I'm going away for a few days and won't be updating the blog, so I figured I'd go ahead and post the pick update.
It hasn't been a good week for the Bruins, who've slipped out of the fifth playoff spot and out of the dance completely if the season ended today. They blew a third period lead over Columbus on Thursday and then failed to generate any real offense in a 2-1 loss to division rival Ottawa at home. The hated Canadiens destroyed the listless NY Rangers tonight, giving them a one-point lead over Boston in the standings, dropping the B's to 4th in the Northeast.
The good news for B's fans is that the Florida Panthers did their job tonight, shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 2-0 score to keep the Leafs firmly in possession of 28th place. That's two more points that the Leafs won't have, and unless Brian Burke can figure out how to improve his team without sacrificing the kind of assets that would appeal to any legitimate trade partner, they're in bad shape, having played 53 games- three more games than Boston, but are 10 points behind the B's, and have 29 games left to get out of the cellar.
Here are the picks if the season ended today:
3rd overall- Toronto (44 points; 17-26-10)
12th overall- Boston (54 points; 23-19-8)
33rd overall- Toronto
35th overall- Tampa Bay (50 points; 20-20-10)
42nd overall- Boston
No pick- to Buffalo for Daniel Paille
91st overall- Carolina (37 points; 15-28-7)
102nd overall- Boston*
* Conditional pick to Buffalo as part of Paille deal; conditions not confirmed but reports are that Boston's 4th-round selection goes to Sabres if Paille scores 16 goals
132nd overall- Boston
162nd overall- Boston
192nd overall- Boston
So, in the first two rounds, the Bruins are looking at: 3, 12, 33, 35 and 42 in the first two rounds alone, plus the first pick of the 4th round (91) and 102nd overall with their own selection later. Assuming they don't trade any of those between now and then (I wouldn't bet on that, although Peter Chiarelli will need one good trade to get him to surrender any of those picks given how high they are) the B's will have a chance to re-stock their system.
Sounds pretty sweet, doesn't it?
However, NHL draft optimists and skeptics alike take note: the Chicago Blackhawks had four picks in the first 50 back in 2004 (as well as a fifth choice at 54th overall- in the second round ), including the third overall selection they used on highly-touted defenseman Cam Barker. Barker is coming on after a slow start to his pro career, but hasn't been the guy everyone expected him to be. And, the other guys the 'Hawks took 32nd (Dave Bolland), 41st (Bryan Bickell) and 45th (Ryan Garlock) have been OK, but none have made a huge impact with Chicago yet, with Bolland putting up the best numbers with 25-45-70 in 134 career NHL games. Bickell has shuttled between NHL (19 games; 3-1-4) and AHL and Garlock looks like a bust, bouncing between the AHL and ECHL and not coming close to winning a job with the 'Hawks before being released at the conclusion of his ELC.
I remember sitting there in Raleigh in 2004 and marveling at all the picks Chicago had that year. Nearly six years hence, they didn't make much hay. Perhaps fans of every other team should be thankful: had they picked Mike Green (who went 29th) instead of Barker, David Krejci (who went 63rd) over Bolland, Johan Franzen (97th- Detroit) over Bickell and Mark Streit (262nd) over Garlock, we all might be blogging about Chicago as the NHL's newest dynasty.
Instead, they got relatively little return on a mind-boggling 17- yes, you read that right SEVENTEEN draft picks that year in nine rounds, still a huge amount of selections even by the standards of the bigger draft back then. Only Barker and the hard-nosed role player Troy Brouwer are on Chicago's roster today, with Bolland out injured and Bickell in the minors with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs along with Jake Dowell.
How's this for irony- the one player from the 2004 draft who is making the most important contribution for the Blackhawks is last season Calder Trophy finalist Kris Versteeg. He wasn't one of the team's 17 picks that year, but was actually one of BOSTON's selections- 134th overall in the fifth round that year and gifted to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in early 2007.
Chicago's '04 draft serves as a reminder that even though a team may have a bevvy of draft picks, the scouts still have to go out and do their job by bringing in the players who will ensure long-term success.
Before you go telling yourself that Boston's slide down the standings will guarantee them eventual riches because of the improved draft position, remember Chicago in '04 and remind yourself that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of the sexy picks won't bring you a winner if the team doesn't make the right choices.