Monday, August 13, 2007

Evaluating The Return of Draft Picks At The Trade Deadline




It's been 4 years since the 2003 NHL Trade Deadline. Long enough time period so, that we can assess whether these deadline deals have been worthwhile for the team(s) receiving draft pick(s). Only deals in which the draft picks were a major component will be touched. A summary and commentary will be provided at the end.

Here we go:
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1.
March 11 Nas. Alex Riazantsev, D Col. 7th-round pick in 2003

Alex Riazantsev never played a game in the NHL (AHL and Russia only). Nothing amounted of the 7th round pick.

2.
March 11 Was. Sergei Berezin, RW Chi. 4th-round pick in 2004
Berezin played 9 games in the regular season for WSH, winding up with 9 points. Followed up with a single assist in 6 playoff games. Next year, he wound up in Russia for 16 games, and since retired. Meanwhile, the fourth round pick acquired by CHI amounted to goose eggs.
3.
March 11 Cal. Dean McAmmond, LW Col. 5th-round pick in 2003
Dean was ineligible to play for the Flames that season (prior CBA rules). However, next season, he put up 30 points in 64 games, an efficient bottom 6 player when healthy. No dice for the 5th round selection

4.

Doug Gilmour, C Mon. TOR 6th-round pick in 2003
Doug played one game with the Leafs, in which he got injured. He retired after the season. Meh, still one game better than what Toronto's 6th round pick amounted to.

5.
March 11 Bos. Ian Moran, D Pit. 4th-round pick in 2003
Moran played 13 games (including 5 playoffs) that season. 35 games next year before bouncing around the league. The 4th round pick amounted to nothing.

6.
March 11 Tor. Phil Housley, D Chi. 4th-round pick in 2003
9th-round pick in 2003
Injuries forced Housley to play only 4 games (3 playoffs), all better totals than the two draft picks.

7.
March 11 Bos. Dan McGillis, D S.J. 2nd-round pick 2003
Dan McGillis played a total of 15 games (4 points) in the 2002-2003 season. He amassed 80 games with Boston the next year, putting up 28 points, before jumping ship to the Devils and eventually the minors. San Jose took with the second rounder, defenceman Matt Carle (89GP - 49 PTS) who looks to have a solid career down the road both offensively and defensively.

8.
March 11 NYI Janne Niinimaa, D
2nd-round pick in 2003
4th-round pick in 2003
Edm. Brad Isbister, LW
Raffi Torres, LW
Zero games played by the 2nd and 4th rounders. With hindsight, Isbister was negative value, namely for his ~2M salary. Effectively it was a Niinimaa for Torres deal. Niinimaa had a solid 2003-2004 season, before his career sank. Raffi Torres, meanwhile is a trusted ES left-winger that was an integral part of the Oilers 2006 cup run, locked up for the next 3 years.

The Islanders won the deal in the short run, but it was solid Billy Bean-esque management on Kevin Lowe's part.

9.
March 11 Ana. Steve Thomas, RW Chi. 5th-round pick in 2003
Steve Thomas put up strong number (13 pts in 12 games) with Anaheim in the regular season, following up with 21 strong games in the Ducks 2003 Cup run. He left as a free agent for Detroit next season. Blanks show up for the 5th round pick for Chicago.

10.
March 11 Det. Mathieu Schneider, D L.A. Sean Avery, C
Maxim Kuznetsov, D
1st-round pick in 2003
2nd-round pick in 2004
Mathieu Schneider spent the next 3 years with Detroit following the completion of the 2003 NHL season. He never won a cup, but put up strong numbers offensively (7,46,59,52) in 3 seasons plus change and was solid top 4 choice defensively. Sean Avery also found success on the ice, with his ability to handle tougher minutes and draw penalties. Maxim Kuznetsov played a whopping total of 16 games with LA. The 1st round pick (Brian Boyle) turned out as a bust with zero games played. The 2nd-round pick at Detroit's slot, also drew blanks.

11.
March 10 Phi. Tony Amonte, RW Pho. Guillaume Lefebvre, LW
2nd-round pick in 2004
3rd-round pick in 2003
Tony Amonte put up 15 points in 13 games for Philadelphia in the 2002-2003 regular season. He then proceeded with another 7 in 13 playoff games. The figures were 53 in 80, and 8 in 18 the next season, respectively. Meanwhile, Lefebvre struggled in the minors. The two draft picks yielded absolutely nothing.

12.
March 9 Tor. Glen Wesley, D Car. 2nd-round pick in 2004
Glen Wesley had a hand-shake deal with Carolina to return after the season, thus limiting his GP total to 12 (5 playoffs). Fear not, Maple Laugh fans - you gave up nothing. Nada. Zip.

13.
March 9 NYI Randy Robitaille, C Pit. 5th-round pick in 2003
Randy Robitaille played 15 games (5 playoffs), putting up 5 points that season before moving on to Minnesota. A bottom 6 C, who later returned to the Island in 2006. Again, zero's on the board for the 5th round slotted draft pick.

14.
March 9 Phi. Claude Lapointe, C NYI 5th-round pick in 2003
Claude put up 9 pts in 27 games with Philadelphia that season. Brought back next season for 42 games. All totals that soar above the slotted Philadelphia's 5th round pick.

15.
March 8 Col. Bryan Marchment, D S.J. 3rd-round pick in 2003
5th-round pick in 2003
Bryan Marchment played 21 games for Colorado (7 playoffs). A grit-hard defenceman. I'm not sure how Colorado re-obtained that 5th round pick, but they ended up with Brad Richardson who has thus far played 114 games and has a career ahead of him.

16.
March 3 Nas. Oleg Petrov, RW Mon. 4th-round pick in 2003
Lets cut the chase. There's shit everywhere.

17.
March 1 Phi. Dimitry Yushkevich, D L.A. 4th-round pick in 2003
7th-round pick in 2004
Yushkevich played 31 (13 in playoffs) games for Philadelphia that season, providing offense from the blue-line (9 PTS) that better the totals of the 4th and 7th round picks.

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Commentary
The purpose was not to demonstrate that the draft picks after the 1st round (to a lesser extent, 2nd round) are more or less, useless, with a huge element of luck in obtaining a regular NHLer. No sir. One can easily look it up him or herself and see blanks all the way around, or very short NHL careers

2004
2003
2002
2001

Rather, the underlying questions to be asked are:

1 Do NHL GM's overvalue draft picks?

and

2. If so, why?

and

3. How can that be corrected and what would be the end result?

I'll take a stab at it
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1. Do NHL GM's overvalue draft picks?
YES
-Trades on draft day to move down in the first round in exchange for an extra 3rd round pick (Oilers and Flames). Risking the possibility that your targeted player (i.e. Pouliot, Backlund) will not be available at the moved-down spot.
-Lack of RFA offersheets over the years.
-Draft picks playing a noteworthy role in perceived to be as ''big trades'' (Smyth, Pronger, Niinimaa, Satan, Comrie, Lydman, Tanguay, etc.)
NO
-Most trades involving moving down at the draft are a result of the expectation that your targeted player will still be available at the moved-down spot. Why not obtain an extra free pick?
-RFA offersheets have nothing to do with valuation, but everything to do with collusion.
- Most "big trades" involve 1st rounders, everyday NHLers, and/or quality prospects. The aggregate is important.

2. If so, why? If not, why not?
YES
-Subjective belief of superiority on ability to draft greater than peers.
-Recent year draft picks have worked out well. Extrapolate this success to future years.
-Like baseball pre-21st century, lack of mainstream statistical use which can pinpoint how successful drafting is, round-by-round.
NO
-
"I'm going to lose player X on July 1 because he either wants more money than he deserves, or we just don't have any interest in bringing him back. The low draft pick value accurately reflects the fact that he's not going to wear our uniform colours next year"

3. How can that be corrected and what would be the end result?
-As mentioned, statistical use must be implemented, with data gathered over years.
-Leads to GMs making *calculated* decisions when moving players for draft picks.
Ask Questions and Analyze Results
-If say, the probability of landing an NHL player who will play more than 164 (2 seasons) games in the third round is 5%, smart GMs can take advantage over the dull GMs whom overvalue 3rd round picks by implementing it in part of a package deal or moving up in the draft.
-Connect free agency to draft picks
"What is the probability that a 3rd round pick will have a more successful career than Mike Johnson/Martin Gelinas, whom are available for peanuts in the free agent market?" If it's low, should I take advantage by using it as trade bait to move up in the NHL entry draft?
- Address pending free agents
I have Petr Sykora and Jussi Markannen, both set to be UFAs in 4 months. They are worth a 3rd and 4th rounder on the market respectively. Is it worth keeping one or both to evaluate their play over the next 20 games to make next year decisions? Is it worth passing up a 3rd or 4th rounder to buy decision-making time on the make-up of next year(s) club? Is it worth burning bridges by trading the player.
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Statistics in hockey may never prove to be as useful as they are in baseball due to two main factors:
1. Team/player chemistry has a much bigger role in hockey
2. Baseball deals with an individual (batter) against an individual (pitcher). Hockey deals with 12 guys on the ice, fighting, muscling, and positioning themselves to put the rubber across the goal line.

That being said, statistics still can be useful in hockey. Until then, the few number of teams that employ full time statisticians such as the Minnesota Wild, will gain a competitive advantage and exploit their peers.

In other words, the market has a long way to go before it is corrected.

2 comments:

theoil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I still diagree with you about the worth of draft picks. Even lower round picks, if you can pick someone there who at least LOOKS good, even if they never play a game for you, they still can provide value in that when a team is having a fire sale, you have ammunition to be able to make a big deal. Maybe this is hard in Edmonton, where its usually the other way around, but the point remains that it is through those kinds of shrewd moves which contenders are built by. The prospects/picks/whatever traded by the Isles for Smyth last year may not all pan out for the Edmonton, and they certainly haven't panned out for NYI, as they didn't even play for them. However, their value came because NYI was able to possess them, and pass them off for a better player. SJ did it twice to Boston. They could make those moves because they had a glut of good youngsters, who could either be traded themselves, or take the spot of a roster player who was traded. That is part of the inherent value of all prospects and draft picks.

The other thing is, drafting kids is definitely not a surefire thing. Its hard, especially outside of the top half of the first round. For that reason, you either need to have a fantastic scouting staff who can make every single one of your picks count, or you need to acquire tons of draft picks, go for the shotgun effect, and hope for the best. Given the Oiler's recent history at doing anything right, it would seem they should go for the shotgun effect when drafting. Drafting keeps you from being stuck with big long contracts that you can't get rid of, and it doesn't cost you anything in terms of current usable assets, unlike trading. Drafting is THE way to build a team, and there is no way around it. Go ask NYR how their adventures in building purely through free agency through the late 90's and and early 00's worked. You have to draft well, or draft enough guys to have ended up drafting well. If you devalue picks like that, you're gonna get burned. Giving away low picks for bit players sticks you with bigger contracts with very little upside. Consolidating low picks into higher ones means that you'd better get that higher pick right, cause if you don't, its going to cost you several picks.