When NHL teams defy draft day conventions

Thumbnail image for fowlercam.jpgPicking players in a typical NHL Entry Draft is akin to choosing your child’s future college by throwing a dart at a globe blindfolded. Rarely are such important decisions made with such little genuine, quantifiable information.

I stumbled across some interesting reads on the subject of players falling in the draft this morning. As you may remember, a few seemingly “blue chip” defensemen fell considerably in the draft; Cam Fowler (pictured to the right) was thought to be a No. 3-quality player who dipped to No. 12 with Anaheim while Brandon Gormley fell to No. 13 with Phoenix. Elliotte Friedman wrote an interesting tidbit about players plummeting compared to their perceived statuses by Central Scouting this weekend. One big factor that doesn’t go into Central Scouting rankings is personal character, Friedman reports.

“(We) stop a bit short of investigating … the personality of the players that are before us,” says Central Scouting Director EJ McGuire. “Rather we err on the performance side. We are more of a talent identifier. I can sketch a depth chart of the Oilers and say that Edmonton should take a right-handed centreman in Tyler Seguin. It’s easy for me to say.”

“But I’m not privy to behind the scenes discussions. Maybe the Oilers have decided that two years down the road they are not going to re-sign someone, or they’re going to make a deal so that someone else is a better fit.”

“Maybe (a team is) looking at a player who is high on talent, short on maturity but it has a mature dressing room,” he added. “The team is thinking, ‘We can put him between this player and this player.’ Conversely, if the dressing room is in disarray the team could be looking for a more mature player.”

Tyler Dellow of the well-respected stats blog MC79 Hockey had an interesting take on the discussion.

I’ve read Gare Joyce’s book in which he talks about scouting at great length and a lot of it just seems like modern day phrenology to me. I sort of think that any reasonably competent scouting operation is able to generally sort guys into roughly where they should be but that it’s really a crap shoot beyond that. All of these things that they look for to differentiate players from one another – Brian Burke apparently liked Ryan Kesler because he put his arm around someone who was having a bad game – just strike me as so much skull reading.

If the NHL as a whole barred scouting, doubled the budget of Central Scouting and forced teams to pick from the CSB list, I’m not convinced that the league would be appreciably worse at identifying players. I don’t think you’d suddenly see Ales Hemsky’s getting drafted at 200 or something like that.

That’s certainly an interesting point and perhaps mostly true, but it would obviously also affect the competitive advantages certain “strong” drafting teams enjoy. What would become of the Detroit Red Wings’ vaunted late picks such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg? Would they simply have been drafted sooner … or not at all? Would a bigger budget have allowed Central Scouting to identify such non-drafted gems as Martin St. Louis?

With very little access to how NHL front offices make their draft day decisions, it’s certainly interesting fodder for a mid-July day dry on hockey news.

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    Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

    Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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    It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

    As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

    Actually …

    If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

    Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

    Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

    The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

    On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

    Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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    Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

    The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

    You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

    At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

    Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

    (Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

    As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

    Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

    Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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    Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

    Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

    Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

    That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

    Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

    Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

    Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

    Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

    Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

    Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

    The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.