The other night, I was watching the Penguins and Canadiens play, and I was talking with a friend about the number of players on those teams that they’ve drafted.
Crosby, Malkin, Goligoski, Talbot, Letang, Staal, Orpik, Kennedy and Fleury were all taken by the Pens via the draft. For the Habs, Plekanec, both Kostitsyns, Subban, Lapierre, Halak, Maxwell, O’Byrne, and Price were all wearing bleu et blanc et rouge on draft day.
And that got me to thinking about the Calgary Flames. Upon doing some research, I quickly wished I’d never undertaken that train of thought.
Of those above listed Penguins and Canadiens, you’ll notice that a healthy portion of them were taken in the last seven drafts, which is convenient because that is also the exact number of drafts Darryl Sutter has run for the Flames, so I figured that number is as good a jumping-off point as we’ll ever find.
To say the results were grisly is to undersell it significantly.
First, let me say in advance that I understand this is more than a little unscientific. For the purposes of this exercise, I only considered the following categories:
- Number of picks by a team from 2003-09
- Number of picks in the first three rounds
- Number of drafted players that have played in the NHL
- Number of games played by drafted players
- Number of points scored by drafted players
What I did not take into consideration was whether the players played those games and scored those points, or even made the NHL in the first place, with the team that drafted them. I also didn’t weight it for the number of first-round picks that have made the NHL versus the number of seventh-round picks, or anything else like that. Those five categories above are what I explored.
And no matter which way you slice it, Calgary is among worst-drafting teams in the NHL since 2003 by a wide margin.
Let’s get the two boring ones out of the way: Number of picks in the last seven drafts, and number of picks in the first three rounds.
As you can see, the league average for total picks over the last five drafts was 54.9, and Calgary was 1.9 picks below that, which is not an unreasonable number. And even in terms of picks in the first three rounds, the league average was 21.8, and Calgary wasn’t that far below the average with 19 picks in the first three rounds. (Note: The league averages were thrown off by the league awarding 68 compensation picks.)
So that’s 53 players for Calgary from 53 rounds (t-18th), and 19 of 21 picks in the first three rounds (21st). Not bad for a team that made the playoffs in each of those five seasons and therefore would have been more likely and/or enticed to move picks for immediate help at the NHL level.
What it says, I think, is that Darryl Sutter does place some amount of value on the draft and while he is willing to deal picks, even high ones, to get players that he thinks can help his team, he’s not John Ferguson, Jr., Cliff Fletcher or Brian Burke, which I think we can agree is a good thing in theory.
But now comes the troubling part.
Of those 53 players Calgary has taken in the last seven drafts, only 12 have made appearances in the NHL. Twelve. Tied for second-worst in the league with Vancouver, but 50 percent better than Detroit (of all teams). Of those 12, only four have been first-round picks, and one of those was Dion Phaneuf. The other three were Mikael Backlund (24 games), Matt Pelech (5) and Kris Chucko (2). Brilliant.
But the news gets much worse when you begin to look at the quality of those five players’ contributions at the NHL level.
That’s right, Calgary is a full 657 games below league average for appearances by players taken in the last seven years. Not only is Calgary so far down that chart they’re nearing crush depth, but they’ve also traded away the only players significantly contributing to that number (Phaneuf at 404 and Dustin Boyd at 210). Of the players still with the organization, Adam Pardy is the runaway appearances leader with 117. Next closest is Backlund’s 24. How can a team draft and manage assets THIS poorly? It’s difficult to believe it would be physically possible.
And there is still one abyss door into which we must gaze.
Yup, those 906 games by 12 players (an average of just 75.5 each) have yielded a whopping 351 points. But to say that’s an average of 29.25 points per player isn’t quite fair, because 238 of those 351 points belong to Phaneuf alone. And 61 more are Boyd’s. Between the players still with Calgary, they have a whopping 34 points. (Although ya never know when Darryl will reacquire Prust!)
To summarize: Jesus Christ.