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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The cost of poor drafting

Aaron Portzline has an excellent piece up over at the Columbus Dispatch website about how the Blue Jackets' 2003 draft shaped the franchise over the past eight years- and not for the better- after the team spent its first two selections on Nikolay Zherdev and Dan Fritsche.

You can read the full story by clicking on this link.

Here are some highlights (or lowlights if you're a Jackets fan- and we won't bang on him too much for calling one of the Hart Trophy finalists "Chris" Perry as opposed to Corey):

To look back on that draft from the Blue Jackets' perspective is to wince and groan. It was hard to swing and miss in the first two rounds of 2003, but the Jackets did it twice.

While Philadelphia drafted centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Anaheim selected forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Chris (sic) Perry, and Nashville landed defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber - all of them All-Stars and game-changers - the Blue Jackets spent their first two picks on wingers Nikolay Zherdev and Dan Fritsche.

This is particularly salient analysis from Mr. Portzline:

The Detroit Red Wings have long approached the draft with a philosophy that might be surprising. Red Wings scouts are implored to evaluate prospects with three criteria in mind:
• Competitive spirit: How hard does the player play? Is winning hockey games the most important thing to him?
• Hockey sense: Does he make smart plays with the puck before line changes, read situations wisely?
• Skill: Can he skate, dangle and shoot?
The Wings' drafting success has been remarkable, considering they haven't picked higher than 21st in the first round since 1991. Yet, they've landed Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round (1998), Henrik Zetterberg in the seventh (1999) and Johan Franzen in the third (2004), to mention a few.

Bottom line: Success in the modern NHL is largely defined by how well a team builds its core through the draft. The days of compensating for draft mistakes via free agency are long gone in this era of cost certainty.

If the rumors are true and Columbus ends up trading its eighth overall selection to Philadelphia for Carter, then it will be with more than a little irony that we make the following observation: Columbus will once again be eschewing the concept of building its team through the draft in favor of a quicker fix from a player it could have selected for itself eight years ago.

Folks can only wonder what might have been if the Blue Jackets had selected Getzlaf, Perry or Richards in the top-five and then Weber with the second-rounder. They would have gotten killed for it in late June '03- but time would have proven them to be the draft's big winners.

It's just one more reason for the absurdity of declaring who wins and who loses the day after- the jury's always out for at least five years.

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