Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vancouver Canucks' Draft Record

These past few weeks, the draft record of the Vancouver Canucks has come into greater focus.  The Ron Delorme era has taken a beating and the guys over at Canucks Army completed an exercise comparing the Canucks selections to a very simple 'scouting for dummies' model of selecting the highest scoring CHL forward remaining on the board (more or less).  Not to put words in their mouths, but the exercise seemingly was a tongue in cheek attempt to shed light on the poor draft results the Canucks have had.

It contains a lot of good work but left me with a few questions.

1) Did the Canucks have as many picks as other teams?

2) How did the quality of those picks (draft position) compare to other teams?

3) Depending on the answers to those questions, did the Canucks get value for their picks?

4) How many quality NHLers did the Canucks draft, compared to other teams in the 'Delorme era' (since 2000)?

The answers to these questions should prove if the Canucks' drafting woes are legitimate, and determine if the  team is a victim of their regular season success (low draft positioning), a victim of poor management (lack of picks), or poor scouting (bad draft selections).  Of course, a poor draft selection may not be the scout's fault, if Brian Burke an overbearing GM overrules the scouts and picks guys who can 'spell intensity'.  Let's get into it.

1) Draft Pick Breakdown by Team: Did the Canucks have as many picks as other teams?

Now, for reasons I'll explain later on, I chose to limit the analysis to the 2000-2008 Entry Drafts, as analyzing 2009-2013 involved far too much speculation.

Turns out, between 2000-2008, the Vancouver Canucks had fewer draft picks (63) than anyone in the entire NHL except for Carolina (62).  The Chicago Blackhawks led the NHL with 99 draft picks over that time, with the NHL average being 77.  Here's a breakdown of how many picks each team had, and where.

Team Top 5 Top 10 1st Rd 2nd Rd 3rd Rd 4th Rd + Total
Chicago 3 3 5 15 9 64 99
Columbus 3 6         -    12 10 60 91
Los Angeles 2          -    12 11 12 50 87
Tampa Bay 2 1 3 8 8 64 86
Washington 3          -    12 13 7 48 83
Edmonton  -    1 10 12 8 51 82
St. Louis 2          -    8 12 14 46 82
Colorado -            -    5 18 12 46 81
NY Islanders 2 2 4 9 9 55 81
NY Rangers -    2 6 13 11 49 81
Calgary -   3 6 7 10 53 79
Nashville -    4 5 10 12 48 79
New Jersey -             -    7 15 14 43 79
Dallas -             -    6 14 12 46 78
Winnipeg 4 2 4 7 5 56 78
Florida 3 4 3 11 9 47 77
Pittsburgh 5          -    3 9 12 48 77
Ottawa 1 1 8 7 12 47 76
Buffalo 1          -    9 12 7 46 75
Philadelphia 2          -    7 4 13 48 74
Phoenix 2 2 8 10 9 43 74
Montreal 1 2 8 9 9 43 72
Detroit -             -    4 9 6 52 71
Toronto 1          -    5 6 11 48 71
Anaheim 2 2 6 10 12 38 70
Boston 1 2 6 12 6 43 70
Minnesota 2 3 4 8 9 44 70
San Jose -    3 6 6 4 50 69
Vancouver -    2 6 6 7 42 63
Carolina 3          -    4 7 7 41 62
45 45 180 302 286 1,459 2,317


As you can see, the GM's in Vancouver over this time (Brian Burke & Dave Nonis) clearly did not care much for the draft.  They drafted 36 fewer players than the Blackhawks, and Chicago had six (6) Top 10 picks.  That'll help you land a Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

The Blackhawks were a terrible team over most of this time, so amassing 99 draft picks was smart, and clearly paid off down the road.

One might assume that cup contenders that traded their picks away would be low on this list, but cup winning teams of that era like Colorado, New Jersey, Dallas and Detroit fared well despite not having any top 10 picks over these years.  They managed to uncover some gems by stockpiling picks in later rounds and drafting smart.  These powerful teams managed to dominate the standings without mortgaging their future.

Anyways, based on the table above, the Canucks management groups clearly put themselves at a disadvantage at the draft table by keeping very few draft picks.  But, how much does a draft pick matter?  How likely is it to turn into a quality NHL player?

2) How did the quality of those picks (draft position) compare to other teams?
For the sake of this project, I followed Scott Cullen's lead at TSN, and defined a quality NHLer as a player who plays 100 games.  This number proved to be really helpful, and Cullen's research provides a great baseline for comparison.  Cullen discovered that draft position  really does matter, especially in the early rounds.  This shouldn't be TOO surprising, but it's helpful for our evaluation of the Canucks, and any other team.  According to Cullen, here's how often a draft pick turns into a quality NHLer:

PositionQuality
#1-5 OV96%
#6-10 OV74%
#11-30 OV58%
2nd Round28%
3rd Round24%
4th Round +12%


These numbers show that a top 5 pick is virtually a guaranteed NHLer, whereas a 2nd or 3rd round pick has a one in four chance.  This allows us to apply a value to each pick a team has within each bracket, and determine how many quality NHLers we should expect to see them draft.

Cullen's numbers really worked well, and made it easy to rule out 2009-2013 from my research because they're simply too early to evaluate.  Because we're defining a quality NHLer as someone who has played 100+ NHL games, many of those recent draftees haven't had an opportunity to be full-time NHLers for a prolonged period of time... especially with a lockout shortened season.

Expected versus Actual Quality NHLers Drafted


YearExpectedActual
20006155.5
20016175
20026161
20036183
20046168
20055160.5
20065147
20075145.5
20085150
20095137
20105113
20115110
2012512
2013510

As you can see, Cullen's numbers suggest that 61 Quality NHLers should surface from the nine round drafts early in the decade, and 51 from the seven round drafts we know today.  The actual numbers confirm that 2003 was the deep draft everyone knows it to be, and also shows what I described earlier - that as of 2009, the 'draft quality' starts to fade dramatically due to the lack of time for players to mature and play 100 NHL games.  

Therefore, even though the Ron Delorme era covers 2000-2013, I'm only going to look at 2000-2008, because I feel it's too speculative to cover the Mike Gillis years at this point.

So, how many Quality NHLers should each team have drafted over that span?


Rank Team Proj. NHLers
1 Chicago 22.04
2 Washington 20.92
3 Los Angeles 20.84
4 Columbus 20.28
5 St. Louis 18.80
6 Florida 18.46
7 Phoenix 18.16
8 Edmonton 17.94
9 Pittsburgh 17.70
10 Winnipeg 17.52
11 Nashville 17.30
12 NY Rangers 17.12
13 Anaheim 17.12
14 NY Islanders 17.00
15 Montreal 16.92
16 Ottawa 16.82
17 New Jersey 16.78
18 Buffalo 16.74
19 Calgary 16.42
20 Colorado 16.34
21 Tampa Bay 16.24
22 Minnesota 16.14
23 Philadelphia 15.98
24 Boston 15.88
25 Dallas 15.80
26 San Jose 14.34
27 Toronto 13.94
28 Carolina 13.76
29 Vancouver 13.36
30 Detroit 12.52

This table presents a lot of great information.  First, you can see how many Quality NHLers 'should' have been produced by each team in the NHL from 2000-2008 based on the number of picks and the quality of their position in the draft.  You'll notice in the Projected NHLer column that the Canucks were projected to only find 13 quality NHLers over that nine year period.  This amount is not doing them any favours.  Detroit also suffers here.  Despite having a decent number of picks overall, they never had any top 10 picks
and only four (4) first rounders.

So, now that we know how many quality NHLers each team should produce over that period, how did each team stack up against their expectation?

Draft Performance: Projected Quality NHLers vs Actual Quality NHLers Drafted Per Team - 2000-2008

Rank Team Proj. NHLers Actual NHLers Difference
1 Columbus 20.28 27 6.72
2 Montreal 16.92 23 6.08
3 Toronto 13.94 20 6.06
4 Detroit 12.52 18 5.48
5 Nashville 17.30 22 4.70
6 Pittsburgh 17.70 22 4.30
7 Ottawa 16.82 21 4.18
8 NY Rangers 17.12 21 3.88
9 San Jose 14.34 18 3.66
10 Buffalo 16.74 20 3.26
11 Edmonton 17.94 21 3.06
12 Anaheim 17.12 20 2.88
13 Minnesota 16.14 19 2.86
14 Dallas 15.80 17 1.20
15 Los Angeles 20.84 22 1.16
16 Philadelphia 15.98 17 1.02
17 Colorado 16.34 17 0.66
18 Chicago 22.04 22 -0.04
19 Calgary 16.42 16 -0.42
20 Carolina 13.76 13 -0.76
21 Boston 15.88 15 -0.88
22 Washington 20.92 20 -0.92
23 NY Islanders 17.00 16 -1.00
24 Tampa Bay 16.24 15 -1.24
25 New Jersey 16.78 15 -1.78
26 St. Louis 18.80 17 -1.80
27 Phoenix 18.16 15 -3.16
28 Vancouver 13.36 10 -3.36
29 Florida 18.46 13 -5.46
30 Winnipeg 17.52 12 -5.52

3) Depending on the answers to those questions, did the Canucks get value for their picks?
Yikes,  the Canucks only produced 10 quality NHLers out of 63 draft picks, good for dead last in the NHL over that span.  Of course, expectations should have been low since they should have produced only 13, but they still managed to draft below expectations by the third worst margin in the NHL.  Talk about a perfect storm.  Bad draft position, fewer picks, and horrible selections?  Yikes!

Aside from the Canucks, it's interesting to note how close each team is to their expectation, and there are some really cool numbers here.  

First, you'll recall that Carolina had even fewer choices than Vancouver, but they were able to produce 13 quality NHLers - right on their expected output given the quality of their draft position.  

Low budget teams and those lacking depth did quite well, as they injected youth into their lineup regularly (Columbus), while other teams like Detroit earned their reputation as strong talent evaluators with their deft draft selections.  Detroit frequently selected near the bottom of every round, but managed to uncover some hidden gems.  Despite having only four (4) first round picks (and none in the top 10), the Red Wings managed to produce 18 quality NHLers when they were only expected to produce 12.5.

That's just salt in the wound for Canucks fans, who produced a league low 10 quality NHLers.

4) How many quality NHLers did the Canucks draft, compared to other teams in the 'Delorme era' (since 2000)?
Just to recap the 2000-2008 years in Vancouver:
1) The Canucks had very few draft picks (63, good for 29th in NHL)
2) The Canucks draft position was quite low, good for 29th overall (ahead of only Detroit).  
3) Even measured against low expectations, the Canucks draft selection performance was 28th over that time.

Interestingly, it was predominantly the Brian Burke years that were a complete tire fire.  From 2000-2003, Brian Burke's score was -3.54 quality NHLers - Worst in the entire NHL over that four year span.  Dave Nonis had a very strong 2004 draft, and was actually +1.06 from 2004-2007, and that didn't include Luc Bourdon, who appeared destined for a decent career before his passing.

That may be a small sample size, but it may give Delorme an out, as GM's may overrule scouts and vote for truculence over common sense at the draft table.

Making matters worse for Canucks fans over these seasons is the optics of player management and development.  Of the 10 players who became 'quality NHLers', only four are still with the team (Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen).

The rest all hit prominence elsewhere and/or left in bad trades (RJ Umberger, Cory Schneider, Mike Brown, Mason Raymond, Michael Grabner, Cody Hodgson).

Sufficed to say, Ron Delorme has not performed well as head of scouting, but as these numbers show, Canucks management also deserves their share of the blame.

The Burke years in Vancouver were so bad for the draft that I charted his work in Anaheim and Toronto as well.  Despite Toronto having a decent draft record in preceding years, Burke was -.38 in Anaheim and a staggering -5.94 in Toronto, giving him a total of -9.86 quality NHLers compared to NHL averages over these nine drafts.  Yikes.  Collectively, that would be far worse than any team over that span.

Reach me on twitter @PuckWatch

3 comments:

  1. The actual differential is +35 over expected. That's nearly +1.2 players per team. Pretty significant. How do you account for that difference with the projection.

    Other than that a really nice piece of work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good observation. I think the difference is +35 because either a) the sample size is too small and these eight years had some really strong drafts, or b) Cullen's percentages undervalue draft picks slightly. (Deeming 4th Rd + picks as 12% successes would yield 175 NHLers, 13% would be 189, so one percentage point is worth 14 players).

      You raise a good point though that may reinforce just how bad the Canucks have been. +35 actual differential shows that most teams were able to make great strides in these years. Either way, they've been far worse relative to their competition. Thanks for the feedback!

      Delete
  2. Here's another solid article from an Oiler's perspective, but includes drafting stats from the Canucks, Blackhawks and Kings

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/06/23/former-oilers-chief-scout-kevin-prendergasts-track-record-was-high-on-quantity-shy-on-quality/

    ReplyDelete