Saturday, December 6, 2008

17th Best

One of the most interesting things I learned from Joe Posnanski's below article was that NHL teams were allowed to protect sixteen players from the 1974 entry draft. Sixteen! As Bill Grigsby says in the article, "Do you know what one 17th player on a team has in common with all the other 17th players? They are not very good."

Four goalies were selected in a separate, mini-draft. A quick look at those four goalies' previous seasons reveals that they were all basically third stringers, which, since teams carry two goalies, is to say they were not really NHL goaltenders.

The Scouts were lucky to get Simon Nolet with the first pick in the non-goalie draft. Why the Flyers left him unprotected after scoring 36 points in 52 games in '73-'74 I don't know (perhaps they were bitter after he scored only 2 points in 15 playoff games). Nolet led the Scouts in goals (26) and points (58) in their debut season, but was traded to Pittsburgh in the middle of the following season, having put up a respectable 25 points in 41 games.

With their next pick, the Scouts selected Butch Deadmarsh, who had 12 points in 94 career games at the time. He went on to play 20 games for the Scouts before jumping to the World Hockey Association for the rest of his career.

The 11th pick of the draft never played another game in the NHL.

The player to put up the most points in the NHL after the draft was Gary Croteau, who had to tally all of 188 points for that honor.

Point being, the Capitals and Scouts were not set up to have a chance to succeed. They were set up so that the other owners could collect the expansion fees. (Fingers crossed that similar greed will score Kansas City a second expansion team in the near future.)

Assuming teams protected two goalies, that leaves 14 skaters to protect. And while points are certainly not the full measure of a player, for argument's sake, let's look at who some of the 15th "top" scorers were by team for the '07-'08 season:

Atlanta: Ken Klee 10 pts
Boston: Petteri Nokelainen 10 pts
Buffalo: Adam Mair 17 pts
Calgary: Wayne Primeau/Eric Nystrom 10 pts
Carolina: Andrew Ladd/Trevor Letowski 18 pts
Chicago: Dave Bolland 17 pts
Colorado: Ian Laperriere 19 pts
Columbus: Kris Russell 10 pts

Alright, you get the point. These are the type of players the Scouts and Capitals were forced to build a team with.

How long did it take the two teams to dig out of that hole? Well, the Scouts of course moved after only two years, and then again after six losing seasons in Denver. The franchise, now in New Jersey, finally posted a winning season in 1987-'88, their 14th year overall and sixth in New Jersey, and won their first Stanley Cup in 1995.

The Capitals managed a winning season for the first time in 1982-'83, their ninth year, and have still never won the Cup.

Could the Scouts have stuck in Kansas City had they been given a fairer shake to start with? Not necessarily, but unfortunately they weren't given the chance to find out.

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