We've talked before about the danger of trading up in the draft, how it reduces your number of picks, your total number of lottery tickets. Unless you hold a Top 10 pick, you’re probably better off trading down and accumulating more picks, even if they’re nominally lower ones. Or, as it’s otherwise known, the Bill Belichick-method.
Another interesting article which I can’t find, which I should have bookmarked, dealt with the usual reasoning that leads a team/GM to trade up in the draft. Very often, it’s because a team has identified a particular player as a ‘must have’, either due to his intrinsic potential, or often because he’s the specific type of player or plays a specific position or role that is targeted. That pass-rusher or stout inside linebacker who’s the final piece of the puzzle, or the right-handed scoring centreman who’ll round out your prospects.
The author argued that having that kind of mentality almost invariably leads a GM to overvalue the last-available pass-rusher in a tier, or that one rightie centre with a first-round grade. It causes a team to ‘fall in love’ with a certain player, to attach to his intangibles, and to be desperate to not lose out on him.
2010 may have been that kind of draft for the Canadiens. Maybe the brass, however skeletal the management team headed by Pierre Gauthier may have been, had identified a big bruising defenceman, a Zdeno Chara-type, as a necessary building block that was needed, right now. But Erik Gudbranson was long gone at #3, and so was 6’5″ Dylan McIlrath at #10 to the Rangers.
So the Canadiens traded their second-round pick and their first-round pick for the Coyotes’ first-round pick, five slots higher at #22, to ensure they didn’t miss out on Jarred Tinordi.
Now, this isn’t a condemnation of the player. I think we need to be patient with him, allow him to develop into his big body. I still believe in the prospect. So does departing Bulldogs Assistant Coach Stéphan Lebeau, who spoke very positively about him as a player and about his game. But practically, the urgency, the identification of our young giant as the player we had to have, is not borne out by the developments later on.
If the Canadiens had stood pat, had ‘let the draft come to them’, and at #27 sorted through the best-available players and still chose a defenceman, even if Jarred was gone by then, they might have come up with John Merrill or Justin Faulk, who were available then and eventually picked early in the second round. And the Canadiens would have held on to their own second-rounder.
And if at that point toughness on the blue line was still a desired component to have, maybe it could have been picked up in the form of Radko Gudas in the second round.
Of course this is all revisionism, we can’t know what Trevor Timmins’ list looked like, who was on it, but the general concept of trading up, especially late in the first round, is at least demonstrably questionable. As the Sportsnet study shows, the value of a late-first is more akin to a third rounder in value than it is to a Top 5 pick.
Which goes a long way to explaining this examination of the 2010 draft for the Canadiens by Hockey’s Future.
And the missing pieces we’re looking for, the lack of forward talent notably on the Canadiens this season, the Top 6 guys, which should right now be coming from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts. Sure, a whiff on a first-rounder hurts your draft, but a whiff compounded with fewer picks, a draft with only a late-first and then no picks until the fourth, really makes it hard to come up with the talent you’d like from every draft class.
So, as tempting as some of these prospects ranked highly by scouts may look from our lowly 26th draft slot, we have to remain strong, discipline, inure ourselves from the sirens song.
And if we get a chance, we do trade down, and amass more picks, more kicks at the can, more shots at the dart board.
We need to, with our 2015 draft pick collection missing a second and a fourth-rounder due to the (ultimately beneficial) trade for Jeff Petry with Edmonton.