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Doing Some Research: Timmins, Habs Can Draft

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This piece by Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province was brought up in our comments section on Tuesday, and it sparked some debate amongst us. I decided to breakdown how Willes came up with his exact numbers for how he came up with the Habs totals, which ranked first in the NHL in terms of selecting NHL talent and selecting effective talent. He used a simple baseball methodology: any player that reached the NHL for a prolonged period of time was scored as getting a hit. The Canadiens picked 80 players from 2000-09, the time period in focus, and they have so far picked up 27 hits for a drafting 'batting' average of .338. In addition to that, Willes assigned subjective criteria to the following 'extra base hit' categories: a long time NHL regular was given a double, an impact NHL player was given a triple, and a superstar talent was given a home run. At the end of it all, a draft table 'slugging' percentage was assigned for each team, and by his categorization the Canadiens had reached 49 'total bases' in the 80 selections for a league-leading .613 percentage. Here's what he had to say about Le Club de Hockey Canadien:

Sorry, can't explain this but the numbers don't lie. The Habs have the highest rating in the study. In 2003, they took six players who made the NHL. In 2005, they selected four more NHLers. In 2007, four more including Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. The high-end talent hasn't been there but the Habs have consistently found players.

Willes express shock at this, and it's somewhat understandable to a casual follower of the team why this might be... the team sucks right now and has only won one division title in this time frame, making the playoffs in this time frame (2001-2010) a respectable but not dominant six of nine, soon to be ten seasons. Still the team Willes covers, the Vancouver Canucks, acquired two former Montreal draft picks last year (Lapierre and Higgins) without making a trade with Montreal, which might have tipped him off, but anyways....

So, being the kind of guy I am, I decided to see how he came up with these figures. First off, he's wrong in his paragraph: six players from the 2003 draft have indeed played a NHL game, but I can't see him counting Corey Locke's nine career NHL games as one of his 27 singles. 24 players picked by the Canadiens in this time frame have played in 40 or more NHL games, which means three with less than that are counting... and I'm going to assume they are Mark Flood (37), Louis Leblanc (33) and J.T. Wyman (33) since all three are currently in the NHL. Sorry, Andre Deveaux (31), despite your 9 NHL games this season for the league's top team (Rangers) you are apparently the cutoff point. Greg Stewart's 26 games are also not enough even though he did make an opening day roster once.

Here's where Willes gets a bit weirder. I find the 27/80 number a bit odd with a +/- 32 games or seemingly anyone above 40 plus those in the 30 range that are currently on a NHL roster, but whatever, it's his rules. Now we have to categorize what constitutes a NHL regular (not that hard with this group, IMO) and what classifies as an impact player (much harder). There's also the potential superstar clause in there, but given the math and his comments in the paragraph I safely ruled out the possibility that the Habs had one of those. Home runs have to be no doubt about it variety, no inside-the-park, sky shots over the Green Monster, or down the line just inside/off the foul pole types.

From the group of twenty-seven players that made it on base, I had to figure out the criteria for the next grouping. Just like the last group, I had to be a bit subjective here. I think 18 players are reasonably assumed as NHL regulars based on how many games they've played and the role that they play... which means the following nine players don't count. And if they do, boy... that last category is a doozy to qualify for.

Single Hitters: Louis Leblanc, J.T. Wyman, Mark Flood, Ben Maxwell, Ryan White, Alexei Emelin, Yannick Weber, Alexander Perezhogin, Marcel Hossa.

Hossa played over 200 NHL games, but didn't do a heck of a lot and is long gone, and Perezhogin had 128 and isn't likely coming back, either. Weber is in the NHL currently as a #7 even though he has over 100 NHL games now, so he's not exactly securing his spot in the next group, while Emelin and White need another year to cement themselves in the next grouping at the very least. I'm okay with that selection, to be honest, although I feel like qualifying Kyle Chipchura as a NHL regular ahead of these guys might be wrong despite the fact he has 210 games... but whatever. Big picture, folks.

Now let's move onto the next group... who is an impact player?

I might suffer from some fan bias, I realize, but when I first did my list, I had eight impact players counted. I don't know what makes one an impact player ahead of a regular one in Willes' eyes, but I figured 'being really good' was a good starting point. So I had this group of eight. Based on Willes criteria, and if I was correct in naming 18 players moving forward from single to double category (maybe he doesn't believe in Chipchura, either, he's really the only really bad one of that group), only four players were impact ones. Here were my eight:

Tomas Plekanec, Jaroslav Halak, Mikhail Grabovski, Mark Streit, Carey Price, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban.

I figured those eight players were a cut above the likes of Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Max Lapierre, Ron Hainsey, Matt D'Agostini and the Kostitsyn brothers. And Chipchura (O'Byrne, too!). These players are either All-Star quality, well paid based on current abilities (sorry Komisarek), or were going to be either of those quite soon. Plekanec and Grabovski are their team's number one centres for a couple years in a row now at least, and Grabovski just received a 5 year $27.5m contract that used Plekanec's 6 year, $30m contract signed two years earlier as a model. Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak are star goaltenders in this league, and while neither has any hardware, I think most recognize that potential to be there... and they both should be at the 2014 Olympics based on how things look right now. Mark Streit is an All-Star defensemen, I can't see how he's not there.

That leaves the three 2007 picks, from Timmins' masterpiece draft (or so I thought). McDonagh is currently playing 25+ minutes a night for the top team in the NHL. Max Pacioretty just hit the 30 goal plateau for the first time, and was on a 30+ goal pace last year if not for his injury and the fact that his season started in November that year. P.K. Subban has been a top pair d-man for the Canadiens almost since being called up and has 21 goals and 73 points in 151 regular season games.

OK, they're all young and therefore don't have a long track record to go off of, but there are three very legitimate cases here for impact status. We'll give Willes some benefit of the doubt that he wants to see more than one to two seasons of this, as we all know from the Komisarek example that this kind of assumption isn't perfect. That still means he believes either one of the two goalies isn't an impact player, or one of Streit, Plekanec, or Grabovski. I'll guess Grabovski here, though he'll have to deal with angry Leafs fans. Either that, or Chipchura isn't a NHL regular, which I think would be a more fitting conclusion (he did play in 8 AHL games this year).

Anyways, here's the Habs draft record by year. Timmins' first draft for the Habs was 2003:

Canadiens Draft Record (2000-2009)
Draft Year Batting Avg. Slugging PCT
2000 .182 .273
2001 .375 .750
2002 .167 .333
2003 .455 .909
2004 .556 1.000
2005 .571 1.286
2006 .333 .333
2007 .444 .778
2008 .000 .000
2009 .125 .125

Timmins from 2003-07 hit .477 and had an .881 Willes-judged slugging percentage (it was a .976 Peter judged one). He didn't have much of a chance in 2008 without a first rounder, but we also haven't seen Danny Kristo or Steve Quailer, his top two picks that year, turn pro yet. 2009's draft is just getting it's first glimpses into what it might become with Louis Leblanc's performance down the stretch. The 2010 Draft has four legitimate prospects in it in Jarred Tinordi, Mark MacMillan, Morgan Ellis and Brendan Gallagher. I think time is on Timmins' side to produce even a Willes approved superstar with both Subban and Price getting more love with each year.

Trevor Timmins has done his job and more for the Canadiens this past decade. Which makes me wonder... why isn't he being mentioned for promotion? I know we all love his draft results and think its too valuable to see him anywhere else... but maybe his evaluation skills could better serve the organization in judging the professional level talent? Because that seems to be the problem here... the talent is coming up through the system, but the team continually loses value from these players at some point.

Google Docs of my guesses for Willes' math