Drafting the Troika - Flames and Three First Rounders

RexLibris
April 11 2013 02:08PM

 

 

Since 1995 only eight teams have had three or more 1st round picks in single year. I decided to take a look at those teams, the players chosen, the draft year in question, and then find the most appropriate historical fit for the Flames current situation.

By chronological order, those teams are the Avalanche in 1998 with 4 picks, the Islanders in 1999 with another 4, then the Capitals in 2002 with three, L.A. in 2003 with three, the Caps again in 2004 with three, the Oilers and Blues both in 2007 with three each, then the Panthers in 2010 with three and finally the Senators in 2011 with three.

Here is a breakdown of those teams and their picks:

The closest historical match to the Flames current situation is perhaps the Panthers in 2010 or the Capitals in 2004, where the teams drafted in the top three and then had two "depth picks" around the bottom ten. That being said, based on some recent reports on this draft class (something about which I will elaborate on later) it is difficult to believe that the Flames can realistically expect to find three bona fide NHL players with all three 1st round picks.

The history of teams picking more than twice in the 1st round suggests that the best case scenario is that the team finds a top six player with their first pick and then uncovers a potential bottom six forward and 2nd pairing defenseman with the latter two.

 

Pulling the Hat Trick is Hard

The best result from any of these teams was probably the 1998 Colorado Avalanche who managed to essentially "hit" on all four picks. The worst is perhaps the Islanders in 1999 who found a top six player in Connolly, then selected an eventual 4th line player in Pyatt 8th overall and essentially blew the final two picks. It should be noted, however, that 1999 was a relatively poor draft year with only 15% of selected prospects eventually becoming NHL players – the league average between 1995 and 2006 was 18.5%.

Even in the fabled 2003 draft, where the Kings had three picks at 13, 26 and 27, they found only one high-end NHL player in Dustin Brown. Of the remaining two, one is a decent defenseman while the other is plying his trade overseas in Zurich of the Swiss League.

The evidence would suggest that having a significant number of picks in any given round is not a guarantee of success, but that it is important to hit on the ones you have, rather than approach the draft board with a sense of luxury or recklessness brought on by a surplus of selections.

 

Hitting the Draft Table with Aces in the Sleeve

Teams have in the past seemed to believe that getting a number of 1st round selections will allow them to garner a windfall of talent that will shortcut a long rebuilding process. Historically this has proven to be a false belief. Rebuilds take time, patience and development. A team that feels they can do an end-run around the process through the draft probably doesn't have the wherewithal or infrastructure to do it well. Only one team has managed to draft well enough in this situation such that they were able to find success through it (the Avalanche) and it had as much to do with their existing roster talent at the time and the ability to bring along an influx of new talent in a supporting role. They also got incredibly lucky at the draft.

Of the teams listed, L.A. is the only other team to have won a Cup in recent years, and that roster had only one player from that draft windfall still on it in Brown.

Don't misunderstand this article to mean that I believe that multiple picks in any given round is a bad strategy. It isn't. But draft boards need to be run in such a way that every pick needs to be the concensus best projectible player available. Too often when teams have multiple picks in a round you can see the scouts or GMs making selections almost as though they were inviting failure, be it through reach or off-the-board picks. After picking a potential star, teams might start "picking for need" instead of looking for viable assets.

If the Flames take the best player they feel is available with their first pick, then wait and cross off the names of others selected to take the next best player still available with their second and third picks, each time reassessing the players available, and stay away from the temptation of drafting according to present need, then they may find some good players.

The danger lies in that Feaster and the Flames management seem intent on taking these three picks and using them to forestall any pending rebuild. The language and messages coming from the organization are that they will accept this one year, maximize their time at the draft (be it by selection or to trade) and expect to return to the NHL's inner circle the following season.

We will have to wait and see if this approach bears fruit.

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#1 schevvy
April 11 2013, 02:14PM
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I think this is by far Rex's shortest article... :)

Honestly, I'm very terrified of becoming like the Oilers. The similarities are there. They had 3 1st's when they sucked in 06-07. We have three 1st rounders this year. Edwards wants this team in the playoffs next year. Yikes.

Please, please do not be like the Oilers.

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#2 marty
April 11 2013, 02:21PM
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i really hope that the flames get the first one right. with the other 2 i have a few thoughts. 1 - package a late rounder and a player for a young player from another team. Who i don't know. i keep hearing coutourier is potentially available in philly, Why? i don't know but if that or something to the effect was available getting a bonified young nhler for a first takes the guess work out of it and helps the team now. 2 - if possible package the 2 later firsts to move up? 3 - keeping them and using them is not a bad option but i think i prefer the other 2 options but who knows.

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#3 SmellOfVictory
April 11 2013, 02:24PM
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The Flames' first pick should be as close to a slam dunk as it could be; they're almost certainly picking top 5, and the entire top 5 in terms of rankings is almost guaranteed NHL success.

I'm curious as to what you're saying about this draft, however. Everything I've heard on it is that it's deep as crap in the first round.

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#4 shutout
April 11 2013, 02:28PM
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Washington is actually quite amazing. In the years from 2002-2006 (5 years) they had 11 first round draft picks, with 2003 being the lone year with only 1 pick. That is how you do an organizational rebuild. Two out of three years they had three picks in the first round. Amazing that the best year for the draft in 20 years (2003) had to be when they only had one pick.

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#5 kittensandcookies
April 11 2013, 02:30PM
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Presuming the Blues make the playoffs, package the other two firsts and try to move up. Or maybe take one of those firsts + the second (do we have one this year?!?) to move up, since Pitt's first pick is going to be so close to our second pick.

Anyhoo I'm not expecting miracles from Feaster.

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#6 shutout
April 11 2013, 02:38PM
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This draft looks to be at a high end for the top ten picks and then another group of players from 11-25, then it is "deep" in going from 26-90. The more you read about the prospects the more it looks like some very specific tiers. Though the middle tier might be more in how I would rank players than the general view of the prospects because there is quite a swing from the #12 through the second round in how prospects are ranked by Button, MacKenzie, Central scouting, or ISS. Mid teens for one guy is late 20's for another.

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#7 shutout
April 11 2013, 02:46PM
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"Don't misunderstand this article to mean that I believe that multiple picks in any given round is a bad strategy. It isn't. "

The term "crap shoot" for the draft is only used by people that don't know what they are doing. There are a lot of variables in drafting young players, but certain teams are able to consistently do it well, and others are horrible at it. The first round seems to cause organizations to swing for the fences more and look at potential whereas in the 2nd-4th rounds they are looking for players with skills that can play in the league.

If you are able to draft well then having multiple picks in the first round should enable your franchise to develop a base of young talent in one year that might take three years doing it one pick at a time. That has to accelerate the process.

It is like playing poker. If you are good at it you know its a skill and something that can be won at. If you are not good then it is just a game based on lady luck and that your outcome is left to the fate of the cards.

That is why if it were me and we secured the first pick and Columbus ended up around #8 I would swap picks with them in exchange for the Rangers and Kings first round picks. The talent difference between Jones and Lindholm, Monahan, or Nichushkin is not that much compared to the top six or nine talent that I can bring in with the extra two first round picks and probably a good prospect in their system.

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#8 shutout
April 11 2013, 02:51PM
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"Too often when teams have multiple picks in a round you can see the scouts or GMs making selections almost as though they were inviting failure, be it through reach or off-the-board picks."

Agree with this completely and have to logical reason why teams do this. You are right Rex that they will make a good smart safe pick and then treat the other picks like they are leprechaun gold that has no real benefit but to spend it haphazardly. The organizations that tend to do this style of drafting do it the majority of their draft years with their first round picks regardless of how many that they have. They are like teens that dont understand the value of money other than what new toys they can spend it on.

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#9 SeanCharles
April 11 2013, 03:15PM
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No matter what happens come draft time, I am extremely excited...

3 first round picks, tons of capspace (and willingness to spend to it), as well as the cap going down provides Calgary with an unprecidented opportunity to make some organizational defining moves...and no matter how it pans out we will have at least one top end prospect to add to the cupboards

Can't wait

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#10 icedawg_42
April 11 2013, 03:19PM
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This write up pretty much sums up why I would have preferred Feaster go after high(ish) end prospects instead of picks during the Iginla and Bouwmeester trades.

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#11 Fats
April 11 2013, 03:21PM
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Pens pick doesn't mean that we will be picking late... If they are booted in the first round that pick can be alright.

Lets hope Pens and Blues are out early.

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#12 shutout
April 11 2013, 03:32PM
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Best case scenarios:

Calgary finishes with the fifth worst record and wins the draft lottery to pick first overall. Based on the fact that our veterans are held out due to injuries and our young players play well and try to showcase themselves for next year. First overall pick gives us all the options on who to pick and what trades are available.

Philadelphia finishes in 7th spot. This provides the potential to do a trade to swap picks and get Couturier. While still giving us a chance at Lindholm or Monahan.

Columbus finishes in 8th spot. This provides the potential to do a trade to swap picks and acquire the first round picks from the Rangers and Kings. Still gives us the opportunity to draft Lindholm or Monahan.

St. Louis makes the playoffs in 8th place and then loses out in the first round. Higher the pick the better, and they deserve to lose in four straight because Calgary got raped in the Bouwmeester deal.

Pittsburgh losses out in the first round. Higher the pick the better, and Iginla deserves to lose out in the first round after deciding he wanted to go to Pittsburgh when the best hockey deal for the Flames would have been to Boston.

Boston and Toronto meet in the conference finals with Toronto losing because of bad goaltending. This is for Kiprusoff because he would be able to look at this and realize with regret that had he gone to Toronto and returned assets to us he would have been able to play better than Reimer and help the Leafs get to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Boston wins the Stanley Cup. This one is also for Iginla to realize that he completely chose the wrong horse to back and should have let the organization make the best hockey deal.

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#13 beloch
April 11 2013, 03:35PM
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The biggest potential pratfall for the Flames at this year's draft will be picking based on NHL readiness. Some players in the first round are going to have less potential upside but will be older, bigger, and clearly closer to joining a NHL roster. There will be pressure to select players who will contribute sooner rather than later if the goal is to return to the playoffs in 1-2 seasons. Hopefully the Flames can stick to the same philosophy that brought in Gaudreau and Jankowski when spending their late first-round picks.

I'm not sure Jankowski will be a good player. It's still far too early to tell. However, I liked the pick because it prioritized long-term upside over the short-term. Outside of the top few picks, most safe bets seem to guarantee only mediocrity.

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#14 suba steve
April 11 2013, 03:48PM
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@shutout

"It is like playing poker. If you are good at it you know its a skill and something that can be won at. If you are not good then it is just a game based on lady luck and that your outcome is left to the fate of the cards."

But, like poker, sometimes the best player at the table gets beat (often actually). The draft IS a "crap-shoot" because even the best scouting staffs in the league don't bat anywhere near 1000, even if you only look at the first round.

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#15 Peter
April 11 2013, 03:56PM
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Good article. A clear reason why one draft cannot build a team overnight. My thinking is that if the lottery puts the Flames outside the top 3, they will trade their 1st and Pittsburgh's 1st to move up.

I believe they will take the best player available at their pick, like they did last year...at least that is my hope.

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#16 season not played
April 11 2013, 03:57PM
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Rex, Please check your facts on the LA Kings 2003 draft. That should go for all commenters who want to blog on these sites. Check your facts. That is all. Thanks

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#17 McRib
April 11 2013, 04:06PM
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LA could have done a much better job drafting in 2003. Considering they just passed over Corey Perry & Loui Eriksson. If the Flames pick wisely we could walk away with some very good talent.

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#18 suba steve
April 11 2013, 04:07PM
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@season not played

Granted, we all make mistakes. At least give a hint as to where Rex may have slipped up.

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#19 T&A4Flames
April 11 2013, 04:13PM
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Nice article Rex, even though you're raining on our parade a bit. ;)

I would have liked more elaboration on the strength of those drafts. I've really only started paying attention to the draft over the last 3 years. And it was really only last year that I looked into them with more detail.

It'll be interesting.

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#20 Lober
April 11 2013, 04:15PM
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I hope Iginla wins the cup more then getting a higher draft pick... Am I with the majority or minority on this one?

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#21 season not played
April 11 2013, 04:18PM
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Boyle, Brian. Boyle, Dan.

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#22 Fats
April 11 2013, 04:19PM
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Minority.... Big time!!!

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#23 suba steve
April 11 2013, 04:28PM
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season not played wrote:

Boyle, Brian. Boyle, Dan.

Unless Rex fixed it really quick after you posted, I think that he is correct. Brian Boyle drafted in 2003 by LAK (26th overall).

At least he is correct in his chart anyway.

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#24 season not played
April 11 2013, 04:35PM
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@suba steve

Even in the fabled 2003 draft, where the Kings had three picks at 13, 26 and 27, they found only one high-end NHL player in Dustin Brown. Of the remaining two, one is a decent defenseman while the other is plying his trade overseas in Zurich of the Swiss League.

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#25 shutout
April 11 2013, 04:37PM
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Lober wrote:

I hope Iginla wins the cup more then getting a higher draft pick... Am I with the majority or minority on this one?

Because he did not let the hockey department determine which was the best deal for the hockey operations I would have to think that you are in the minority. Hope the Penguins lose out in 4 straight in the first round.

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#26 beloch
April 11 2013, 04:41PM
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There's an interesting article about Hartley in the Herald today.

http://www.calgaryherald.com/sports/hockey/calgary-flames/Johnson+Candid+Hartley+perspective+optimism/8224698/story.html

“For myself, there was no doubt in my mind it was something I wanted to see through. I still feel that way. I understand that hockey goes in cycles. I knew I was getting an aging team. We would try to make a run to see if we could get it turned around the way it was and if it didn’t work, we’d go to Plan B.”

The article makes it sound like Hartley came to Calgary with the clear mission to take one last crack at the playoffs with the vets and then see the rebuild through. If true, it's evidence that the org had some idea of what was coming and that Hartley might be around for a few years.

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#27 McRib
April 11 2013, 04:58PM
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season not played wrote:

Boyle, Brian. Boyle, Dan.

Rex had it right its B. Boyle but he actually spelt Tamebellini wrong, Haha. It's Tambellini!!

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#28 dotfras
April 11 2013, 04:58PM
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I trust the guys in charge to make the correct picks.

Depending on where we fall determines our philosophy for the draft.

If we win the lottery, take the best player. If its Jones, use your other picks to fill the other organizational holes, by either drafting the BEST PLAYER available, or trading picks for players.

I think Couturier could be had for a 1st & player.

Grabo, Frolik or any other of those guys would cost less if available.

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#29 McRib
April 11 2013, 05:02PM
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How about Stephen Weiss? No one is mentioning him, although I'm hesitant of another Florida Free Agent! Hahah. Same with Toronto! There are going to be a lot of teams up against the cap this summer would rather acquire players who have been apart of winning teams.

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#30 season not played
April 11 2013, 05:06PM
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McRib wrote:

Rex had it right its B. Boyle but he actually spelt Tamebellini wrong, Haha. It's Tambellini!!

Oh my.

Brian Boyle is not a defenceman.

Neither is Jeff Tambellini.

Nor Dustin Brown.

Have a nice afternoon everyone.

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#31 Willi P
April 11 2013, 05:06PM
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dotfras wrote:

I trust the guys in charge to make the correct picks.

Depending on where we fall determines our philosophy for the draft.

If we win the lottery, take the best player. If its Jones, use your other picks to fill the other organizational holes, by either drafting the BEST PLAYER available, or trading picks for players.

I think Couturier could be had for a 1st & player.

Grabo, Frolik or any other of those guys would cost less if available.

Re: Couturier; I think that really depends on which 1st and which player.

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#32 McRib
April 11 2013, 05:08PM
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@season not played

Did you see who LA passed over for Boyle & Tambellini?? The next pick was Corey Perry. Then Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Matt Carle, David Backes, Jim Howard and Maxim Lapierre all went in the second round.

Honestly if the Flames hit two of the three picks that will be more more than we have gotten out of the draft for the last two decades!! Our second pick is also a lot higher than LAs was. I actually like what Feaster/Weisbrod have done in the draft the past two years!!!

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#33 suba steve
April 11 2013, 05:14PM
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@season not played

GREAT catch, think you better take your meds though.

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#39 Willi P
April 11 2013, 05:37PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I'm working on something about this draft and the perceived depth.

Probably once the season ends. The actual season, not like when the Flames are mathematically eliminated. ;-)

Probably once the season ends. The actual season, not like when the Oilers (who have only 2 more wins than the Flames) are mathematically eliminated. ;-)

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#40 Justin Azevedo
April 11 2013, 05:50PM
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@Lober

agree

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#41 Mangotanker
April 11 2013, 06:09PM
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@shutout

It was Feaster's decision to go back to Iginla and ask where he wanted to go, wasn't it? And that was after Iggy had given him the list of teams.

And Iginlas list may have been just 1 team, but the Flames said it had more so that they could leech some more assets out of Pitt. We really can't be certain

I want Iggy to win a cup. Thats it, thats all.

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#42 dotfras
April 11 2013, 06:20PM
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RexLibris wrote:

"I think Couturier could be had for a 1st & player."

But what kind of player, and do the Flames actually have said asset?

The Oilers would love Couturier too, but the Flyers like size and neither of those teams have much useful size to spare.

Timmy Jackman baby!

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#43 clYDE
April 11 2013, 06:34PM
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shutout wrote:

Best case scenarios:

Calgary finishes with the fifth worst record and wins the draft lottery to pick first overall. Based on the fact that our veterans are held out due to injuries and our young players play well and try to showcase themselves for next year. First overall pick gives us all the options on who to pick and what trades are available.

Philadelphia finishes in 7th spot. This provides the potential to do a trade to swap picks and get Couturier. While still giving us a chance at Lindholm or Monahan.

Columbus finishes in 8th spot. This provides the potential to do a trade to swap picks and acquire the first round picks from the Rangers and Kings. Still gives us the opportunity to draft Lindholm or Monahan.

St. Louis makes the playoffs in 8th place and then loses out in the first round. Higher the pick the better, and they deserve to lose in four straight because Calgary got raped in the Bouwmeester deal.

Pittsburgh losses out in the first round. Higher the pick the better, and Iginla deserves to lose out in the first round after deciding he wanted to go to Pittsburgh when the best hockey deal for the Flames would have been to Boston.

Boston and Toronto meet in the conference finals with Toronto losing because of bad goaltending. This is for Kiprusoff because he would be able to look at this and realize with regret that had he gone to Toronto and returned assets to us he would have been able to play better than Reimer and help the Leafs get to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Boston wins the Stanley Cup. This one is also for Iginla to realize that he completely chose the wrong horse to back and should have let the organization make the best hockey deal.

Trade that pick for Couturier? Why? He has 3 goals.

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#44 Kevin R
April 11 2013, 06:38PM
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Fats wrote:

Pens pick doesn't mean that we will be picking late... If they are booted in the first round that pick can be alright.

Lets hope Pens and Blues are out early.

I will pick both of these teams in my playoff pool & truly put the kiss of death on them.

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#45 schevvy
April 11 2013, 06:42PM
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Lober wrote:

I hope Iginla wins the cup more then getting a higher draft pick... Am I with the majority or minority on this one?

I agree with you. Would love to see Iggy win a Cup. Besides, the difference between picking 25/26 or 30th is not that great.

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#46 Victoria Flames Fan
April 11 2013, 06:57PM
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Grab Jones, Droun, Mackinon, Barkov with the 1st and Petan with one of the latter picks.

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#47 loudogYYC
April 11 2013, 07:08PM
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@clYDE

Cause Couturier hasn't been playing offensive minutes in Philly this season. They've been burying him and he's handling it like a champ. 32% offensive zone starts make goals and assists a little tougher, so as long Hartley doesn't do the same with him here, he would/could be that big top 2 centre we need.

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#48 Primo
April 11 2013, 07:17PM
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RexLibris wrote:

"I think Couturier could be had for a 1st & player."

But what kind of player, and do the Flames actually have said asset?

The Oilers would love Couturier too, but the Flyers like size and neither of those teams have much useful size to spare.

No thanks Mr. Sutter...you have had your time here trading our future...bye!

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#49 clYDE
April 11 2013, 07:49PM
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loudogYYC wrote:

Cause Couturier hasn't been playing offensive minutes in Philly this season. They've been burying him and he's handling it like a champ. 32% offensive zone starts make goals and assists a little tougher, so as long Hartley doesn't do the same with him here, he would/could be that big top 2 centre we need.

Not saying he is no good but I sure would not give up a top 5 pick for him. I don't see him as a top 3 player and not worth the risk of giving one up.

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#50 loudogYYC
April 11 2013, 07:55PM
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@clYDE

You wouldn't swap top 10 picks with Philly if they included Couts? They're 25th in the league and losing to Ottawa as we speak.

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