May 20 2014 01:07PM
I was recently having a Twitter discussion with Canucks Army contributor Patrick Johnston (@risingaction) and regular reader Ryan (@Verviticus), in which we were essentially arguing which Canucks entry draft in the Ron Delorme Era was the worst (it's probably 2007, although 2002, 2000, and 2009 are all pretty miserable too).
We came to the conclusion that, man, Vancouver's drafting really has been inexcusably awful for over a decade now. Sure, there have been a handful of home runs with guys like Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Ryan Kesler, but nearly every Canucks fan can name The One That Got Away or That Guy They #ShouldOf Drafted. Still, every team in the NHL passed up Shea Weber or Patrice Bergeron or Milan Lucic, so is Ron Delorme's record as head of Canucks amateur scouting really that much worse than everyone else?
To find out, I decided to design an extremely basic you-don't-have-to-even-think method of drafting and compared it to Vancouver's draft record under Delorme. I've put a summer intern with nothing but a book of CHL stats and no access to any non-Canadian junior league up against an entire team of world-travelling, game-watching professional amateur scouts. If the Canucks' brass can't clear this woefully low hurdle, then holy hell they are awful.
Spoiler: it's even worse than you think.
The Pension Plan Puppets have a running gag over on their blog about whether Dave Nonis (or Brian Burke or whoever the hell runs the Leafs these days. Shanahan? Lieweke? Carlyle? It's hard to keep track!) can out-GM a potato. They outline a set of rules that the potato has to abide by and compare the teams' theoretical moves under the leadership of a potato to those made by the actual team. An excerpt from this past summer:
"Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle made some controversial moves yesterday, so to figure out whether the duo deserves accolades or scorn, I thought I would compare Nonis' July 5th Leafs roster to a potato's.
Rules: The potato cannot extend the Leafs' UFAs, nor can it sign new ones. We will consider Colton Orr's extension a "July 5th" move. It will not undo trades, so Bolland and Bernier are still on the roster. Lastly, the potato must re-sign RFAs at 200% of their previous AAV - it's a potato, not a skilled negotiator. So how did our two GMs fare?"
You get the idea.
Anyways, to avoid totally ripping off PPP's shtick, we'll say our sole amateur scout is the only thing more useless to a hockey game than a potato: Tom Sesti--
--I mean, uh, we'll say our scout is a summer intern called "Sham Sharron". Sham will not pick and choose his draft selections. He has no access to game tape, he has seen no games, and he has no fancy stats or analytics to aid his decision. He will select all players by the following rules:
- All players selected will be from the Canadian Hockey League.
- Goalies are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
- Defensemen are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
- The Canucks' selection will be the player still on the draft board that scored the most points in their 17 year old CHL season that was for-realsies taken between Vancouver's selection and Vancouver's subsequent selection.
- No other information other than the total number of points a player had in his 17-year old season (his first year of draft eligibility) is considered. This information was freely available at the time each draft was held.
- Ties are broken on the basis of points per game.
Sham and Ron agree on Brandon Reid in the 7th round, but Sham finds top-6 winger and Corsi God Justin Williams at 23rd overall. Vancouver finds 26 pointless games of Nathan Smith.
Vancouver did well in 2001, finding two impact pros in Kevin Bieksa and R.J. Umberger. However, Sham managed to find future 3-time 30-goal scorer Jason Pominville to compliment the Sedins and Kyle Wellwood and P-A Parenteau to supplement Vancouver's depth. As we'll see though, Wellwood is eventually forced out of Vancouver's system by some even better talent at C. I'm Gladskikh the Canucks avoided that awkward situation..
'02 was a disaster for Vancouver, as they failed to find a single NHLer with their 11 selections. Sham whiffs on the majority of his picks too, but unearths Matt Stajan in the late 2nd round and Max Talbot in the 7th.
As an aside, this was my absolute favourite thing I discovered while doing this project: the guy Vancouver actually drafted in the 7th round, 214th overall, was a guy by the name of Marc-Andre Roy. You'll notice that he played 58 games in his draft year, had no goals, and just one assist. So why did Brian Burke's Vancouver Canucks waste a pick on that coke machine? I bet it had something to do with this:
Yes, those are SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE minutes in penalties in just 68 games. According to Hockeyfights.com, Roy had 41 fighting majors that year, which account for a total of 205 of those penalty minutes. I don't know how one accrues 448 extra PIMs without fighting, but I assume it involves criminal activity, human sacrifice, and satanic worship at centre ice.
Thing is, Roy wasn't the only super-ultra-mega goon roaming the QMJHL back then. I came across quite a few guys with massive PIM totals running through this study. I don't know much about Q hockey in the early 2000's, but I have to assume it was a total gong show.
The 2003 draft is legendary for the sheer number of quality picks that the first and second rounds produced. However, it wasn't a really deep draft as the number of late round successes were kind of limited. Sham misses Ryan Kesler here, but picks up future ex-Flyers captain Mike Richards, as well as Clarke MacArthur. Under Sham's drafting, Brad Richardson also starts his Vancouver Canuck tenure a decade sooner than he would in real life.
The 2004 draft is probably the crown jewel of the Delorme Era. Vancouver's gamble on a goalie in the first round paid off, and Delorme and Co. also discovered future NHL regulars Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen, and Mike Brown. Sham takes Brandon Dubinsky over Cory Schneider and Liam Reddox (who somehow managed to sneak in 100 career NHL games...?) instead of Edler, but almost had Kris Versteeg in the 4th round instead of Peter Pohl. Versteeg has 49 points to Pohl's 50, but did so in fewer games. If Sham was allowed to use points per game, he does not pass up Versteeg. But alas, Sham is not allowed to think, so we're left to wonder what could have been. A MacArthur-Dubinsky-Versteeg 3rd line in 2011? That would have been something.
I never like bringing up 2005 because of the circumstances surrounding the Luc Bourdon selection. Looking back though, I was pretty stoked about him, but disappointed that Vancouver passed on the great big goofy looking guy with the funny name from the country that no one had ever heard of. I have an Anze Kopitar Kings jersey, and I get filled with regret looking at it knowing that Vancouver was this close to drafting the guy I'd decided was going to be one of my favourite players.
Granted, Sham whiffs on Kopitar too and takes Marek Freaking Zagrapan 10th overall. What the hell, Sham. You were awful in 2005. Next year, take a GOOD OL' CANADIAN BOY in the first round instead.
Ron Delorme and Co. cost Vancouver Claude Giroux.
I mean, this would make foregoing the 2004 haul worth it on its own.
The obvious, unthinking choice in 2006 was Claude Giroux at 14th overall. And they still screwed it up.
2007 was the trainwreck year. Not a single player drafted by the Canucks even made the American Hockey League, let alone coming close to sniffing the NHL. Unfortunately, Sham is unable to make anything from this mess either. Just to prove he's not infallible, Sham also passes on dynamic Lewiston MAINEiacs sniper David Perron, but in favour of Brett MacLean instead of Patrick White. Eugh.
At least MacLean had played 18 more NHL games than Vancouver's entire actual 2007 draft class.
In his first draft under Sham Sharron's guidance, Mike Gillis saves himself a lot of grief and selects Tyler Ennis 10th overall. He'll fit right in on the second line with Claude Giroux and Jason Pominville. Or maybe he'll take Justin Williams' spot on line 1 with the Sedins. Or maybe he'll fill a checking role in place of one of the MacArthur-Richards-Burrows line. Or maybe he can just tear up the AHL with Mathieu Perreault since we already have Matt Stajan, Brandon Dubinsky and Max Talbot on line 4... *sobs uncontrollably*
Neither Sham nor Delorme have a banner year. Sham misses Ryan O'Reilly by one point, but Taylor Beck, Linden Vey, and Phil Varone all go on to form a very strong core of a good AHL team. By the time 2013-2014 rolls around, all are nearing NHL readiness scoring nearly a point-per-game in the AHL, but are being held back because of Vancouver's absurd depth at forward.
Despite no draft picks until the 4th round, Sham finds Brendan Gallagher and this is just getting silly. Vancouver has 4 first lines and probably multiple Stanley Cups at this point and Sham is hailed as the greatest hockey mind to ever live. We erect a statue in his honour for finally drafting MOAR GIANTZZZ.
We're getting into "too early to call who's better" territory now. Basically everyone in these two drafts is still a prospect. That being said, I'd take Sham's top-3 picks over Vancouver's because Prince, Catenacci, and Pageau probably have a better shot of one of them developing into an above-average NHL player than Jensen, Honzik, and Grenier do. But hey, you never know. Also, Sham allows Vancouver to benefit from Ondrej Palat's extremely fluky development which is just gravy at this point.
This is Ron Delorme's final year as the director of amateur scouting for the Vancouver Canucks, and it's too soon to tell if he's defeated Sham in his last hurrah. I tend to think not, because I prefer Bozon, Gordon, and Smith to Mallet, Hutton, and Myron, but Ben Hutton looks like he could swing that in Delorme's favour.
With his stellar draft record, Sham is retained as the Canucks' head of amateur scouting and is allowed the 2013 NHL entry draft as well.
I prefer Mantha to Horvat despite the age concerns, and I like Bjorkstrand far more than Cassels, but I'm torn on Petan/Shinkaruk. Greg Chase could prove to be a good pick in round 6, so I give the early nod to Sham's most recent draft over the Canucks' actual one, but that's open for plenty of debate, especially if Bo Horvat does defy the odds and become a Bergeron-type two-way force at the NHL level. As each and every one of you knows, I'm skeptical though.
So who did better, Vancouver's actual scouting staff or our friend Sham who restricted himself to just one year of goal data in just the CHL and watched exactly none of the games? Well, here are all the guys who have played one or more full seasons worth of games drafted by each group:
If Vancouver never kept a single amateur scout on staff, never paid any attention to junior hockey anywhere in the world, never watched a single game, never did any in-depth research, never prepared for the draft for more than three hours each year, and simply took the next highest scoring CHL forward with every selection they had, they would have drafted over 4000 more games of future NHL experience, nearly 1000 more goals, and over 1500 more assists than they did under the Ron Delorme regime. Vancouver's scouting since 2000 has not just been useless, it's been a cataclysmic failure on all fronts, and probably the single largest reason why the Canucks have not been able to accrue enough assets to build a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
This study was hardly in-depth. The methods for selecting players were extremely straightforward and comically simplistic. No shred of information that wasn't already available at the time was used. There were still massive whiffs under this system. Good players were still passed up and first-round busts were still selected. Yet it outperformed the actual Canucks draft record to a degree that shouldn't be possible, both in terms of player quality and player quantity.
The knowledge and opinions of a scout are only worthwhile if they can outperform any idiot with access to the internet. Vancouver has proven definitively that their scouts have been entirely worthless since Ron Delorme took over the gig in 2000, since they haven't been able to outperform what an idiot with the internet would have done. You, reader, could have done the job better than the professionals. It's now up to the professionals to figure out how to get their competitive edge back.
Let's hope it starts this year.