Regarding the Doug Wickenheiser draft, while there was a significant contingent who felt at the time that local boy Denis Savard should be the choice, we were then as now afflicted with the ‘gros joueur de centre’ mania.
We had traded away Peter Mahovlich, we complained that he was slow, and stopped skating when he stickhandled, which he did all too often. We learned after his trade that he partied too hard and drove Scotty Bowman nuts.
So before the draft, the Montréal Matin, La Presse, le Journal de Montréal, the call-in show ‘Les Amateurs de Sports’ on CKAC, all agreed that we needed to draft a big centre to plug in between Steve Shutt and Guy Lafleur.
One look at their stats confirmed the wisdom of drafting Mr. Wickenheiser. He scored more goals and points than Mr. Savard did, in a league that was more defensive and didn’t tend to produce high-scorers. He was the obvious choice.
In hindsight, it’s easy to rue that call. If we had chosen Denis Savard, he might have been crushed by expectations and not developed also, or he might have let the adulation and party favours go to his head, and Doug Wickenheiser might have had a much better career in Chicago with time to develop and less pressure. I don’t necessarily believe that, as Denis Savard showed he had the fire to be the best and would have done so anywhere, whereas Doug Wickenheiser seemed too placid for the role he was meant to fill.
In our next draft, we have the added disadvantage of drafting eighteen year old players, as opposed to twenty year olds back then, so it’s even more of a conjecture as to how these kids will turn out.