’s. It seemed apparent that the club, back then, had a model that stressed high skill and superior drafting (which I feel is what’s needed AT LEAST to be successful in the league one day). When you see a cheesy model that is being facilitated by deep pockets and know what money and knowledge in the field can ACTUALLY bring you, cheering for this model isn't easy to justify.

Huge thanks to Michael for his insight. Follow him on twitter at @gotitotti and Dome Ice Advantage at @WiswellMRU