Historical Context In A Crazy Rumour

Every so often, a hockey rumour comes up that makes you sit in awe and confusion. Even rarer, you get the awesome plot twist of there being merit to the speculation. Usually, when that’s the case, it involves Flames GM Jay Feaster or Avalanche GM Greg Sherman. Occasionally, the two will band together to create the Watch The Throne of puck absurdity, like the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet that nearly ended in waivers earlier this season. Fast forward to now, and we have another fun "what if" to discuss.

As reported across the hockey world, the Flames want to make a significant impact at this year’s draft. Since they weren’t able to completely tank, trading for the first overall pick is the best way to do it, and Colorado is the team in possession of that top spot. Feaster’s plan of attack? He offered picks 6 (Calgary’s original pick), 22 (from St. Louis) and 28 (from Pittsburgh) for first overall. Sherman and the Avalanche have since rejected it, but it’s lead to some debate. Should they have taken it? After all, three first round picks are nothing to scoff at. Here’s a look at every 1 for 6/22/28 scenario possible since the draft had at least 28 potential selections:

Year To Calgary (1) To Colorado (6) To Colorado (22) To Colorado (28) Win?
2013 Nathan Mackinnon Darnell Nurse Zach Fucale Kerby Rychel TBD
2012 Nail Yakupov Hampus Lindholm Olli Maatta Brady Skjei TBD
2011 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Mika Zibanejad Tyler Biggs Zack Phillips TBD
2010 Taylor Hall Brett Connolly Jared Tinordi Carlie Coyle TBD
2009 John Tavares Oliver Ekman-Larsson Jordan Schroeder Dylan Olsen TBD
2008 Steven Stamkos Nikita Filatov Jordan Eberle Viktor Tikhonov TBD
2007 Patrick Kane Sam Gagner Max Pacioretty Nick Petrecki TCTC
2006 Erik Johnson Derick Brassard Claude Giroux Nick Foligno COL
2005 Sidney Crosby Gilbert Brule Matt Lashoff Matt Niskanen CGY
2004 Alexander Ovechkin Al Montoya Lukas Kaspar Mark Fistric CGY
2003 Marc-Andre Fleury Milan Michalek Marc-Antoine Pouliot Corey Perry COL
2002 Rick Nash Scottie Upshall Sean Bergenheim Jonas Johansson CGY
2001 Ilya Kovalchuk Mikko Koivu Jiri Novotny Adrian Foster CGY
2000 Rick DiPietro Scott Hartnell David Hale Justin Williams COL
1999 Patrik Stefan Brian Finley Maxime Ouellet Kristian Kudroc CGY
1998 Vincent Lecavalier Rico Fata Simon Gagne Ramzi Abid CGY
1997 Joe Thornton Daniel Tkaczuk Nikos Tselios Brad DeFauw CGY
1996 Chris Phillips Boyd Devereaux Jeff Brown Pavel Skrbek CGY
1995 Bryan Berard Steve Kelly Brian Boucher Jan Hlavac CGY
1994 Ed Jovanovski Ryan Smyth Jeff Kealty Johan Davidsson TCTC
1993 Alexandre Daigle Viktor Kozlov Anders Eriksson Shean Donovan COL
1992 Roman Hamrlik Cory Stillman Curtis Bowen Paul Brousseau TCTC
1991 Eric Lindros Peter Forsberg Dean McAmmond Jim Campbell TCTC
1990 Owen Nolan Scot Scissons Ryan Hughes Brandy Semchuk CGY
1989 Mats Sundin Adam Bennett Adam Foote Jarrod Skalde CGY
1988 Mike Modano Scott Pearson Troy Mallette Paul Holden CGY
1987 Pierre Turgeon Dave Archibald Brad Miller Daniel Marois CGY
1986 Joe Murphy Vincent Damphousse Adam Graves Kent Hawley COL
1985 Wendel Clark Brad Dalgarno Ken Spangler Mike Richter TCTC
1984 Mario Lemieux Craig Redmond Greg Smith Doug Houda CGY
1983 Brian Lawton John Maclean Todd Charlesworth Jeff Jackson COL
1982 Gord Kluzak Phil Housley Brian Curran Rene Badeau COL
1981 Dale Hawerchuk Jim Benning Scott Arniel Steve Gatzos CGY
1980 Doug Wickenheiser Paul Coffey Joe Ward Steve Ludzik COL
1979 Rob Ramage Craig Hartsburg Blake Wesley Tim Trimper CGY
1978 Bobby Smith Behn Wilson Curt Fraser Glenn Hicks CGY
1977 Dale McCourt Doug Wilson Jeff Bandura Don Laurence COL
1976 Rick Green Don Murdoch Reed Larson Bobby Simpson COL
1975 Mel Bridgman Don Ashby Brian Engblom Brad Gassoff CGY
1974 Greg Joly Doug Hicks Bryan Trottier Guy Chouinard COL
1973 Denis Potvin Andre Savard Peter Marrin Jean Landry CGY
1972 Billy Harris Michel Larocque Tom Cassidy Stan Weir CGY
1971 Guy Lafleur Ron Jones Rick Kehoe Curt Ridley CGY
1970 Gilbert Perreault Chuck Lefley Errol Thompson Michel Archambault CGY
1969 Rejean Houle Bob Currier Art Quoquochi Willie Brossart CGY

 For the sake of debate, I used MyNHLDraft’s mock draft with alterations to 1 and 6 for this season. Best player available is usually the way to go, but with 1-3 and 6-8 being close together, strengths and weaknesses can be considered. I believe that Calgary is more keen to getting an elite centre, so Mackinnon would be their player of choice. Colorado, who seems to be geared to Jones at #1, would likely look to defence again at 6 and select Darnell Nurse.

I’ve also marked the last five drafts as "To Be Decided" in outcome. These players are still young and developing, and results could still go either way, though I’m all but certain that 2010 and 2008 are going to end up with 1st overall being the better choice. Now, with that considered…

  • In the 35 remaining drafts, having the 1st overall pick is the better choice 20 times (58.8%).
  • Scouting has gotten a lot better over the years. From 1987 to 2006, just 4 of 20 times does pick quantity win over quality.  By comparison, quantity won out 6 of 10 times between 1974 and 1983. The first pick has become a much safer place over time.
  • 2000 goes in favour of quantity, but Rick DiPietro’s injuries play a huge role in that. If he continued to be a top 5-10 goaltender, this wouldn’t be a discussion.
  • I find it funny that despite Patrik Stefan becoming a bust, he would’ve been the right option in 1999. I guess 7 year old Jeff was wrong about Maxime Ouellet being a sure-fire superstar goaltender.
  • 1990 is probably the most lopsided year. Owen Nolan had a fantastic career, whereas the three players that would’ve been sent the other way combined for 6 games played and 0 points. Nolan was picked by Quebec, who are now Colorado, making it especially fitting.
  • Similarly, 1997 is pretty lopsided, with Joe Thornton going first and nothing of value being taken at 6/22/28. Daniel Tkaczuk was actually a Calgary pick at 6th, like Rico Fata the net year.
  • Six of these trades are "too close to call", but in most coses, it’s a matter of just one of the three panning out to be about as good as the #1 pick, and the other two being scraps, rather than a case of overpowering amounts of talent.

While the rumour was a fun one, it looks like Colorado made the right decision here. This also means there was a method to Feaster’s madness, and that putting all your eggs in one basket is smart, as long as the basket is made of diamond. First overall picks are becoming increasingly harder to mess up. Picking a superstar off of a late first rounder is more lucky than it is good scouting. The types of players you pick in those spots are good to have in your core, but are available via free agency much more often than the average first overall pick (Kovalchuk being the only one to really hit the open market in his prime, and even he eventually returned to New Jersey).

With that said, knowing the luck of these two teams, Colorado will pick up the next Stefan. Calgary will respond by picking the next Forsberg at 6, next Trottier at 22, and next Perry at 28, but all three will struggle out of the gate. You know, until they break out after being traded to re-acquire Jarome Iginla for a farewell tour in three years.

  • SmellOfVictory

    In most drafts, this trade would be a no-brainer. The real question is whether this draft is truly as deep as it’s claimed to be. Because if so, it would be akin to 2003, which means that quantity would have a very, very strong case as the better position of the two.

    • Avalain

      Who beside wishful Flame fans has compared this draft to 2003??? Every single report I’ve hear or read has said it’s deep at marginal NHLers but nowhere near 2003. Meaning you can expect to find some good 3rd liners a the end of the 1st round. Not what the Flames need…. We need elite talent not a few good depth players…. Quantity

        • piscera.infada

          The whole comparison is fruitless. Unfortunately we only know 2003 was amazing because we can look back ten years. To even begin to claim this draft is anywhere near THAT deep is presumptuous.

          This draft DOES look deep, and we should get some dandy picks out of it. But I think we need to temper expectations – lest we be let down, when it turns out to be “good”, not “epic” like 2003.

          • RexLibris

            Of course we don’t know that this draft is as deep as 2003. We also don’t know if any of the top 3 will be AAA NHLers. But with the absence of time travel all the Flames can do is act based on what we know right now. And what we know right now is that this appears to be a very deep draft. Giving up 3 firsts in a draft that appears this deep isn’t a good idea IMO.

        • RexLibris

          It has been talked up, but there was also a great deal of hype (arguably on the same level) leading in to the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts. It was only once the players had been selected that cooler heads prevailed.

          2013 looks like a deep draft but hearts have been broken countless times by statements like “could be the next Getzlaf”.

          Also, if this draft were considered by concensus to be as deep as 2003 why would so many GMs have been willing to trade 2nd round picks so freely?

          I suspect that there is real talent depth within the first seven to 10 selections, however after that it appears that it begins to level off closer to the norm.

          Whatever is said before, during and immediately after this draft though, we will likely have to wait at least three to five years before anything can be said with any kind of authority.

          • RexLibris

            Really? Everything i heard about 2012 was about how dreadful it was (except very early on where it was about how deep in dmen it was). As for 2011, it was hyped as a weak draft until draft day started coming closer, when people started raving about it having good depth through the first three rounds.

            NONE of the three was as hyped as 2013, and frankly none of them looked as good on paper, either.

          • SmellOfVictory

            2011 was not promoted as a particularly deep draft at the outset. If anything it was considered deeper after time had passed. 2012 was considered one of the shallowest drafts in recent history; a veritable dog’s breakfast outside of half a dozen guys.

          • SmellOfVictory

            I’m not trying to be a pessimist about the draft, but I honestly have never heard anyone outside Calgary refer to the draft as as strong as 2003. I’d love for that to be true… I’ve heard scouts call it a deep top 10. And I’ve heard scouts say it will produce a lot of solid players (100 games), but nothing like 2003…. I’d love to be proven wrong. If you have links to main stream media or reliable scouts please send. (not blog comments sections or fan comments).

            Here is 1 link from The Hockey News suggesting the draft is average. It compares it to 2012.


            The fact Feaster’s 3 for 1 trade was turned down would support this theory would it not? If Colorado believed it was 2003 strong, they’d bite in 1 second flat. And the teams at 2-3 would be calling Feaster to accept that offer as well. AND if Feaster believed it was 2003 strong he wouldn’t offer all our picks. So the evidence would suggest that GMs in the league aren’t thinking its some sort of banner draft.

            Again, I’d love to be wrong, and I’m honestly asking. Because I keep hearing in comments and from fans about how strong the draft is, but I honestly haven’t seen much supporting that except from other fans and comment sections.

          • SmellOfVictory

            I completely agree with that… And I do believe scouts have said that. But I think people have turned the statement around as you suggested and many truly believe it is comparable to 2003….

          • piscera.infada

            That’s exactly the issue. I can get behind the statement that it’s the deepest draft SINCE 2003. It seems like there’s an awful lot of fans who want to turn that statement into ‘AS DEEP AS’ – which is why there are so many people bringing up the possibility of getting a Getzlaf/Perry or a Parise/Richards at 22 and 28.

            That said, I still hold that I’m fine with quantity of picks this year. Would I love to have 1 or 2 overall? Of course (and I’m quite pleased they tried). It’s just not feasible – as this article articulated. Thus, when in doubt go for the gusto and throw as many darts as you can at the board.

          • piscera.infada

            Agree 100%! I also am glad Feaster is trying to move up regardless of the outcome.

            I heard an interesting suggestion on the weekend (can’t remember where) that having too many prospects the exact same age and draft pedigree can be detrimental. Seems sort of like overthinking it to me, but the suggestion was that your system can only handle so many prospects of the same age before if starts to hurt them all. Being unable to shelter them or give quality minutes etc. So therefore the argument is that lots of darts is actually not better than less. Another way to suggest quality is better than quantity….

            Not sure I agree… Can our system support/shelter 2 or 3 kids of the exact same pedigree during the same point in the development cycle?? My gut tells me its overthinking and you just pray one or two of the 3 pan out. But I did find it interesting. As Flames fans we’ve never had the luxury of worrying about too many good prospects at once!

          • piscera.infada

            Well I put a call into Johnny Wishbone Psychic Extraordinaire to do a live blog & tell you exactly what players are going to be elite from the first 2 rounds, hopefully we can get him to do this before June 30th. Kent is working on the details.

            I guess what guarantees do you want. Not 1 single player is guaranteed to be an elite player. But here’s the thing, if you have that many players many feel are going to be 100 game NHLers, that’s half the battle. If we can get 3 players that will likely be at least 100 game NHLers, the chances are that much better one or more of them will blossom into elite or close to an elite player. Some get it early with God given talent & impress many by the time they reach 18-19. Others appear to have the talent but don’t get it until 21-22. Who knew in 2003 that there were going to be that many elite players coming out of that draft? Show me that link back then.

      • piscera.infada

        Well then we’ve been reading different stuff. Your statement sure makes sense(not) trying to explain why GM’s wont part with 1st rounders & are requiring huge overpayments this year & at the trade deadline.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Most of the prospect-related stuff I read (outside of Flames-specific) is gathered via HFBoards, and the running theme with this draft is “deepest since 2003”; granted that doesn’t mean it will end up being as good necessarily, but no one predicts a draft to turn out that well.

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were multiple high-level (top 6/top4) skaters taken in the late 1st and into the 2nd round. Doesn’t mean you’ll have a large swath of elite players like 2003, but the 3 picks vs 1 could end up being equivalent to a first liner and two mid/upper tier players vs a single elite player and it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected.

  • McRib

    I would take the 1st overall versus the other three 9 out of 10 times. But this draft is deep enough that it qualifies as the 1 of 10 times I don’t do the deal.

    • Avalain

      The part you have to add in is “likely”. Just because people think that this draft is deep doesn’t guarantee it.

      That being said, I’m really hoping that Calgary pulls an “Anaheim 2003” and drafts the next Getzlaf and Perry with their 22 and 28.

  • RexLibris

    When one factors in the range of players taken in the top three this trade becomes even more lopsided.

    Three-for-one trades are extremely difficult to sell to a team because in very few cases does quantity trump quality.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Unfortunately all I’ve got is hearsay. It’s the atmosphere I’ve picked up from way too much time perusing everything I can find that’s prospect-related in the past couple of years. Again, not that 2013 is necessarily expected to be as deep as 2003, just that it’s expected to be the deepest since (which is still impressive).