Friday, June 24, 2016

"They Draft You for What You Will Be in Your Prime"

Random Photo
The quote over on Puck Daddy by Pierre-Luc Dubois (PLD) was "they draft you for what you’re going to be in your prime and not for what you are right now.”

I think that sums up what Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets scouts are projecting, a higher eventual ceiling versus what is available now.    And indeed, that seems to fit the need of the team.  Circumstances, time, and a good post by John Kemp precluded me from writing my third 'Calder Cup Quandary' post about the forwards.  But there it is.  Our minor league team just won a championship, but we're supposed to pick a guy who is going to jump over them because he was the consensus pick?

Pierre-Luc Dubois will come up through the system.  He thrived with a late season position change to center, an area of need for the Blue Jackets, and many teams in the NHL.  He acknowledges he needs more development time.  Jesse Puljujarvi is a right wing, who by benefit of consensus of all the pundits, has been deemed better, and more deserving of a roster spot on the Blue Jackets than Oliver Bjorkstrand.  Except the fact that the pundits never compared Puljujarvi to Bjorkstrand, they just compared him to his peers.  Except perhaps the Blue Jackets scouts.  When viewed through that lens, I am really starting to warm to this pick.

Here is something to think of; Pierre-Luc Dubois will be a Lake Erie Monster.  I like that thought a lot.  They say that Puljujarvi doesn't need to be a Monster, but how does that fit our organization?  So welcome to the Blue Jackets Pierre-Luc.  Do your thing.  Develop at your own pace.  We have roster issues of our own at the NHL level, we don't need you clouding those now.  Bjork, Bjork, Bjork!!!


Hindsight Vision into the Blue Jackets First Round Drafting

Rick Nash selected 1st overall in 2002
If you hold an empty Molson Canadian bottle up to your ear you can hear whispers of Doug MacLean talking about drafting Rick Nash.  Doug may have good reason to brag, Rick Nash still owns the Blue Jackets franchise team records for goals, assists and points. So that one worked out pretty well for Columbus.  How did they do the other years? I've put together a couple of visuals to take a look back and see how the Blue Jackets 1st rounders did throughout their career and who may have been available but overlooked at the draft.

The first chart below shows each of the players drafted in the first round since 2000 and how many points per year they have earned. The "points per year" doesn't evaluate drafted goalies at all and it severely limits the value the true defensemen bring.  I had considered using their All-Star status as a way to measure value but then we start to look at players like Nick Foligno (home team voting) and John Scott (gasp!).  So for now, I am going with points as a way to evaluate how they have done.  If we look at 2002 we see that Rick Nash is at the top of his class and by a decent margin.  A goalie was drafted number 2 overall that year, but many of the other forwards don't seem to have come very close to what Rick has accomplished.  Doug MacLean is a genius*!

We can start to see players like Crosby and Ovechkin really stand out overall.  As we move along to 2007, we see the 2016 Ted Lindsay, Art Ross and Hart Award winner Patrick Kane with a big lead.  You may be surprised to see who has the second most points per year among first round draft picks in 2007.  It is Jakub Voracek. Man, I wish the Jackets still had him!


The next chart takes all of the first round draft picks since 2000 and filters it down to just the players that have averaged over 25 points per year.  This time the chart shows the order in which they were drafted so all of us Blue Jackets fans can have some good referencing material for our complaining.
The first 3 years, there's not too much to chirp about.  The Blue Jackets were a new organization in 2000 and needed a defenseman, in 2001 they decided to lock up a "long-term" goalie with Pascal Leclaire and in 2002 they landed Rick Nash.  Pretty good start.  What could go wrong? In 2004, the NHL had a very deep draft class.  With SO MANY talented players that year and the 4th overall draft pick, the Blue Jackets are sure to get a franchise player.  Unfortunately the Jackets drafted Nikolai Zherdev and missed out on many All-Star players.

In 2004, many would call Picard a bust, but there weren't that many drafted after him that had stellar careers in the NHL.  In 2005 the Blue Jackets drafted Gilbert Brule over Anze Kopitar, yeah, that one still hurts. The next year Derck Brassard was drafted and despite it not working out in Columbus, he has been a solid player in the NHL. Claude Giroux is sitting there at 22, but at the time that would have been quite a stretch to draft him 6th overall. In 2007 Voracek turned out to be one of the best players behind Kane, so kudos to the scouting staff and Scott Howson for that one.

The Blue Jackets could have really benefited by losing more in the 2007 - 2008 season.  A higher draft position could have meant drafting Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, or Alex Petrangelo.  At the 6 spot, the CBJ drafted Nikita Filatov.  I lost one of my favorite hats to one of his hat tricks, and we didn't get much else from him. Colin Wilson and Mikkel Boedker may have been better choices, but those players wouldn't have turned the franchise around in short order.  The Jackets made the playoffs in 2008 - 2009, so their 2009 draft spot was 21.  John Moore seemed to be a good choice at that position. The next year the Jackets selected Ryan Johansen 4th overall and he developed into a terrific player.  The Blue Jackets traded away their 2011 first round pick (Boone Jenner was an early 2nd round pick) and 2012 was the year they drafted Ryan Murray. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 drafts are a little too recent to draw that many insights from.


After all of this, I have learned something.  I have been holding in my mind a perception of the Blue Jackets inept 1st round drafting abilities. If I'm ever caught in a bar discussion over CBJ draft picks, I'm very quick to point out 2003 and how HUGE of a miss that year was.  Overall, the Jackets haven't done too bad considering.  Scouting talent and predicting future success is not easy and even after I look back over 15 years of drafts with a skeptical eye, they did all right. The recent draft picks are doing well over at the Lake Erie Monsters, so maybe there is hope after all.

The Blue Jackets have the 3rd overall pick in the Draft tonight so tune in and see who gets selected. Hopefully in a few years we won't be talking about the players that the Jackets should have drafted in that spot.

* not actually a genius

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Calder Cup Quandary: The Defensemen

Werenski Takes A Twirl On the Big Board at the Q
One of the rumblings that will arise out of the Calder Cup Championship won by the Lake Erie Monsters is the lasting impact it will have on the Blue Jackets Defensive Corps.  While the goal tenders played well down the stretch, the Defense played just as well, blocking shots, sweeping away rebounds, skating the puck out of trouble.    They deserve a lot of credit as well.  Yet that performance raises interesting questions moving forward into the 2016-17 season for the Columubus Blue Jackets.

First and foremost is the hiring of Brad Shaw as Associate Coach to replace Craig Hartsburg.  Shaw will run the defense, and it is widely reported that the lure of blue chip prospects like Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, and Zach Werenski are a big part of why he came to Columbus.  But, Werenski did not win the Calder Cup single handedly, and the Blue Jackets have a full roster of 1 way contract defensemen already signed.  So let's ponder this a bit.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Calder Cup Quandary: The Goal Tenders

The Goal Tending situation for the Blue Jackets just got complicated, in a good way.  Anton Forsberg just served notice that he is a champion goal tender, setting up, as Aaron Portzline put it, 'an epic battle in training camp' among the goal tenders.  This is such a great thing for the organization that it is hard to put into words.

When Joonas Korpisalo was sent down from the Blue Jackets at the end of the season, he was given the net in Lake Erie, and Jarmo pretty much assured him that if Bob got injured next year, he would come up from Lake Erie to take Bob's place, and CMac would remain the backup (IMO).  However, Korpisalo had the misfortune to lose a playoff game, thereby opening the door for Forsberg, who promptly went 9-0 to seal a Calder Cup Championship.

The currency among organizational goal tenders just became wins.  Past Vezina trophies do not count.  If you want the net, you need to win.  And the organization now has three goal tenders with the pedigree to win in the NHL.  Forsberg has not had the greatest of luck at the NHL, but he was outstanding he went down to replace Brad Thiessen (sp? Sorry!) who did a stellar job coming up from the ECHL while Forsberg and Korpisalo were in the NHL.  Forsberg took his game to a new level down the stretch and was instrumental in getting the Monsters into the playoffs.  Korpisalo won the first playoff series, but faltered against Grand Rapids, and Forsberg took the net and refused to let it go.

Coming into next year, with an expansion draft looming, this young tandem looks really strong.  Bob will be pushed this year, no doubt about it, and a shaky start will result in a loss of the net in rapid order by any of the goal tenders.   The currency is now wins.  Anton Forsberg has shaken the foundations of the organization with his performance.  You want the net?  You gotta win.  And how awesome is that for the fans?


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Calder Cup Champion Lake Erie Monsters

Last night the Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup as the AHL Champions by sweeping the Hershey Bears.  Oliver Bjorkstrand, the playoff MVP, won the game by bouncing a greasy goal off the Hershey goal tender Peters with 1.9 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.  A sell out crowd of 19,665 watched the Monsters bring the Calder Cup back to Cleveland for the first time since 1964.

In an exceptionally tightly played game by both squads, someone had to lose.  There were a few times when I felt Hershey started to tilt the ice their way, especially in the third period, but the Monsters seemed to always respond.

To Captain Ryan Craig, Coach Jared Bednar, and all the Lake Erie Monsters who flew so high this year, a heartfelt THANK YOU!  You finished the job you started on, and gave us all a ton of things to think about in this off season.