Monday, June 21, 2010

NHL Draft Features on the Dallas Stars Website: Draft Week is Huge

Here's Bob Sturm's recent article on the Dallas Stars Website showing how big the Dallas Stars Draft Week and the importance of building a team through it.

From Bob Sturm for the Dallas Stars Website:

When building an NHL Team in this or pretty much any other era in the history of the league, this is a glamorous way to try to attempt it. It gathers all manner of ink and airspace in the media, but the road seldom leads to Stanley Cup Riches.

his path is Free Agency. Like chocolate in your diet, there is nothing wrong with it in doses. In fact, it can be wonderful - especially if your team has some money to spend! But, it can't be your entire diet. Ask any child and they would love to try the all chocolate diet. Ask any doctor and he would panic at the mere question.

Teams have tried to solve their problems by free agency over the last few years; Here in Dallas, the Sean Avery signing is still clear in our memories. The NY Rangers try every year (Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden) to spend their way to the Cup. The Chicago Blackhawks made one of the biggest free agency strikes we have to seen in 2008 when they spend nearly $80 Million on two players - 1 who contributes for sure, Brian Campbell (But $56 Million) and the other who had a great seat for the Finals, Christobal Huet. Huet was supposed to be the solution in goal to Nikolai Khabibulin, and was paid quite handsomely to provide that, but has been unseated by Antti Nemi.

Is Free Agency always a bad idea? Of Course not. Chris Pronger alone is a great argument for the power of the pen and how the right guy can be perfect for the right team.

But, if I asked what is more important to the success of an NHL Franchise in both the long and short term - there is no absolute no question that the best thing a franchise can do is understand and address the weekend before Free Agency hits.

If you look at the NHL Draft each summer, you will see the future of the league. If you see who drafts well, you will see the teams that that rise from ashes in incredibly short order. In 2007, Chicago Drafts Patrick Kane. Within 3 seasons, he is scoring the goal that brings the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. But it wasn't just Kane, of course. Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Dustin Byfuglien were among the many brought in from various drafts in the last few years.

It wasn't long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks had nothing to brag about. Now, they have a Stanley Cup - and many more years of excellence ahead - thanks to the ability to navigate well around the NHL Draft.

But, it wasn't just the 2010 Winners. Look at 2009, Pittsburgh. Another team that was built primarily through the draft. And not just the very top players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Flurey and Jordan Staal. But which about Maxime Talbot at pick #234, Tyler Kennedy at Pick #99, and Kris Letang at #62.

And who needs a refresher on our friends in Detroit and the insane ability of Ken Holland and his personal assistants to snag not just good players, but great players from deep, deep in the NHL Draft.

In 1998, Pavel Datsyk was pick #171. I think few would dispute he is one of the very best players to play in the sport today.

And in 1999, 209 players were picked before Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg, of course won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 when the Red Wings won the Cup.

For good measure, lets not forget at Pick #97, Johan Franzen was snapped up in 2004.

Admittedly, it seems pretty easy to take good players at the very top of the NHL Draft. Not every player at the very top is a superstar as a pro, but it seems that if you want to be a superstar, odds are pretty good that he was a top 5 pick in his pick. Every team would love to draft a Kane, Toews, Crosby, Malkin, or Alexander Ovechkin.

But what Datsyuk and Zetterberg demostrated to us all is that a team low in the draft can still find the next one to add to their player supply. And if you get one of these picks right, you can change the power structure of the league for the next decade. And Detroit did.

So where does this leave the Dallas Stars? Well, in 2007, after Chicago took Kane at #1, some 128 picks later the Stars took a young winger from Victoria, B.C., named Jamie Benn. Benn, in his rookie season scored 22 goals, and looks like he may very well be a diamond deep in the draft that could change the direction of a franchise.

In 2005, the Stars were able to grab another big winger at pick #33, named James Neal. All Neal has done is score 24 and 27 goals in his first two seasons in the big leagues, and has many placing quite a bit of stock in his future.

There used to be a statistic that I recited time after time for the Dallas Stars org. It was the following: Since Brendan Morrow (1997) no Dallas Stars draft pick had scored 20 goals in a season. This was to demonstrate that as a solid job that the personnel dept had done, they had been unable to find a goal-scoring difference maker.

Then, Loui Eriksson blew that stat out of the water. He scored 36 in 2008-2009, blowing the 20 goal barrier. Then, Neal and Benn joined him. And the oldest of the 3 is Eriksson at 24 years old. This tells you that the draft has helped the Stars build a fine core up front that is both young and cheap (For Now).

Then you look at the blue line, and you notice Nicklas Grossman, Marc Fistric and Matt Niskanen who are all draft products, too. None of those are going to make you forget Chris Pronger, yet, but Grossman is already solid as a rock, and Fistric encouraged us greatly in 2010.

The beauty of youth is this: combine Eriksson, Benn, Neal, Grossman, Fistric, and Niskanen's 2009-2010 Salaries, and they combine to make a million dollars less then Brian Campbell was paid in Chicago. In the age of the salary cap, a team has no option but to grow their own talent.

Down below, Phillip Larsen and Scott Glennie represent two of the Stars real strong prospects on their way. And all of those names have been stocked in the NHL Draft Weekend.

So, this weekend, the Stars own #11, #41, #71, and several more. Chances are, you will be unfamiliar with most and maybe all the picks. But, understand what is at stake. It will not get the ink of an Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes that July will have, but in the long run, chances are it will have far more to do with the winners of future Stanley Cups.

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