One of the Canucks fans' favourite whipping boys has been the teams record in the draft; years of taking large centres because they were large centres would seem to support that - Libor Polasek will save us! - but that's pretty much become boilerplate, which means it should be looked at a bit closer to see if that's the actually the case.
Why revisit this now, when I should be doing a season preview? According to the Professional Talking Heads the upcoming draft is supposed to be the best in over a decade, which is one prompt; another is that I look over Vancouver's 2013 draft and giggle like a Hello Kitty fangirl gone to Japan. I really think there's a good chance of getting 5 solid NHL players out of that one draft, which would be ridiculous.
So the question emerges: how much of that poor drafting history was from the people making the decisions, and how much from the circumstances beyond team control?
The easiest thing to do from here would be to simply count whose players got the most NHL games from Year X to now. Teams who drafted players with a lot of games did better than those who didn't, right? Sure - but that doesn't take into account what scouts were thinking at the time, which can be flat-out wrong. Alexandre Daigle ("I'm glad I got drafted first because no one remembers number two") anyone? It also doesn't take into account players who were scooped as a shot-in-the-dark who simply willed themselves into the league (like 9th round pick Jannik Hansen). This also penalizes scouts for teams who traded away high round positions - it's tougher to get players in later rounds than earlier ones, obviously enough.
So, here's what my terribly non-scientific method was:
First, I only counted the first three rounds, which would mean every team had one (and possibly three) shots at drafting later players and passed them up. Later players can succeed, of course; but if no one expected them to, then you can't really blame a team for passing that prospect by. Tomas Holmstrom seems like an obvious pick now (a career with over 1000 games and 500 points to his credit), but he was taken 257th in his draft year: no one expected those numbers from him back in 1994. Crying because your team didn't take him? Suck it up: neither did 28 other teams, and they all had the chance! Likewise, does anyone think Jussi Jokinen would go 192nd if the 2001 draft were held over again?
Second, the totally arbitrary decision to go recent, but not too recent: 2001-2010. This means teams that weren't getting the 'obvious' players (top 3 overall picks) still had time to develop the ones they did choose without rushing anyone.
Third, I tried to compare players to each other by position and by draft year: putting the picks from 1999 (where even in retrospect Taylor Pyatt was an okay first round pick) in with the class of 2003 (which had 9 skaters with 300+ NHL games and two current starting goalies in the second round) seems a bit unfair. After all, if your management picked up a bunch of high picks for 1999, who cares? Likewise, if you go by points alone then a team that got a couple good defensemen will look worse than one that got one moderately good forward; games played as a basis would discredit goaltenders.
Fourth, that's as much thought as I wanted to put into this. If you have an issue with the methodology or want to point out something I missed or an exception that should be noticed, let me know! This is obviously centered around my favourite team, so other fans will know more about other teams than I will.
I'm going into this expecting the Canucks to compare badly to the league average. But I also want to see if that's just my bias or if the feeling is actually justified. Here we go!
2001: NHL average - 1st: F (444 GP, 251 Points); D (431 GP, 103 Points); G (72 GP)
..........2nd: F (194 GP, 95 Points); D (116 GP, 32 Points); G (148 GP)
..........3rd: F (110 GP, 54 Points); D (70 GP, 16 Points); G (132 GP)
2002: NHL average - 1st: F (361 GP, 177 Points); D (433 GP, 169 Points); G (322 GP)
..........2nd: F (158 GP, 76 Points); D (220 GP, 70 Points); G (49 GP)
..........3rd: F (153 GP, 68 Points); D (25 GP, 2 Points); G (4 GP)
..........Canucks (49) - 2nd: Kiril Koltsov, D (0 GP); Denis Grot, D (0 GP); 3rd: Brent Skinner, D (11 GP, 0 points); Lukas Mensator, G (0 GP)
2003: NHL average - 1st: F (490 GP, 325 Points); D (537 GP, 213 Points); G (531 GP)
..........2nd: F (160 GP, 73 Points); D (169 GP, 64 Points); G (248 GP)
..........3rd: F (80 GP, 23 Points); D (77 GP, 14 Points); G (0 GP)
..........Canucks (23) - 1st: Ryan Kesler, F (655 GP, 393 points); 2nd: Marc-Andre Bernier, F (0 GP)
2004: NHL average - 1st: F (323 GP, 209 Points); D (303 GP, 91 Points); G (104 GP)
..........2nd: F (125 GP, 63 Points); D (87 GP, 27 Points); G (34 GP)
..........3rd: F (97 GP, 37 Points); D (136 GP, 43 Points); G (20 GP)
..........Canucks (26) - 1st: Corey Schneider, G (143 GP); 3rd: Alexander Edler, D (494 GP, 228 points)
2005: NHL average - 1st: F (305 GP, 199 Points); D (177 GP, 49 Points); G (283 GP)
..........2nd: F (156 GP, 79 Points); D (103 GP, 22 Points); G (72 GP)
..........3rd: F (16 GP, 4 Points); D (132 GP,45 Points); G (148 GP)
..........Canucks (10) - 1st: Luc Bourdon, D (36 GP, 2 points); 2nd: Mason Raymond, F (456 GP, 223 points)
..........[Bourdon died at age 21]
2006: NHL average - 1st: F (415 GP, 251 Points); D (63 GP, 22 Points); G (85 GP)
..........2nd: F (132 GP, 52 Points); D (63 GP, 10 Points); G (109 GP)
..........3rd: F (66 GP, 21 Points); D (38 GP, 6 Points); G (107 GP)
2007: NHL average - 1st: F (232 GP, 134 Points); D (141 GP, 41 Points); G (N/A GP)
..........2nd: F (91 GP, 31 Points); D (34 GP, 18 Points); G (0 GP)
..........3rd: F (31 GP, 9 Points); D (51 GP, 12Points); G (0 GP)
2008: NHL average - 1st: F (165 GP, 95 Points); D (272 GP, 114 Points); G (1 GP)
..........2nd: F (48 GP, Points); D (85 GP, 29 Points); G (16 GP)
..........3rd: F (44 GP, 14 Points); D (20 GP, 5 Points); G (1 GP)
2009: NHL average - 1st: F (151 GP, 80 Points); D (163 GP, 52 Points); G (N/A GP)
..........2nd: F (71 GP, 26 Points); D (23 GP, 7 Points); G (33 GP)
..........3rd: F (22 GP, 9 Points); D (24 GP, 8 Points); G (9 GP)
2010: NHL average - 1st: F (112 GP, 57 Points); D (76 GP, 17 Points); G (1 GP)
...........2nd: F (14 GP, 5 Points); D (37 GP, 11 Points); G (1 GP)
...........3rd: F (6 GP, 1 Points); D (10 GP, 3 Points); G (N/A GP)
...........Canucks (115) - None.
Some things surprised me here, like how well the 2005 bunch of forwards stands up to the legendary 2003; or that Marc-Edouard Vlasic has already played 600 games; or that Wayne Simmonds (61st pick) has played the second most games of anyone in the 2007 draft. Oh, and if you have a hard time saying Grant Clitsome's name without smiling, you should be grateful/disappointed Luca Cunti didn't make it to the Bigs.
There are things that what I've done doesn't take into consideration, like seeing how having fewer players in a single category can skew results (especially goaltending). I'm going to let those results stand, as it gives a warning about the risk involved in drafting players. Sure you could get the #1guy; but your three times as likely to get one of the three others who played a single game then vanished...
Also, of course, no mention of how well a team trains up their draft picks into NHLers, which would be an entirely different set of numbers to play with.
Looking at the number this way, the Canucks have drafted... badly. It could certainly be argued that a number of those selections were not very good at all. But it's hardly a nightmare: the worst result was probably in 2002, where they got a total of 11 NHL games out of four picks in the second and third rounds, where there was some talent available. But if you want to complain about 2007, I wouldn't blame you; but bear in mind that not many other players from that year have produced, either. Sure, they could have dropped down and still gotten P.K. Subban; but what if they traded up with Boston to get the 8th spot... and the immortal Zach Hamill?
I do mention where the Canucks have their first pick as a reminder as well that while we might have wanted to get Phil Kessel, he just wasn't going to be available by the 14th pick. Perhaps a closer look at available players at each draft position - say, an aggregate of the ten players following a pick? (And no, I ain't doin' that.)
It's fun to play "What If...?" years after the drafts have happened, but much harder to figure out what the scouts - ALL the scouts - were thinking letting Pekka Rinne fall to the 258th pick. In the mean time, I'm going to have a little more sympathy for people who are trying to figure out if an 18 year old is "coachable" enough to be taken in the 5th round.