Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Doug Wickenheiser vs. Denis Savard, Part Deux

 Interesting debates online before the draft, lots of revisionism going on, some of it sparked by hockeyinsideout.com's list of Canadiens' draft busts.

About Doug Wickenheiser being picked over Denis Savard, that was the overwhelming consensus at the time.  Doug Wickenheiser was playing in a tougher league, and had better stats his draft year.  In fact, when reviewing that year's draft, we see that the Winnipeg Jets chose second and went with Dave Babych, instead of Mr. Savard who went third.  So Denis Savard, while a spectacular prospect, was not a slam dunk pick, and was maybe hampered by the too small-too-soft-Québec-player tag.

As far as Irving Grundman overruling his scouts, including Claude Ruel, and going with the WHL player instead of the kid from his own backyard, I have never heard that story.  Ever.  I would love for someone to dig up any reports about that, any after-the-fact analysis or reminiscences.  What I do remember is Ronald 'Le Professeur' Caron, the guy who was actually in charge of the draft for the Canadiens, crowing about his pick, and how he would be "le gros joueur de centre" that we were lacking, and how he'd slot in effortlessly between Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt.  And every fan salivated.

It's not impossible that some Canadiens scouts were in the Denis Savard camp.  Heck, some of them may never have seen Mr. Wickenheiser play before the draft, so in the room they would have been advocating for the player they'd seen and pushing hard that he be selected.  The thing is, that happens at every draft.  It's rarely unanimous that one player is the guy that floats everyone's boat in the draft war room.

Just last season, Serge Boisvert started pushing for Charles Hudon to be picked in the second round, according to Stéphane Leroux of RDS, and had to sit as Dalton Thrower, Tim Bozon and Brady Vail were picked, growing ever more strident with each round passing.  Before the Brady Vail pick, he kind of shrugged and shook his head at Mr. Leroux, indicating that it wasn't going to happen.  Then, as he walked to the podium with the card for the fifth pick, and having the honour of announcing the choice, he gave Mr. Leroux a nod to confirm they were selecting Mr. Hudon, and RDS viewers knew what the pick was before it was announced.

So there may have been one or two Canadiens scouts pushing for Denis Savard at the 1980 draft, but they were just doing their job, giving info on the players they'd seen and selling the ones they felt were the best candidate to pick.  It's no sinister conspiracy, and there's no need to fabricate histories to blame Irving Grundman for fanciful sins beyond the multitude that he did actually commit.

1 comment:

  1. dishonest john26 June 2013 at 20:29

    That was a long time ago but I seem to remember reading that Lafleur was pushing for Wickenheiser. It would seem the pursuit of the cure all big centre may have originated at that time.