Reflections on Day 1 of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft
Last night’s first round of the NHL Entry Draft had all of the intrigue of a Venezuelan election—lots of talk, but the expected result. Teams near the top of the draft order that had motive to move their pick for current help did not, and the manufactured fascination of which player would be chosen first overall was settled with conventional wisdom of a hundred pundits – Yakupov first, Ryan Murray after.
Last night was a deep disappointment for those who like some spice with their Entry Draft, and fans of teams who have not won a playoff round in some time. Edmonton had strong reason to move its pick or move down, as they have had the first overall pick two years running, but have not won a playoff series since 2006. There was a little talk of Edmonton probing the market for value about a month ago, but that chatter died as yesterday approached. Columbus, having not won a playoff series in its history, and facing the fact only one of its 11 first round picks played for its team last year (oh, and they are desperately trying to trade that guy), still didn’t seek to garner two or three contributing NHL players for its pick. The Islanders, picking fourth, have NOT WON A PLAYOFF ROUND SINCE THE YEAR BEFORE THESE PLAYERS WERE BORN. The team has been unable to attract sought-after free agents in many years. Would it make sense for them to trade the pick for a proven top line forward or top four defenseman? Wouldn’t it make sense to do ANYTHING except make the pick and lose for another season? (sorry for the capitalization, it was the only thing standing between me and an exclamation point).
After these non-events, much of the two-third full arena slept until our diminutive commissioner took the stand with the clichés he never tires of, the nasal “We have a trade to announce” (the royal “we,” of course). As he read the Jordan Staal-to-Carolina for the 8th overall pick, Brandon Sutter and Brian Doumolin, the crowd awoke and cheered wildly, with 32-point Brandon Sutter getting the loudest response. So boring was this draft, that trading one of the most effective forwards in the league for a draft pick, a role player and a college prospect unknown to Pens fans would actually spark some interest.
Did anything of interest happen in this draft? There weren’t even any good side stories, like when Ovechkin and Malkin sat in the crowd in 2004 in fur coats and sunglasses with recently-acquired molls on their arms. This draft was more boring than CBC’s coverage of the royal Diamond Jubilee. The first “off the board” pick was Anaheim grabbing Hampus Lindholm sixth overall when he was rated about 15th by pundits. Not exactly Gretzky grabbing unknown Blake Wheeler fifth overall in 2004. One could make the case that Philly, at pick 20, finally went deep into the draft rankings to nab Scott Laughton. But the Flyers drafting a physical forward could not really be classified as a surprise.
Here’s hoping for something interesting to happen in rounds 2-7 today. Maybe one of those teams near the top of the draft order will use their second round picks and other assets to change their status quo. Seeing the draft table of Edmonton, Columbus, the Islanders, Toronto and the Wild grouped together looks like the Commissioner ordered a roundup of the “usual suspects.” They need to throw a change-up.