Thursday, 3 July 2014

Another study shows that the Canadiens and Trevor Timmins draft well.

It's topical, with the NHL draft having taken place this weekend, for fans to question their team's drafting acumen and expertise.  It's certainly easy to critique a team's record with hindsight, it's right there for everyone to see, you can dial it up on hockeydb whenever you like.  You look at the player your team got, then agonize about the guy who was picked one or three spots later.  

We almost had a cottage industry spring up this season around the Louis Leblanc-Chris Kreider draft in 2009, with the latter's success in the playoffs, and the former's stalled development and eventual trade to the Ducks.

Yet we've looked at the Canadiens' drafting record over the last decade or so, some number crunching that's been done comparing NHL teams' draft successes and failings, and the Canadiens come out looking pretty good.

One study done by Canucks bloggers lamented the chronic failures of their scouting team under Ron Delorme, and set up an experiment comparing their record to one whereby the team would have foregone all the expensive scouting and experts travelling the world.  Instead, an algorithm was set up by which the Canucks pick the highest-scoring CHL forward left on the draft board.  That's it.  Just goals and assists.  No compete level, no size, no coach opinions were considered, just the points tally.  And the algorithm wins, hands down.  Meanwhile, Trevor Timmins and his team come up smelling roses against that same method.

Now comes another study done by Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated.  He wondered which teams did the best job finding hidden treasures in the later rounds of the draft, so he looked at teams' picks after the second round from the 2005 draft onwards.  

He doesn't set a bar, a specific criterion by which he'll rank the teams 1 through 30.  Instead, he puts the results in a table format, looking at the number of players who played at least one game, at least 100, the total number of games played by these draftees, as well as the points they put up.  He also takes into account goalie success.

With these loose parameters, he doesn't crown a champ, but lists the Canucks as clearly the worst team, with the Oilers, Panthers, Jets and Flames rounding out the most inept.  At the other end of the scale, he finds that the Predators, the Blue Jackets and the Kings have had the most success.

We can debate these findings on many fronts.  It would be nice if he'd factored in the relative draft position these teams have had, how many actual picks they had, and this has been done in other more rigorous studies.  Another factor he doesn't account for is that a perennially strong team has a roster that's harder to crack, while weak sisters like the Jackets or Preds offer an easier path, a better opportunity for these late-round prospects.  Still, it's one more snapshot from another perspective on how teams do at the draft table.

And again in his study, the Canadiens come out at the top end.  It's actually debatable that they are the best team in terms of pure numbers, but Mr. Muir factored in All-Stars like Jamie Benn heavily in his analysis.

In any case, the actual numbers reported show that the Habs had seven late rounders play at least one game, and five play at least 100.  They've amassed 170 goals and 414 points.  Mr. Muir zeroes in on Brendan Gallagher, appropriately, as the best player to be selected from these 43 total picks.

All these numbers are in the top end of the list of teams.  So again, despite the brickbats thrown at Trevor Timmins, he and his team are doing their job.  They're producing, objectively.  The results are there.

So I'll leave Nikolas Koberstein and Daniel Audette alone for the next couple of years, give them a chance to prove Trevor Timmins and the Canadiens' brain trust right.  It'll be a challenge, I'll slip up once in while, but it's getting hard to bloviate past the evidence.

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