Trade-Trauma Tuesday: Wrapup and Perspective

cupajoe.jpegJust my humble opinion, but from 2002 through 2006 there is an exceptionally impressive body of scouting and drafting work accomplished by George McPhee and his team of scouts. Having said that, my sense is that they seldom look back on the 2001 Entry Draft — much anticipated, highly lauded for its overal quality and depth — with much fondness. In their defense, the Caps were without a first-round pick that year. Their first selection came 58th overall, which they used to select Nathan Paetsch. In the third round, they tabbed Owen Fussey with the 90th pick. In the fourth round, Jeff Lucky at no. 125. None are with the organization today.
I’ve long been of the opinion that a healthy, playoff-viable NHL club cannot strike out with its selections at any draft; the compensation required for it is too implausible in succeeding drafts. Even with 2002’s success (Semin, Gordon, Eminger, Max II, and through trades Fleischmann and Klepis), there’s a price to be paid for 2001’s failure, and to some extent I think we’re seeing that this season. A lot of the league strengthened itself with that terrific ’01 class, and the Caps did not.
Jiri Novotny’s acquisition from Buffalo yesterday can be viewed within the prism of belatedly addressing the Caps’ ’01 shortcomings. An ’01 draftee, 22nd overall by the Sabres, Novotny now joins new teammate Shaone Morrisonn (Bruins, no. 19 overall) from that class. The Caps at long last have somewhat filled the gaping hole left by summer ’01’s poor drafting.
Speaking of entry drafts, the fax ink from yesterday’s deal with Buffalo wasn’t dry before visitors to the Caps’ message boards could download seemingly dozens of pages of protest from the glass-is-not-only-half-empty, it’s-got-a-chipped-edge-to-meet-your-mouth crowd. At OFB, we’ve long referred to them as the Doom and Gloom set. Their chief point of outrage, it seemed, was a collective sense that the ’07 Entry Draft was “weak,” and so the Buffalo first rounder, late as it was certain be, wasn’t anything to be happy over. Interesting. 2002, I remember vividly, was alleged to be among the worst pool of talent ever. Even 1996’s draft, which genuinely can be labeled atrocious, eventually delivered Dainius Zubrus to D.C. My point is, every NHL draft possesses talented young hockey players; the job of McPhee and his scouts is to find it.
I’ve another bone to pick with the message board GMs: for years we’ve had to endure their claims that when it comes to Dainius Zubrus, he was a hopelessly misplaced, “non-finishing” top-line center. Let’s all agree that he’s not a no. 1 pivot on a playoff club. But doesn’t it stand to reason that were he more the checking line kind of guy, he most assuredly wouldn’t fetch a no. 1 pick . . . let alone two? And yet, when that’s what Buffalo returned yesterday, these same naysayers wrung their hands over the “poor” return. Hypocrites.
Yesterday was a frenzy of attempted fact gathering by fans and media related to player movement, all of it more or less pursued on line. TSN and the NHL Network were broadcasting breathless accounts of the transactions all day long. One GM recently told Sports Illustrated that deadline day “ought to be a holiday in Canada.” Locally, we in the Capitals’ community are indebted to the committed labor of Tarik El-Bashir, who was lodged all morning, afternoon, and evening at Verizon Center, regularly updating his blog with trade intelligence, and Mike Vogel, who for a period of time yesterday afternoon was brought into the Caps’ hockey operations’ inner circle. The efforts of both men made for a marvelously compelling afternoon. If you weren’t convinced before about the revolution taking place in hockey news coverage — most particularly this season — yesterday ought to have ushered in a fresh reconsideration for you.

This entry was posted in Boyd Gordon, Buffalo Sabres, Entry Draft, Mike Vogel, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Trade-Trauma Tuesday: Wrapup and Perspective

  1. sk84fun says:

    Just skimmed the latest, but FWIW, Jurcina is also an acquisition from the 01 draft; all the Caps have to do is trade for Andrew Alberts and they will have Boston’s 01 D draft class 🙂
    The doom and gloom side is that the Caps late round D 01 pick, Oduya, is currently playing his rookie season for the playoff bound NJDevils.
    Just looked it up and July 1, day 1 of UFA signings, is a Sunday and that is a good thing for employers and work productivity for NHL fans.

  2. usiel says:

    Well at least the D&G crew is entertaining.
    It was a good return for zubrus…mainly the 1st round pick. Novotny a bit of a stalled prospect for them but how could one really push anyone from Buffalo’s top 2 lines anyways. Basically a Jurcina type situation where Novotny can show what he’s got.
    I completely agree that from 2002 onward GMGM/Mahoney’s drafting has been above average. Only the 2005 snake draft with Pokulok/Finley will take a bit longer to evaluate.

  3. maruk says:

    Nice post.
    I think folks should recognize that GMGM continues to get better at his job. Drafting has improved, he gets good returns in trades, and he has a keen eye on the waiver wire. Thankfully, that last skill shouldn’t be needed as much in the future.
    What this summer will teach us is how adept GMGM is at handling the UFA market, a pond in which he has only immersed a toe or two over the years.

  4. pepper says:

    This is a key point Maruk. Its going to be real interesting to see how McPhee is able to deal with serious UFAs and their agents, and convince both that Washington is the best place for the player to spend the next few years on his quest for the Cup and financial security at the same time.

  5. maruk says:

    Absolutely, Pepper. GMGM hints in his open letter on the Caps’ website that he understands this, but can he make it happen?
    IMHO, this summer will go a long way towards determining if the Caps will regularly challenge for the Cup or regularly challenge for seeds #5-8.
    We have no indication yet that the final pieces to the puzzle can come from within.

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