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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    Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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    The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

    Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

    Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

    “Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

    The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

    Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

    It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

    Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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    DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

    Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

    Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

    Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

    The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

    More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

    Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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    Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

    De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

    That might not be the case moving forward, however.

    De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

    It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

    Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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    Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

    Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

    But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

    Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

    It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

    “He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

    Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

    As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.