A decade of NHL Draft debates

lehtonen.jpgDani Toth brought up an interesting “What if?” question today. She asked if the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted the right man when they chose Steven Stamkos instead of Drew Doughty. Depending on how you look at it, it’s a grizzly bear of a question: do you go with the electric goal scorer or the Norris-nominated defenseman? Ultimately, it’s like choosing between bacon and chocolate: do I want sweet delicious or salty delicious? (Wait, is it? Eh, let’s just call it good thing or other good thing …)

Anyway, it had me thinking: what are some of the great – recent – NHL Draft debates? This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but instead a look at some of the more interesting recent decisions from 2000-2009.

2009: Hedman, Tavares or Duchene?: Obviously, the jury’s still out on this one but Matt Duchene had the best rookie year. All three have a chance to be the best when it’s all said-and-done.

2006: Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Backstrom, Kessel, Toews: Wow, talk about a hindsight-heavy question. Should the St. Louis Blues have taken Nicklas Backstrom or Jonathan Toews instead? Is a Stanley Cup enough to justify the fact that the Penguins could have drafted a “bigger star” instead of Staal? This draft shows that some years can produce better talent at #5 than others do at #1.

2003: M-A Fleury, Eric Staal, Vanek, Parise, Carter, Getzlaf: Speaking of loaded drafts, 2003 was just ridiculous. Zach Parise went at #17 … it’s not impossible that he’d go around that spot if the entire league was re-drafted. Fleury’s had an up-and-down career, but a Cup makes it difficult to be overly critical. Still, with the likes of Eric Staal, Parise and Getzlaf in that entry draft, it’s natural to wonder “what if?” (Then again, this gets into the danger of “replacing” … something I’ll discuss in greater detail on a rainy day.)

2002: Nash, Lehtonen, Bouwmeester, Semin, Ward: This draft might top the List of Atlanta Thrashers Regrets. Instead of landing Cup-winning goalie Cam Ward or a productive player such as Jay Bouwmeester or Alex Semin, they ended up with the mercurial Kari Lehtonen. Ouchies.

2000: Dipietro, Heatley, Gaborik: Another indication that drafting a goalie too high can lead to regrets. Then again, Gaborik and Heatley aren’t with their first teams anyway, so maybe there would have been heartache for the Islanders anyway?

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    Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

    Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

    With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

    It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

    Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

    The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

    Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

    If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

    Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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    Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

    An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

    After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

    You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

    Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

    Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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    Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

    Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

    Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

    Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

    Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

    An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

    Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

    Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

    Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

    “It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

    Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

    People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.