• Sorting through the rubble

    by  • June 16, 2011 • Post, Uncategorized • 21 Comments

    Looking over the Bruins’ roster after last night, I was struck by how few of them were players drafted and developed by the Bruins, which inspired me to create a chart of the percentage of minutes played by non-draftees on Stanley Cup champions since the NHL started tracking ice time in 1997-98. It is, I think, pretty interesting.


    Before the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, the previous six champions were all pretty heavily home grown. Both Devils’ champions in the sample check in at under 50% of time on ice being played by players who weren’t drafted by the Devils. The Avalanche and both Red Wings teams check in at between 50 and 54%. Only the Stars put up a really big number – they gave 66.9% of their minutes to players who they didn’t draft. Looking back through history from that point, it’s hard to find a Cup winner that didn’t build through the draft, at the very least in the sense of having obtained its elite players that way. The 1993-94 Rangers might be an exception, although Brian Leetch won the Conn Smythe that year and the Rangers benefitted from the curious circumstances of Peter Pocklington. Other than that…I don’t see a lot.

    In 2004, the Lightning had very few players who they drafted appear in the playoffs – Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Pavel Kubina, Dmitri Afansenkov and Martin Cibak. 73.6% of the playoff ice time went to players who they had acquired in other ways. The story was similar with Carolina in 2006 and Anaheim in 2007. It wasn’t until Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago won in 2008-10 that we saw a bit of a return to the old way of building teams, with those teams being built heavily on draft picks who were grown internally. There’s a bit a caveat to this though. In Detroit’s case, they’re still living off of Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk – drafting them and keeping them at contracts that are probably below what they would have obtained on the open market.

    Pittsburgh and Chicago are the first two teams we’ve seen post-lockout that are based on the old way of building a team: sucking for a while, accumulating draft picks and then being really good. It’s paid off for those teams, in that they won Stanley Cups, but both teams promptly had to start dumping players because it was time to start paying the high draft picks and others who won the Cup. Chicago has a number of “cheater” contracts that mitigated the damage but they still fell to eighth in the West this year, even if they were a really strong team. Pittsburgh is an awfully thin team outside of the stars, who are still phenomenal.

    Then we come to Boston. Boston jumps out at me not only for the high percentage of minutes that went to players who they acquired other than through the draft but also in that not a lot of guys who they drafted are the stars of the team. Of the 21 players who the Bruins iced in the playoffs, only Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin were drafted by the Bruins. Fine players to be sure, but they aren’t quite up to the calibre of the past groups of players who were drafted by Stanley Cup champions. This Boston team was a great team not because they sucked and assembled a group of stars but because they did a great job of finding players through other routes.

    This has some obvious implications for the Oilers, who are going the Pittsburgh/Chicago route. I understand that Edmonton isn’t quite the same as Boston in terms of being a draw for players – Boston’s a sexy city, Edmonton isn’t. It might be hard to get a defender the quality of Zdeno Chara on the free agent market to come to Edmonton. I can, to an extent, understand the desire to get some players who are forced to learn some of Edmonton’s secret delights during seven years of bonded servitude.

    With that said, the Oilers are going to add at least one more elite prospect to the pile in this draft. Their 2012-13 roster could quite conceivably see them icing seven or eight young first round draft picks. I would suggest that it’s time to start getting back in the business of looking for hockey players in places other than the draft because even the teams that were built through the draft that have won lately have had 50% of the minutes eaten by players who were acquired by other means. This isn’t necessarily glamourous work – there’s a lot of sifting that has to be done to find guys.

    One thing that helps though is cutting loose the guys who aren’t going to make the grade. I’ve been mildly encouraged by the Oilers’ rumoured interest in a couple of older European goalies; it suggests that Khabibulin’s spot isn’t necessarily safe and that they might be ready to start competing now. I saw the Jones’ resigning as a bit of a downer because he’s a guy who just kills everyone who plays with him. There’s a reason a much better run club than the Oilers was willing to give him away, I suspect.

    (Aside: I’ve got some data, which I’ll get around to posting at some point, which kind of implies that the Oilers top six forwards (Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Horcoff, Hemsky, MPS) aren’t that far below league average for top six forwards at evens. The bottom six is a disaster. Jones is a part of that.)

    A number of the disaster parts need new contracts – Cogliano, Jacques and MacIntyre. The Oilers are stuck with Jones, Brule and Fraser, barring buyouts. It would be a really hopeful sign if the team, rather than re-upping or keeping all of these guys, admitted that they aren’t parts of the puzzle moving forward and started looking for other hockey players. It’s time to start doing that and it’s not at all inconsistent with the idea of building through the draft and eventually having a Stanley Cup champion in Edmonton.


    21 Responses to Sorting through the rubble

    1. gary
      June 16, 2011 at

      hey tyler i think you need to change the heading on your graph to “percentage of playoff minutes played by NON draftees on Stanley Cup Champtions” – just add the NON and you are good, otherwise its doesnt make sense

    2. Woodguy
      June 16, 2011 at

      It funny, I was just compiling some of the same stats on Conference Champions (I think picking both teams that makes the finals gives a slightly better sample)

      You missed Brad Marchand. He was drafted by BOS in the 3rd round in ’06.

      Top 3 point producers for BOS in the playoffs were draft picks Krejci, Bergeron, and Marchand.

      I haven’t got all my data yet (spare time project), but I’m finding the same thing you are, drafting is important, but not the end-all-be-all.

      I’m also finding very few lottery picks winning the cup outside of PITT (4 lottery picks) and CHI (2 lottery picks)

      When PITT won, 2 lottery picks were on ELC’s, on CHI both were.

      It seems that the management that is bad enough to put teams in the lottery are rarely good enough to put together a winner once the lottery picks are playing in the NHL.

      Sounds like a familiar refrain from those of us who follow the Oilers.

    3. kinger
      June 17, 2011 at

      Today I was leafing through the Vancouver Metro and I came to a section dedicated to fan tweets during the game. I stopped to read through hoping to enjoy some Nuck fans lamenting their fate. The tweets were displayed next to a game timeline, and it was a pretty sleepy compilation (such and such about believing in a comeback etc) until I got near the end. I found myself chortling as I read a tweet near the end of the game. It was a quip about the camera panning to tearful fans, and a request for a shot of Jim Hughson.

      Thanks for the laugh Tyler.

    4. June 17, 2011 at

      Brule’s a dirt cheap buyout.

    5. dawgbone
      June 17, 2011 at

      We could buy him out OR we could trade him for the rights to Torres…

    6. dawgbone
      June 17, 2011 at

      On a side note, while McQuaid wasn’t drafted by the Bruins he’s essentially been developed by them. Columbus picked him in the 2nd round in 05 and traded him to Boston in the summer of 07.

    7. Hambone
      June 17, 2011 at

      Tyler, I’m pretty sure Edmonton could become a destination for players if they had a winning record and culture. Detroit is at least as much of a hellhole as Edmonton, probably more (although I’ve never been there).

      Good players want to play with other good players and have a chance to win it all. I’m pretty sure that’s the #1 factor for them.

    8. BRIdub
      June 17, 2011 at

      The interesting thing with Boston is the apparent lack value contracts. People have suspected it takes a key player on an ELC or huge hometown discount to win the cup but Boston seems to buck that trend.

      Marchand was of course huge for them and is only making 850k but I don’t think he can be put in the same mold as a Toews or Staal.

      Krejci is good value for 3.75M but they have no obvious star player making low dollars, it seems to be more of a balance thing.

    9. David Staples
      June 17, 2011 at

      I’m no huge fan of Ryan Jones. He’s a marginal NHLer. But I don’t see why he should be blamed for scoring chances where he’s out on the ice, but he makes no mistake.

      His scoring chance plus/minus numbers as used here blame him for poor plays of his weak icemates (Strudwick, Vandermeer, Foster, Fraser, JFJ), and I don’t think that’s how an NHL team would look at this player. Coaches would try to separate out his performance from his teammates performance.

    10. George E. Ays
      June 17, 2011 at

      “I understand that Edmonton isn’t quite the same as Boston in terms of being a draw for players – Boston’s a sexy city, Edmonton isn’t.”

      Boston built a lot via trade, rather than UFA. Chara and Thomas are the only notable exceptions.

    11. Woodguy
      June 17, 2011 at


      Jones is rarely in position to make the type of mistake that you count. He is often down on the ice in the ozone and by far the last man back. He falls down more than any NHL I have ever seen, especially in the ozone.

      Its like his team is short handed when the pucks moves towards the Oiler net, he is never there to back check. The players he plays with aren’t good enough to handle being handicapped like that.

      You cannot blame his team mates for his dismal results using Dennis’ scoring chances as all of those team mates posted much better numbers without him.

      Strudwick with Jones .390
      Strudwick wout Jones .485

      Vandermeer with Jones .383
      Vandermeer wout Jones .468

      Foster with Jones .356
      Foster wout Jones .467

      Fraser with Jones .292 (!)
      Fraser wout Jones .471

      JFJ with Jones .286 (Lordy)
      JFJ wout Jones .492

      Its pretty clear who is dragging who down.

      Jones consistently made his team play 4v5 hockey while he was on the ice, and the scoring chance results show this.

    12. Tach
      June 17, 2011 at

      The Anaheim numbers are really thrown out of whack by two items:

      1) The ridiculous minutes put up by Pronger, Niedermayer and Beauchemin. Each of those guys was averaging about 30 minutes a game.

      2) What I would consider an unusual number of college free agents playing signficant roles. Kunitz, McDonald and Penner were all undrafted free agents. If you put those three guys into the “developed” category, the Anaheim numbers fall back closer to the Carolina numbers.

      The one that surprises me the most is Carolina – even with Ward playing almost a sixth of the minutes, the only other significant players they developed on that team were Staal, Cole and Wallin. Adams, Vasicek and Ladd played lesser roles I suppose.

    13. Bruce McCurdy
      June 17, 2011 at

      @Tach: Regardless of the distribution of minutes among the individuals, the entire Anaheim defence corps of 2007 was developed elsewhere, so 100% of D minutes were from guys not drafted by the Ducks. Same is true with the Bruins defence now; Chara acquired as UFA, the rest by trade, none drafted/developed by the B’s.

    14. June 17, 2011 at

      McQuaid was developed by the Bruins. Drafted by the BJs, played two years in Sudbury, was traded when he graduated junior and signed with Boston.

    15. Bruce McCurdy
      June 17, 2011 at

      @Pat Mc: Right you are, I should have specified “drafted AND developed” rather than used a slash. For sure Boston did develop him, three years in Providence.

      Not sure what the deal was with the trade, could CBJ not come to terms with him so dumped him for whatever they could get before the 2-year window closed? Cuz initially he was a second rounder, and only got them a fifth in return.

    16. dawgbone
      June 17, 2011 at

      Bruce, he hasn’t talked about it much but I don’t think the Jackets were happy about his progress and I don’t think he was happy with playing an overage year in junior instead of moving to the AHL.

      Sort of a mutual split. Columbus got a pick for an asset they were going to potentially let re-enter the draft and Adam got to go to the Bruins where there was an opportunity for him to start playing in the AHL.

    17. Bruce McCurdy
      June 17, 2011 at

      @dawgbone: Thanks, I’ve been wondering about that. Anything I googled about the trade didn’t have anything specific about how it went down.

      Always try to follow the guys from the Atlantic Provinces. Three of them on the Bruins!

    18. Chris Cziborr
      June 17, 2011 at


      Great post as always. Like Black Dog has pointed out in the past, the guys in charge of the Oilers rebuild are the same folks who drove this team into a ditch; therefore, it simply doesn’t jive that they have the know-how to build a playoff-bound team almost from scratch.

      For the past several years, it’s been difficult to discern any kind of long term plan. Under K.Lowe, the “plan” was, “Run around chasing UFA’s like a chicken with its head cut off.”

      Now, the “plan” appears to be, “Continue to suck and get high draft picks and hope for the best.” Tambo knows how to put a bad team on the ice. He’s finally found something he’s good at and this is now his comfort zone, and so he’ll continue to do this for who knows how long. I expect the “rebuild” to continue indefinitely. Of course, I would be more-than-pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong! :>

      - Chris

    19. David Staples
      June 22, 2011 at

      @Woodguy. I just don’t believe Jones is a worse player than all those terrible hockey players you listed, and I think there’s more than enough noise in Dennis’ numbers to account for these difference in team scoring chance numbers.

      If he is falling down more than other guys and is caught out of the play, I’m looking for that, and he’s get a minus mark for sure.

      Again, I’m not saying he’s a star or even a good player. He’s not.

      But worse than Fraser, JFJ, Strudwick, Vandy? Hmmm…. With all due respect to Dennis’ work, if the numbers are saying that, I’d suggest you’d look at the numbers to see what they tell us and what they don’t. Dennis’ numbers are great for rating lines, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to use them as definitive statements on individual players. They are earned by groups of five, not by one guy, and each of the five has a much different role on the ice.

      Team scoring chance numbers tell us something about the offensive ability of wingers, but they don’t tell us much about the defensive ability of wingers, IMO.

      Wingers just don’t have the same defensive responsiblity as dmen and centres, so they get all kinds of minus marks here where they’re not involved in the play, I’d argue.

    20. Triumph
      June 23, 2011 at


      I watched few Oiler games this year (mostly to cheer me up when NJ was in the toilet), and I don’t really have much of a sense of how good Jones was via eye test. And yeah, there’s going to be some noise in this data. The problem is that this is true of pretty much every player Jones played with this year, so it gets really hard to justify things like noise when every single player on the Oiler roster was better when Jones was not on the ice.

    21. June 23, 2011 at

      Great post,I will read your post time to time.thank you!

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