Five years later: evaluating the Canucks’ 2008 draft

The 2013 NHL entry draft is less than three weeks away, which means that Mike Gillis and his crew will be doubly busy as they continue their search for a new head coach and prepare for the drafting table — the drafting table being where they will draft their list of potential draft picks prior to the draft. It’s a lot easier on the back than a desk.

Gillis has been criticized — quite fairly — for his struggles at the draft. Not a single Gillis pick played the full season with the Canucks in 2013. While Jordan Schroeder reached 31 games as a rookie, he was back in the AHL by the end of the season and didn’t play for the Canucks in the playoffs.

It’s worth noting, however, that Frank Corrado, drafted in the fifth round in 2011, played all four playoff games for the Canucks and looks set to make the team as a 20-year-old next season. Corrado’s success would seem to indicate that Gillis has improved at drafting in recent years, with prospects like Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, and Patrick McNally bolstering that claim.

Meanwhile, he’s been able to add free agent prospects like Chris Tanev, Eddie Lack, and Kellan Lain. With that said, Gillis’s first couple years of drafting look rough in retrospect and the Canucks’ prospect pool is painfully shallow.

It’s been five years since Gillis’s first draft as Canucks’ GM in 2008, which gives us a fair span of time to judge a player’s development. Prospects drafted in 2008 are now 23 or so; at this point, if they haven’t already cracked an NHL lineup, they’re starting to reach their sell-by date. For the ones that have, after five years is when we can start to judge what kind of NHL player they have become.

So, just how bad was the 2008 draft for the Canucks? Was it as lacklustre as people think or has it been exaggerated?

It’s all too common to see people evaluate a GM’s drafting record by cherry-picking successful NHL players picked after a bust and berate the GM for missing out on the better player. It’s easy to do with the benefit of hindsight, but it’s often an inaccurate view of what was happening at the time.

There’s a reason why a player like Jamie Benn, who is now the face of the Dallas Stars franchise, fell to the fifth round in the 2007 draft. He was playing in the BCHL at the time and scored just over half as many points as 2007 first round pick Kyle Turris, who had 121 points in 53 games. Milan Lucic was considered a major stretch at 50th overall in 2006, coming off just 19 points in 62 games in his rookie WHL season.

Would it have been nice if Dave Nonis had drafted Benn and Lucic? Of course. Would it have made any sense for Nonis to reach and draft them earlier at the time? None whatsoever. Instead, I’d like to look at the players that were picked near where the Canucks picked in 2008, both the successes and the failures. Hopefully this will help us get a better picture of how well Gillis drafted in comparison to other teams that had a similar selection of picks and draft position.

First Round – Cody Hodgson

Whatever the issues between Cody Hodgson and the Canucks, it should be clear by now that he is, at the very least, an NHL player set to have a long career. He had a fairly successful first season as a number one centre for the Buffalo Sabres, though his ascent to the top line was helped by the Sabres’ atrocious depth at centre.

While I dearly wish that Hodgson had avoided his back injury and had a better development path with the Canucks, it’s clear that he was a successful pick.

The two picks ahead of Hodgson have also established themselves in the NHL. Mikkel Boedker played the full season with the Phoenix Coyotes immediately after being drafted, though he spent some time in the AHL in the next couple seasons. He’s coming off his most successful season, scoring 26 points in 48 games. Josh Bailey also made the jump straight to the NHL and scored 19 points in 38 games last season.

The Canucks dodged a bullet when the Islanders picked Bailey, as the 11th overall pick, Kyle Beach, has yet to play a single NHL game and has been thoroughly average at the AHL level. The Canucks looked set to select Beach with the 10th pick until Hodgson fell into their laps. Tyler Myers, on the other hand, won the Calder as the best rookie in 2010, though his play has trailed off since then and he earned fans’ ire with his lack of preparation heading into this past season.

The Hodgson pick seems about in line with similar picks: Boedker, Bailey, and Myers all contributed sooner, but Hodgson performed better offensively than Boedker and Bailey once he got into the lineup and is worlds better than Beach.

Second Round – Yann Sauve

It’s tough to figure out exactly what happened with Yann Sauve. While his development was derailed by injuries, Sauve still got into 5 games with the Canucks in 2010-11 and didn’t look out of place. Then, over the next two seasons, Sauve fell down the Canucks’ depth chart. While it’s still possible that Sauve will make the NHL as a sixth or seventh defenceman, that appears to be the limit of his upside. It’s entirely possible that the Canucks won’t re-sign him as a restricted free agent this off-season, though I personally believe they will.

Sauve compares favourably to the two players picked ahead of him, Eric O’Dell and Aaron Ness. Neither has established themselves in the NHL and may end up as career AHLers, with O’Dell yet to play a single NHL game. Just one pick before O’Dell, however, is Roman Josi, who is now a top pairing defenceman with the Nashville Predators.

The two picks immediately after Sauve are also young defencemen with strong careers ahead of them: Patrick Wiercioch and Justin Schultz. Canucks fans are very familiar with Schultz, but less so with Wiercioch, who scored 19 points in 42 games for the Senators this past season. Schultz is obviously the more impactful player and looks like he’ll be the Oilers’ number one defenceman for years to come, but Wiercioch is still in the lineup, which is more than can be said for Sauve.

It’s worth noting that Sauve was ranked well ahead of both Schultz and Wiercioch by central scouting, but this is still a miss for Gillis.

Fifth Round – Prab Rai

The Canucks didn’t have third or fourth round picks in 2008 (the third round pick went to the Ducks as part of an odd compensatory trade when the Ducks signed then Manitoba Moose head coach Randy Carlyle, while the fourth round pick went to Los Angeles as part of a trade for — sigh — Brent Sopel). Their next pick, in the fifth round, saw them take a chance on WHL prospect Prab Rai.

So there, everyone who claims the Canucks don’t draft WHL prospects.

Rai had plenty of speed and a dash of skill and managed to score 41 goals in 67 games in his over-age year with the Seattle Thunderbirds, tied for seventh in the league. He hasn’t been able to translate that to professional success, unfortunately, complicated by missing the entire 2010-11 season, which would have been his first as a professional, with a serious back injury. He has played exclusively in the ECHL since and again has missed significant time with injuries.

The players selected around Rai haven’t seen much success either, however. None of the three players drafted ahead of Rai — Greg Pateryn, Joel Champagne, and Jerome Flaake — were signed by the team that drafted them, though for Pateryn it was due to a trade and he played three games with the Montreal Canadiens this past season. Champagne played the full season in the ECHL, while Flaake never left the German league.

Teigan Zahn was picked immediately after Rai by the Blackhawks, but went unsigned and was drafted again in 2010 by the Lightning. He played the bulk of last season in the ECHL. Phillipe Cornet was next, drafted by the Oilers. He’s seen some success at the AHL level and got into two NHL games in 2011-12. You have to go nine picks after Rai to find a quasi-legitimate NHL player in Mark Olver.

While Rai has disappointed, other teams picking at this point in the draft were not able to pick up NHL talent either.

Sixth Round – Mats Froshaug

Froshaug impressed in the Swedish Under-20 league in his draft year, but was unable to make inroads into the Swedish Elite League and headed back to Norway. While the Canucks appeared interested in bringing him over to North America to play in the AHL a couple years ago, they never signed him to a contract and no longer hold his rights.

Ahead of Froshaug were Grant Rollheiser, who became an NCAA backup goaltender and played in the ECHL and CHL last season, Brett Hextall, who has at least been able to stick in the AHL in the Coyotes organization, and Luke Witkowski, who signed with the Lightning after finishing his NCAA career and will likely play in the AHL next season.

Picked after Froshaug was Jonathan Carlsson, who returned to Sweden after one season in the AHL and ECHL. Next was Teemu Hartikainen, who performed well enough in the AHL to get several opportunities with the Oilers, but was unable to stick and has signed in the KHL for next season. After that came Nick Crawford, who has been good in the AHL in the Sabres’ organization

Hartikainen looks like the best pick of this bunch, though Witkowski, Hextall, and Crawford might still make the NHL. While sixth round picks are a crapshoot and it might have been a different story if Froshaug had given the AHL a shot, a couple other teams were able to get marginally better results at this point in the draft.

Seventh Round – Morgan Clark

The son of then goalie coach Ian Clark, Morgan was a longshot even in 2008. The Canucks were gambling on some unseen potential rather than tangible results. Clark had a few more fairly mediocre seasons in Junior, eventually finding his way to the QMJHL, where he had a decent year with the Rimouski Oceanic. He then left the mainstream hockey world, heading to the CIS to play for St. Francis Xavier University, prioritizing his education. It’s entirely likely his hockey career will be over once he finishes school.

In the seventh round, you basically take chances and hope to get lucky. Even by that standard, however, Clark wasn’t a good pick. Andrew MacWilliam, selected three picks ahead of Clark, headed to the NCAA and got signed by the Maple Leafs this year after completing his education. Tim Billingsley, two picks ahead of Clark, also went the CIS route and likely isn’t headed anywhere with his hockey career, but just before Clark came Matt Bartkowski, who has seen spot action for the Boston Bruins over the past few seasons and has played seven games in the playoffs this year.

Joe Gleason was next after Clark and he also went the NCAA route, though it remains to be seen if he’ll get a contract offer from the Blackhawks now that his college career is done. After him came Jordan Bendfeld, who was on his second go-around in the draft after getting picked two years earlier by the Coyotes. He split time between the ECHL and AHL last season. After that was Drew Daniels, who spent three years in the NCAA but played last year in the CHL.

There’s a wide array of results there, but the most intriguing of the bunch, including Bartkowski, were all defencemen who went into the NCAA. Those years spent developing in college also gave the teams that drafted them the opportunity to evaluate them to see their potential. Bartkowski proved himself quickly and left Ohio State University after two seasons to play professionally.

Clark was just too much of a longshot to be worth even a seventh round pick, with the additional baggage of looking like nepotism with his father on the coaching staff.

Overall

What complicates the 2008 draft is that three of the Canucks’ five picks lost essentially entire seasons to injury during crucial stages of their development. Still, it’s telling that other teams were able to get better results drafting in similar positions in three (arguably four) of the five cases. The only clear win was Cody Hodgson.

While time will tell if Gillis has improved in his drafting since his rookie year, 2008 has to be considered a disappointment.

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34 comments

  1. caley
    June 12, 2013

    While Pateryn didn’t sign with Toronto, it wasn’t due to a lack of interest on the Leafs’ part (As it’s implied above) rather he was acquired in the Mikhail Grabovski trade.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 12, 2013

      Fair enough. Somehow missed that as I was looking into him. I edited the post to reflect that.

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  2. PB
    June 12, 2013

    An interesting approach, especially comparing the picks to those just before and after. I think that applies more to the earlier rounds where there’s generally more consensus in the scouting — I remember the debate over Beach vs. Hodgson, for example (and while some say that trading for Kassian was to rectify the size issue with not taking Beach, it’s clear that whatever his flaws Kassian is a far superior player and not just a goon which is the road Beach is taking). I also think the later rounds are all basically crapshoots, as you say (even then the Clark pick was a lame one).

    However, looking over the draft results what stands out to me is how generally awful it was for most teams. There’s really very few later round gems — I mean Dale Weise as a fourth rounder is one of the higher games played — and in looking at who the Canucks didn’t pick (usually the measure of poor predicting by the scouts) the only ones that really stand out to me is maybe Erik Karlsson at 15, Derek Stepan at 51, Adam Henrique at 82 and Jason Demers at 205. But then no team seemed to hit full-draft home runs in 2008 from what I can see (first rounders aside) except perhaps LA (Doughty, Voynov, Loktionov)

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 12, 2013

      I agree, it was a pretty underwhelming draft. Some good players at the top end and through the first round, but after that the pickings get pretty slim.

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      • Neil B
        June 12, 2013

        In a shallow draft like 2008, having a big gap between the second & fifth rounds makes it hard to compare the team’s performance vis-a-vis other teams; especially since the 3rd & 4th round picks were traded by the previous administration. I wouldn’t consider this any worse than a mildly inauspicious debut for the Gillis-led Canucks. The 2009 draft would be a much better report card for GMMG.

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  3. Tom 1040
    June 12, 2013

    Okay, fine…

    You say, ‘clear win’. I agree that as a player picked in the draft Hodgson was a win, but what I don’t understand is why Gillis drafted him in the first place.

    So, Kesler and Sedin are the top 2 centers for the next 6 or 7 years or more at the time.

    This means, and as AV said, Hodgson is playing behind a Hart and Selke winner. Who should get the ice time?

    What’s more, this then mires Hodgson with plumbers, relatively speaking.

    Not a good fit for anyone with his skill sets.

    No wonder Hodgson (‘s dad) was unhappy. What a waste of an asset.

    Hence, if that was the situation at the time, then why didn’t they draft a big D-man? Wasn’t that Gillis’ ‘vision’ at the time – depth at D (or was it 2009)?

    So, I agree, clear win as a player who could play. But clear loss for the Canucks and hence the pick itself because the pick was wasted.

    Hodgson and Sulzer for Kassian and what’s his name.

    Kassian is a ‘project’. I think maybe he has a 2-cent head, and what’s his name was let go; while Hodgson is a keeper and Sulzer, also still with the Sabres, scored 3x as many goals as Booth did last year and none of them empty net.

    As Gillis says, ‘it’s a results-based business’, so injuries or not, 2008 was at the very least a disappointment.

    In closing, I hope he has improved his drafting as he couldn’t be any worse.

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    • Rituro
      June 12, 2013

      That’s… actually a really good point. It does recolour the whole “draft the best player” vs. “draft the biggest need” argument rather starkly against the former.

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    • Neil B
      June 12, 2013

      @Tom: A forward is a forward is a forward. A big reason that San Jose beat us was their ownership of the draws; and one of the reasons for that (besides the poor historical records of Roy & Hank at the dots) is that SJ has a lot of natural centres playing on the wings. There’s no reason (other than stubbornness on either side) that Hodgson couldn’t have been deployed as a left winger for either the second or third line, with a better defending pivot at the dot.

      Premature judgment of a power forward is how the Isles ended up bailing on Bertuzzi just before he turned into a perennial 50-point player. Let’s compare the two, just for fun:

      Bertuzzi, in his first 2 seasons in the NHL, played 138 games, scoring 56 points. That’s a 0.406 clip, over 84% of the 2 seasons. Zach played 83 games, scoring 21 points. That’s a 0.253 clip over 64% of the 2 seasons. Both players played in the minors as well in their first year: Bertuzzi played 13 games, scoring 10 points in Utah; Kassian played 30 games, scoring 26 points in Rochester.

      Basically, Bert played better in the NHL; Kassian played better in the AHL. That says who is better prepared for the NHL; I don’t know what it says about their overall capabilities. But if Kassian provides 2/3 of Bertuzzi’s offence, then I’d say the trade is a draw. If he turns out to be better than 2/3 of Bertuzzi, then it’s a clear win.

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      • Tom 1040
        June 12, 2013

        Like I said, Kassian is a project.

        Hence, no premature judgement.

        Hypothetical comparisons are just what you said, just for fun. They don’t mean much, if anything at all in my opinion.

        Direct comparisons are more relevant, I think. Thus, the Sabres are the winners in this trade so far.

        This may change, of course, but until then…

        In closing, your take on SJ is quite good, I think.

        However, another reason for the Canuck demise was their lack of scoring.

        Anyway, good post by you.

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        • Neil B
          June 12, 2013

          Yes, I think in two or three years we will have a better read on the trade than now. I forgot that Sulzer turned into a work-a-day NHLer this season for Buffalo. If he remains a reliable NHL 6th defenceman, that might tip the scales on this trade, regardless of the winner of the Hodgson/Kassian debate.

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          • Tom 1040
            June 12, 2013

            Indeed.

            Keep posting, please.

            Your information is….informative…:)

            I can learn a thing or two or three from your posts, no doubt.

            Best,
            T.

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            • akidd
              June 13, 2013

              that whole coho affair was a big mess, tom. i think drafting him was totally the right move and what he did shortly after with the chl mvp and points record for the world juniors etc indicated a sure steal.

              running him into the ground right out of the gate didn’t work out too good though. he played a hell of a lot of games that year, had a week off and boom…back injury. then poor medical advice and poor, poor move by av to the press. ya, debacle.

              i think you still draft coho because you gotta grab him if he’s there. then maybe flip him. or find a spot for him.

              and they did flip him. whether kassian has a 2 cent head or not is yet to be determined, as you said. that’s a rather cutting way to put it but probably apt. i don’t think he’ll ever be a ‘steady eddy’ type by any means but i’m hoping he can time the mercury to maximum team benefit. he’s got the tools. the right new coach…who knows? how kassian develops next year will certainly be a story to follow…hopefully.

              so to sum up, i think the mistakes with coho were mostly made early and to get out of it in the end with kassian isn’t really too bad, considering where they were a couple of years previous, even a year really, and the bag of premium pucks they would have salvaged.

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              • Tom 1040
                June 13, 2013

                Good points, akidd.

                I like Kassian, actually. If you watch him, he will make some great plays with the puck but if he hangs on to it too long, he seems to get uncomfortable and then try to make a play that just isn’t there.

                He doesn’t seem to have a ‘hockey sense’. Mikael Samuellson was/is the same.

                2-cent head may be harsh but that’s the term I often use.

                Anyway, good post by you.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 13, 2013

      That’s some interesting revisionism there, Tom. When Gillis drafted Hodgson, the Canucks didn’t have a second line centre. Kesler was playing a shutdown role on the third line, playing big minutes and putting up a career high in points, but it still wasn’t clear if he was going to be able to step into a larger role with more offensive responsibility. That’s why Gillis signed Demitra, a guy who could play centre or wing, and went after Sundin, to fill in the gap at second line centre until either Kesler developed into that role or the Canucks could find a longer-term solution. That’s why Gillis jumped at the chance to draft Hodgson when he fell to 10th overall.

      You claim that Henrik and Kesler were Hart and Selke winners at the time Hodgson was drafted? What? Henrik didn’t win the Hart until two seasons later. “At the time” he had yet to actually score at a point-per-game pace or better. Kesler wasn’t even a Selke finalist until the next season and didn’t win until 2011.

      At the time, Hodgson was seen as the Canucks’ future number one centre, who would replace Henrik once the Sedins started to decline. It was expected that he would step into the second line role once he made it into the NHL or, if Kesler was able to play on the second line, as the third line centre as he was touted as defensively responsible in Junior. Things still could have gone that way, but clearly Hodgson and his advisors (agent, dad, whoever) were impatient and wanted him in a larger role immediately.

      In any case, I firmly believe that GMs should always draft the best player available regardless of position, at least in the first two to three rounds. After that, you can try to add depth to shallow areas of a prospect pool. Why? Because organizational needs change. The Canucks drafted Cory Schneider in the first round in 2004, partly because they desperately needed a franchise goaltender with Dan Cloutier struggling with injuries and inconsistent postseason play.

      But then Nonis traded for Roberto Luongo and suddenly Schneider was looking up at a perennial all-star. Was Schneider still the right choice even after the Canucks didn’t have the need for a goaltender? It’s arguable. Schneider was still one of the better players available, but the Canucks could have drafted Mike Green or Dave Bolland with the pick instead.

      When Hodgson was drafted, however, he was both the best player available and fit an organizational need, as depth at centre was a major issue in the Canucks’ prospect pool (still is) and the Canucks had a hole at second line centre. That changed in the next two seasons following the 2008 draft, but that was the situation at the time.

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      • Tom 1040
        June 13, 2013

        Great post and points taken.

        It’s not that I am being revisionist, it’s that I couldn’t remember.

        Are you ready for this?

        I stand corrected, thank you. There are errors of memory which render my original question mute.

        T.

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      • Tom 1040
        June 13, 2013

        (My first reply disappeared.)

        Excellent post and points taken.

        It’s not that I am trying to be revisionist, it’s that I had a failure of memory.

        Anyway, are you ready for this?

        I stand corrected, thank you. My original question has been rendered mute.

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        • Tom 1040
          June 13, 2013

          Sorry, that’s ‘moot’.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          June 13, 2013

          Fair enough.

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  4. PB
    June 12, 2013

    I think that drafting for “need” rather than picking the best player available is always dangerous and leads exactly to the kind of regret in retrospect that we point to in someone picking Wickenheiser over Savard. In any event the question in that draft was Beach vs. Hodgson, not a d. And the cupboard was pretty bare — or at least looked a lot like it does now with some high end prospects and not much else. The previous five years — using this article’s premise — of drafting had yielded Kesler, Schneider, Edler, Hansen, Raymond, Bourdon, and Grabner. 2007 was a complete disaster with not one pick playing a single game in the NHL, contrary to the Nonis-is-god views of some of the posters here. Given the holes the Canucks had to fill and the problems of having mainly low range picks for several years meant that taking the most talented player made the most sense and still does in terms of what he was flipped for. Until two years ago Hodgson was most definitely a project. I think he was anything but a wasted asset.

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  5. Tom 1040
    June 13, 2013

    Well done, PB.

    Good research.

    You have found and stated the drafting of the Burke/Nonis regime:

    The previous five years — using this article’s premise — of drafting had yielded Kesler, Schneider, Edler, Hansen, Raymond, Bourdon, and Grabner.

    And now, let’s compare that to Gillis’ five-year body of work.

    Ummm, nothing.

    Once again, well done, PB.

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  6. PB
    June 13, 2013

    I was trying to come up with a tone as patronizing as yours to respond to your “congratulatory” post but it’s not worth it. I think if you could look past your seemingly irrational and implacable hatred of all things Gillis, you might not completely miss the point I was trying to make. You cannot compare the players I listed as they are today with the Gillis draft picks, but the players as they were at the 5-years past draft stage. In the summer of 2008 Kesler and Edler had each had a significant NHL season (1), while Hansen and Raymond had played parts of one. Schneider and Grabner had had AHL success, and Bourdon we know about. For the similar five year period for Gillis I would say Hodgson is the only comparable to Kesler and Edler in terms of being a proven NHL’er so far, with Schroeder, Jensen, and Corrado with partial experience, and Cannata, Labate, Mallet, Tommernes, Price, and McNally with still significant promise. The Nonis-Burke regime comes out ahead on comparables, but not by much. And as much as you’d like to continue to blame Gillis for leaving the cupboard bare, I’m not sure that Nonis and Burke did that much better. The historic 2003 draft yielded Kesler but not a single other solid NHLer out of 10 picks. 2002 had 12 games out of 12 picks. The Sedins year no one except them. This doesn’t make Nonis and Burke complete morons; it speaks to the fact that drafting — especially when your team has done relatively well, is always a very tricky business. I’d follow your own suggestions for making your analysis evidence-based as opposed to resolutely and irrationally ideological. And if you want to have an actual dialogue, stop being such a dick in your posts.

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    • Tom 1040
      June 13, 2013

      C’mon now PB,

      Like Harry and so many others pot-kettle-black.

      It was I that extended the olive branch of civil discussion and it was you that responded with ‘self-important’, ‘delusional’, ‘non-sensical’, and ‘blowhard’ labels to name a few.

      So, quit your silly blabbering. Actually, you remind me of Gillis when you do that.

      But, your whining notwithstanding, were or were those not Burke/Nonis picks in 5 years?

      Finally, you don’t know what you are talking about (again). I have complimented Gillis when appropriate. For example, go back and find my posts about Garrison and Tanev. Blind hatred for all things Gillis not. That’s just what you falsely claim.

      C’mon, go check. Put your research skills to good use.

      Keep posting, P(oor) B(aby)…keep posting.

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  7. PB
    June 13, 2013

    Tom, respond to the actual point. Yes, those were Burke and Nonis picks, but at the five year point they were not particularly better than the Gillis picks are at a similar comparable. Burke and Nonis also saddled us with some mighty disastrous years of drafting and a poorly stocked farm system. Gillis has made some pretty bad picks (Honzik probably the worst) but are they worse than Patrick White, Rahimi, Bernier, etc, etc? Gillis and co need to do a better job with drafting but they are not appreciably worse than those who came before.

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    • Tom 1040
      June 13, 2013

      Perhaps possible. Good point.

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  8. Aaron
    June 13, 2013

    Hey PB why did you have to get all hostile Tom was haveing a civil discussion. His points are as vailid as yours with his own view thrown in. Also like yours. The discussion was awsome up until that point. I for one would like to see more good discussion with less hostility. I would also agree with your last point. I would also say that it will be very interesting to see what Gilles will do before next season. I will reserve judgement until then. If he gets us the right players and a Coach that works with it. He’ll prove he’s good if not i would guess he will be gone. Best year to see what Gilles is worth is this one.

    Keep up the good discussions Guys!!

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  9. BCISLEMAN
    June 13, 2013

    The Nucks started by firing the wrong guy. Gillis is responsible for the current mess. Keeping him is a mistake akin to the Isles keeping Milbury.

    He is responsible for the Luongo mess from start to finish. The impossible contract which is making a major return for Luongo impossible was his idea. He has made things worse by making a trade of Luongo imperative and insisting on a windfall in return. This has created unrealistic hopes among even the Nuck beat writers. No one wants to touch a 34 yo goalie who may be on the downside of his career and who has a horrible contract. The Isles may be the only organization willing to deal for Luongo and only if the Nucks take RDP back with minor assets at best in the package. Otherwise, the Nucks will have to buy out Luongo.

    The Nucks have to shed not only Luongo contract, but those of Booth and Ballard as well. Given their performance, injury history and bloated contracts, they may have to be bought out as well. The best case scenario for the Nucks is that they move Booth and Ballard for minor returns, do the Luongo-RDP swap, again with a minor return, That will free up enough cap space for them to fill out their roster. Presently they have 6 empty slots and less than $50000 in space.

    The first thing, they should do, however, is get an able GM. Do a side by side of the Isles and Nucks 2008 drafts (and those since) and you will see the difference between good and poor GMs.

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  10. PB
    June 13, 2013

    You’re quite right that the Isles landed way more in the 2008 draft than the Canucks have, with at least four NHLers (even if Spurgeon plays for the Wild). But putting the Isles and Canucks drafting records side by side from 2008 onwards makes little sense — the Isles drafted 9, 1, 12, 5, 5, 4 (and correspondingly high later round picks). Because they were so absolutely atrocious, finishing out of the playoffs in every one of those years. You cannot compare drafting records for a team that’s picking in the top 10 consistently against one picking in the teens-20s. In terms of signings and trades, sure, that’s more than fair, but you have to still go with comparables.

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    • BCISLEMAN
      June 13, 2013

      Granted it is unfair to look at top picks when one team has a top 5 & the other is picking much later so lets just look at players Isles drafted that Van could’ve drafted but didn’t.

      Travis Hamonic was still on the board when Van took Sauve. Matt Martin & Spurgeon were both still on the board when Van took Prab Rai.

      One draft. Two of the better young defensemen & one of the best young defensive forwards in the NHL vs two players who are unlikely to ever be NHL regulars at all. Moreover I am confident w/o checking that subsequent draft years will show the same. Good organizations find good players at any point in the draft. Its no accident that Detroit & NJ rarely trade their picks & are the two most successful teams of the last two decades.

      I live in Terrace and thus pay more careful attention to the Nucks than most Isles fans. IMHO Gillis has been a disaster for your team at least on a par with what Milbury was to us with the difference that Milbury didn’t inherit a contender.

      BTW there was no #12 pick. Isles top picks starting w/ 2008 have been 9, 1, 5, 5, & 5.

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  11. PB
    June 13, 2013

    You are absolutely right about the 2008 draft and about some of the later picks by the Isles that year. I think however, with respect, that if you look at the Isles record since then, it’s not that great especially given how many high picks they’ve had. In the past three drafts they’ve only had a single player suit up in the NHL (Neiderreiter, who I still think is going to be a good one), though they obviously have some excellent prospects in Strome and Reinhart in particular. Also, they did in fact have a #12 pick — the year they took Tavares #1 they also took Calvin de Haan at #12. The next year they also had two first rounders, but the second was #30. Reinhart was also a #4, not a #5.

    I think Gillis’ record has been mixed. I don’t think he’s anywhere near as brutal as Milbury in either style or results — those horrific trades and drafts are epic fails. And despite his middling record in the draft, I think Garth Snow — who I loved when he was a goalie here — has done a pretty decent job with a bad hand he’s been dealt in terms of ownership and previous management.

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    • BCISLEMAN
      June 13, 2013

      You are right about the picks. I was thinking of top picks, not the other 1st rders we had in 2009 and 2010 and forgot that Reinhart was a #4.

      One difference between Mad Mike and Van Mike is that Gilis didn’t have the collection of blue chip prospects to play with that Mad Mike did. Snow and Gillis are a little hard to compare because Gillis has traded away so many picks.

      One case in point is the horrendous Ballard trade. Some Nucks fans have unrealistically suggested that Brock Nelson be part of a deal for Luongo. That will never happen BUT if Gillis had passed on Ballard, he’d still have Grabs–one of the best and fastest two way forwards and special teams guys in the NHL–and could have drafted Nelson as well. Instead he has an albatross of a player and cap hit that he’ll either have to dump or buy out.

      Nelson, btw, along with Matt Donovan, Anders Lee, Nino, Strome, Mayfield and Pedan, is about ready for the NHL. Isles are neck deep in every area but goal in their prospect pool.

      Anyway, Gillis has traded away prospects and picks relentlessly to try to produce a winner now with no thought for the future and the picks he has made have not panned out. As a result, the Nucks are headed toward a rebuild that looks every bit as painful as the one Milbury forced on Snow.

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  12. steveB
    June 14, 2013

    @ Tom1040 do you have a hockey/sports blog?
    If not, why not? You have opinions on hockey that are thought-provoking.
    If so, link, please.

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  13. PB
    June 14, 2013

    If we’re looking just at results, however, Milbury not only gutted the team, it finished out of the playoffs in 8 out of 11 seasons he was GM. We know about his horrendous trades. I still don’t buy the Gillis only inherited the team narrative; he clearly made some good moves (Ehrhoff, signing Hamhuis, Garrison, Tanev, etc), some middling moves (Booth, Sundin, Demitra), and some bad ones (Ballard, Honzik). I think Gillis is at about a B so far as a GM — and as many others have pointed out this is a pretty make-or-break year where he has to prove which direction the team will go and what it’s identity will be. Milbury is a monumentally atrocious GM who ranks amongst the worst in any sport. I don’t think Gillis is anywhere near that.

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    • BCISLEMAN
      June 14, 2013

      Gillis inherited the core of a contender, Milbury did not. Moreover, the team was not his to run as he would’ve liked until Wang took over in 2000. After that, he made the playoffs more often than not. Before that, previous owners made him sell off talent. He nevertheless acquired some quality talent: Jonsson, Peca and, of course, Yashin. Yashin and the others helped get the team to the playoffs but the team was denuded of prospects in the process. That is what Gillis has done with Van. I am VERY doubtful that the team he has built will ever even get close to the Cup again.

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  14. Aaron
    June 14, 2013

    Well said PB, although I’m still not sure if Ballard is a bust or if he was just used wrong.

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