Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What Difference Does it Make?

I wanted to use a lyric from Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast (6th round and all that) in the title of this post, but I just couldn't put my finger on the right one so The Smiths will have to do (amazingly, only two years separate those tracks).

And now a here's a heckuva lot of text for a near meaningless trade (only in Toronto would a sixth rounder for a marginal 37 year old be seen as some type of bell weather for the franchise; I should note, the traded asset is also conditional. Yeah, it's Brad May for a conditional sixth round pick. Now, Lord knows what the conditions are, but I'm guessing none of the dedicated media horde will be able to fill us in on that lovely detail either.)

Thanks to the entry draft database at Hockeydb, I was able to very quickly do a cut and paste job to look at 6th round draft picks from 1989 to 2004. There was no real method to selecting that particular stretch of dates. I wanted to get a large sample size (429 players) I didn't want to get too close to the present as some players taken that late may still yet make the NHL, or have made it but haven't logged enough games to stand out. I also wanted to avoid the earlier 80s when teams took flyers on Eastern Europeans in the later rounds (like the Canucks taking Pavel Bure in the 6th round in 1989), but mostly I wanted to see if I could get a feel of just what the value of a sixth round pick is.

As I was doing this entry and the attendant math between cleaning up from dinner and getting the kids to bed (while also desperately laundering my hockey gear for my Wednesday night game after forgetting to air out after playing pick-up on Saturday) I didn't take the time to do any sort of round by round comparison, but if anyone else has that data or link to it, by all means post it in the comments.

Here's what I found:

Anyone looking to dump on the Leafs for trading a sixth round pick for a broken down Brad May has about 14 big names to chose from to make their case as only 14 players (or 3.26% of the 429 I looked at) have managed to play in 500+ games, including the likes of Pavel Bure, Daniel Alfredsson, Darcy Tucker, Dallas Drake and Craig Conroy; I'll toss Pavel Datsyuk into that mix (400+ games) as well as Andrei Markov as he's a dreaded Hab (I'll also give even odds that one or more of those names will be in Damien Cox's next column).

On a points per game basis (unfair to those D-men, I know) only three players: Bure, Datsyuk and Alfredsson are over the 0.80 mark (that's 0.7% of the 429 players drafted for those of you keeping score). In the next tier down, only the recently waived Jussi Jokinen is better than 0.60 pts/gm and only 10 players out of 429 hit the 0.5 pts/game mark (excluding Rick Wallin who played 19 games with the Minnesota Wild and Dan Lambert who had a cup of coffee with the Nordiques, playing 29 games over two seasons in the early 90s).

In terms of total games played (note: I'm not double counting here, so it's guys that played 500+; or 400-499; or 300-399; etc.) there's not a lot to choose from. With 429 players to choose from, nearly 70% never played a single game in the NHL. Here's how that breaks down:

500+ 3.26%
400+ 2.8%
300+ 3.26%
200+ 2.56%
100+ 3.73%
1 to 99 15.62%
No Games 68.76%

In short: it's long odds that an impact player can be found as late as the sixth round. Sure, it happens and, like the lottery, you can' t win if you don't have a ticket, but half a dozen names out of 16 drafts isn't exactly inspiring.

Not that I'm being a Leaf apologist here either, Brad May doesn't exactly define inspirational either.

9 comments:

  1. MF, phenomenal post. This is what a blog should be. Excellent work. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Smiths line is good, but you could have gone with Maiden's "Is all this real, or just some kind of hell?" from Number of the Beast. Though, that may apply to Leaf fandom in general, rather than this post in particular.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Paul Steckley10:59 am

    My choice would have been, "Can this still be real or just some crazy dream." Glad to see Maiden getting some love.

    I'm on the fence with this move. Like you said, Mike, you can't win the lottery without a ticket so losing the 6th round pick means no chance of lucking out with a Datsyuk.

    However, the chances of any player the Leafs picked with that pick ever being a meaningful contributor to a Cup winning team is so remote that its worth giving up if there is some sort of return. This is where I'm still undecided. Does May have any kind of return in him still at this stage in his career? Is he the type that can go into the dressing room and change the culture? Can he inject some "noise", which Wilson recently said is disturbingly lacking from the room?

    I haven't followed May's career enough to formulate an opinion about that. If he can come in and show Stajan, Grabovski, Antropov, etc. how to lead and if the Leafs decide to build around those guys, then this could be a very positive and worthwhile move. May will not be in the league when the Leafs challenge for the Cup, but if he can make an impact on the young players that sustains itself in the seasons to come then it's a fantastic trade for Burke.

    Otherwise, it's basically nothing about nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When it comes to Maiden, you can never go wrong with "Run to the Hills." (you're singing it right now in your head, aren't you...?)

    great post. I sometimes fixate on those late round gems (zetterberg, datsyuk etc) and forget how many other guys were drafted in the same rounds.

    it'd be interesting to see how detroits draft record stacks up round by round. i'm starting to get the feeling they've just been insanely lucky. I mena, if they were that high on datsyuk and z, I think they'd have taken them earlier...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Have to agree with Paul Steckley's comment, and many thanks to your great analysis to show that while there may not be huge upside here, there's little downside. May won't improve the quality of hockey in Toronto short-term, but the hope is that he'll improve the "intangibles" that will form the foundation of a great team in 2011.

    Of course, we really shouldn't be having this discussion as the coverage of this trade for any normal team should appropriately be a two-line press release. Analysis probably isn't warranted here. There'll be many more moves in the future that will warrant it. Let's save our chops for those ones...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Have to agree with Paul Steckley's comment, and many thanks to the great analysis in the blog to show that while there may not be huge upside here, there's little downside. May won't improve the quality of hockey in Toronto short-term, but the hope is that he'll improve the "intangibles" that will form the foundation of a great team in 2011.

    Of course, we really shouldn't be having this discussion as the coverage of this trade for any normal team should appropriately be a two-line press release. Analysis probably isn't warranted here. There'll be many more moves in the future that will warrant it. Let's save our chops for those ones...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post. Should be required reading for anyone who has ever taken shots at Cliff Fletcher for his "draft schmaft" line.

    ReplyDelete
  8. daoust12:19 pm

    great post man, well done. i may have to expand your analysis for every pick from every round since 1989. i think i'm a stataholic.

    and good choice on the blog title. morrissey > bruce dickinson.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Paul Steckley5:17 pm

    Morrissey sucks. Dickinson could stop traffic on the 401 in rush hour when he was at the top of his game.

    ReplyDelete