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.
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.

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