The One That Got Away?


Phoenix Coyotes' first pick Brandon Gormley adjust his cap during the first round of the 2010 NHL hockey draft in Los Angeles, California June 25, 2010.   REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)


Many Calgary Flames fans were over the moon when the team acquired Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes 15 months ago.  The tone of Flames fans changed from sweet to sour, though, as Jokinen played parts of two seasons wiht the team.  And that sour taste may have gotten a whole lot harder to take after the first round of the NHL Draft concluded on Friday night.

The deal that sent Jokinen to Calgary (along with a 2009 third rounder) saw Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust change locales, and also included a first round draft pick in either 2009 or 2010.  Last summer, the Flames elected to keep their draft pick, using it to select defenceman Tim Erixon 23rd overall.  That means the Coyotes took Calgary’s 2010 first rounder, which they used on Friday night.

Who did the Coyotes select?  A guy who fell a whole lot further than most people though, in the form of smooth skating Brandon Gormley.  The Moncton Wildcats defenceman is coming off a 43 point year in the QMJHL, just his second Major Junior season.  The book on Gormley is impressive, and it’s topped by one word: smart.  He’s one of the savviest players in the draft, a kid who thinks the game well beyond his age and experience.  Yes, he’s a good skater, and yes he can handle the puck…but the way he reads plays is why International Scouting Services ranked him number three among all skaters.

The fact that a big name, highly touted blueliner like Gormley going to the Coytes with a Flames draft pick has irked more than a few fans in Calgary.  And it’s no knock on Tim Erixon.  The 19 year old has played parts of three seasons in the Swedish Elite League, appearing in 45 games this past season.  While posting 13 points, Erixon also increased responsibility and seemed to handle it properly.

No, this isn’t bugging Flames fans because of who was picked in 2009.  It isn’t so much a "you should have given them 2009 not 2010" from what I’m hearing.  I guess you can understand Sutter’s thinking…he felt his team was going to be a top flight squad, therefore making 2010’s pick less valuable than it ended up being.  From what I’m hearing, this ends up being just another solid indicator that the Olli Jokinen trade was just not good.

Jokinen never performed here, and far too often was a liability on the ice.  The team gave up two well liked forwards in Lombardi and Prust, and they also ended up giving up a top 15 pick.  The fact that it turned into a pretty hyped player is just icing on a cake that nobody wants to eat.

  • Pat

    It was rough watching the draft knowing the Flames had no picks and could do nothing while teams in our conference were loading up on players and the TSN announcers kept mentioning that the good teams are built by the draft but maybe Sutter can pull something off yet.

  • Bob

    That was pretty hard to watch, though I think most will admit it was a surprise to see Gormley still available. Should the Flames falter again this season, what transpired yesterday will become another nail in Darryl’s coffin.

  • Bob

    Well what can I say……

    The city up north is building another dynasty and the flames continue to exist in mediocrity, but heh – the flames make money right?? As I see it, we’re morphing into the Leafs-West.

  • Bob

    Was Gormley always pegged as top5 talent in this draft class? I’m no draft junkie but I know that Fowler was consensus #3 at the start of the season and fell due to one season of play.

    One season!

    And you know that Gormley probably moves up when Fowler moves down so the former owes a bit of his hype due to the latter.

    Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that teenagers aren’t immune to the vagaries of luck. You hear Bob Mac or some such “expert” talk about how so-and-so got from late-first/early-second to top 5/10/15 due to one month of play down the stretch. That’s just insane, and not at all based in reality.

    So forgive me if I’m not too torn up about losing out on #13. I’d be a bit more pissed if I lost out on #2 like Toronto did – and even then, they got a sure-thing talent in Kessel vs. an almost-sure-thing in Seguin. It’s not the shellacking it’s being made out to be.

    (Though the former – Kessel – still has some serious steps to go. Still, he can play at this level)

  • @ RO

    Gormley was a top 5 guy on many lists, top 10 on pretty much every one of them. At least when it comes to consensus lists and such (which, frankly, tend to outperform many teams in the long run).

    Who knows how Gormley will turn out, but right now it looks like a lost opportunity.

  • Kent:

    Gormley was a top 5 guy on many lists, top 10 on pretty much every one of them. At least when it comes to consensus lists and such (which, frankly, tend to outperform many teams in the long run).

    Definitely at the end of the year, or that’s what I understand from Bob Mac’s list. How about the beginning though?

    That’s what I am trying to get at I guess. As I understand it, one year of teenage play (which is usually based on a look at counting stats) and the rankings of the not-sure-things can shift around dramatically. Especially for imagined faults, like say that Kabanov guy.

    If counting stats are the evaluator of performance then one had better have a magnifying glass and more than one brick’s worth of data. For all I know the scouts actually have scoring chances and context of icetime handy, but the conduits between them and us (i.e. Bob Mac and his cohorts) sure don’t speak that language.

    Note: this is also why I wish the Oil had picked Seguin. Track record matters, Hall had it.

    • Gormley was 7th at the start of the year in September according to McKenzie. He was also ranked first overall in the QMJHL according to central scouting in November. He’s been on the radar for awhile.

      As for scoring chances and context of ice time, when I read “Future Greats and Heartbreaks” no one was speaking this language, at least not with Joyce. That’s not to say that it’s not there in NHL scouting, but there was a lot more mentions of “big performances”, “raw skills” as well as examinations of each kids background and personality.

  • Gormley was 7th at the start of the year in September according to McKenzie. He was also ranked first overall in the QMJHL according to central scouting in November. He’s been on the radar for awhile.

    In that case – perhaps I should be less skeptical about Gormley in specific. Though as a D-man… well, let’s just say I think a lot of those top10 teams made the right choice passing on D’s to take F’s.

    Still, color me rather unimpressed with the general movement of prospects based on one season or half a season of data.

    To highlight this – I was looking for the streaming thingy for the second round onwards, and came across their rankings for the NA skaters.

    Now I know from reading LT that the list to go on is Bob Mac’s, still from reading the list their “midterm” to “final” rankings had Seguin and Hall flip-flopping 1-2.

    Now we’re talking the two best players in the class of 2010, and somehow half a season was enough to separate one from the other enough to switch their rankings.

    That’s crazy, that’s like saying half a season or one good playoff run is going to separate Crosby from Ovechkin. And the real nut-kick is that people do exactly that, and even worse sometimes (e.g. three games – the DET/PIT game 7, the CAN/RUS semis and the CAN/USA gold medal – are enough to crown Crosby best player in the world).


  • No argument, I think scouting is still more “art” than “science” in the NHL. Frankly, we have no idea if the Flames would have taken Gormley even if they had kept the pick. They’ve gone “off-board” more than once in the last 7 seasons. Actually, my bet is Sutter trades down to gain an extra second rounder.

    With all the tools and info available to us now, however, Gormley looks like a lost opportunity. We won’t really know for 4 or 5 seasons whether that’s true.