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A Comedy of Errors - Part Three, in which Approximately Two-Thirds of Dion Phaneuf are Drafted

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Welcome back. I’m happy to see none of you have decided to wreak vengeance on Carlo Colaiacovo for disappointing until he got to play in the bustling metropolis that is St. Louis by doing anything to disrupt his good health, like sneezing within a mile’s radius of the man or trolling him on a message board (Sean Avery doing the latter caused his eye injury in early 2011, mocking his claim that Up was a superior movie to Finding Nemo). Similarly, it is indeed time we left Kyle Wellwood alone. Well alone. Alone with an unguarded platter of doughnuts. That have been stuffed with a variety of drugs that both cause and cure constipation, just to see which wins out.

Today, we’re moving on to 2002. Just looking at the first round of the draft on Wikipedia, my initial reaction is a resounding ‘meh’ - the leitmotif seems to be "here are a lot of people with loads of potential who haven’t lived up to it all". You’ve got Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney, Joffrey Lupul, Keith Ballard - all good players, but if you weren’t aware of it, I doubt you’d immediately look at any of them and think they were top-ten draft picks. It looks like a thoroughly underwhelming group, in other words.

Although we again failed to claim the divisional title, this iteration of the Maple Leafs made it all the way to the conference finals come playoff time, topping Long Island and Ottawa in the first two rounds, both times in seven games, before falling to Carolina in six. It also saw Mats Sundin put up one of his better seasons as a Maple Leaf, tallying 80 points with his 41 goals being the second-most in his career, behind only the 47 he managed with Quebec in 1993. The good season left Toronto picking twenty-fourth and going with...

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Round 1, #24 Overall - Alexander STEEN
454 GP - 100 + 148 = 248, -11, 186 PIM

The son of Jets forward Thomas, this version of Steen sorta hit the ground running. He didn’t come to America until 2005, after leaving Frolunda for Modo Hockey back home and creating a shitstorm that all two members of Swedish hockey media went crazy over until lunch, but finished the season with 45 points over 75 games - numbers nobody paid a blind bit of attention, given the way Alex Ovechkin was making the rest of the league look like idiots, but not a shabby start by any means. Sadly, he regressed a little the following year, bounced back a little the year after, then managed two points in 20 games in 2008 before he and Colaiacovo packed up their bags and fucked off to St. Louis. Like Carlo, his point/game is significantly up and apparently gets the privilege of regularly playing alongside Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, where he could have stuck around and played with...um...fuck.

Still On The Board: CAM WARD (25). I don’t care what you say about positional requirements, it has to be pointed out that twenty-four teams passed on Ward before Carolina drafted him and basically set their goaltending in stone for the next decade. And we passed that up for 0.498 points/game.

Verdict: Like Boyes before him, this is a win as far as the pick goes, and I'd say about neutral in terms of how it worked out for Toronto. Steen is a good player, very much a competent top-six forward, and if he can stay healthy I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped sixty points in the near future. However, 41 points a year is roundly equal to a good third-line centre if Bcapp’s tables are to be believed, and that’s not the outcome you want from a first-round pick. It also doesn’t help that he was judged to be worth half a Lee Stempniak.

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Round 2, #57 Overall - Matt STAJAN
548 GP - 96 + 174 = 270, -4, 281 PIM

Matty S was the first Maple Leaf I ever seriously liked as a player in his own right, although the reasons why are lost to time, and I was genuinely really disappointed when I found out he’d been traded to Calgary. When I stopped and thought it through - the guy was overpaid for his role, he wasn’t producing to nearly the level we needed him to, etcetera etcetera - it made sense and getting Dion Phaneuf back eased the blow, but it was a shock when I saw him in a Flames jersey for the first time. Kinda like how most of you reacted to Tomas Kaberle a) in a Bruins jersey and b) not wearing #15. General consensus (correct me if I’m wrong, of course) seems to be that Stajan was a good second-liner who kept getting shoehorned into the first line, and his numbers - 55 points his last full year in Toronto, 57 points split between Toronto and Calgary the next - seem to bear that out.

Still On The Board: Nobody who would have been a better pick. Except possible Greg Campbell (67), who would at least have confered immunity to discipline.

Verdict: An undisputable win. This is also the first occurrence of a drafted player beinng traded away and not seeing his numbers improve, which enhances the win.

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Round 3, #74 Overall - Todd FORD

0 GP

And the good streak comes screeching to a halt. Ford struggled even to succeed consistently in the ECHL, and is currently playing in Germany...in the second tier.

Still On The Board: Frans Nielsen (87)

Verdict: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Ford by any other name is still a bust.

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Round 3, #88 Overall - Dominic D’AMOUR

0 GP

This draft has all the hallmarks of JFJ. I can only assume D'Amour was intended to be a grinder, since he managed ten points in his draft season but spent over two hundred minutes in the penalty box, but like Ford, he barely even made it to the AHL and is long gone. This might actually be the worst-case scenario for Brad Ross. Be ye adequately warned. As always, if I'm off-base here please speak up.

Still On The Board: Matt Lombardi (90), Valtteri Filppula (95)

Verdict: Basically, just terrible. This is why skill is generally prefered to what I have to assume was some sort of sociopathic disorder when it comes to drafting hockey players.

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Round 4, #122 Overall - David TURON
0 GP

I have never heard of David Turon. Apparently, he has played 36 games in the AHL, a little under a hundred in the ECHL and around 150 in Slovakia. That’s nice, isn’t it?

Still On The Board: Tom Gilbert (129)

Verdict: Well, c’mon. I’m sure he’s a tremendous asset to the Italian team he’s now with, but in terms of benefit to the Toronto organisation, writing ‘fourth-round draft pick’ on a piece of paper and pissing on it would have worked out equally well.

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Round 6, #191 Overall - Ian WHITE
401 GP - 36 + 107 = 143, +18, 228 PIM

And this would be why doing what I recommended above with your late round picks is not actually good business practice, Mr. Tambellini. Obviously unheralded despite being a point-per-game player with Swift Current in both his draft year and the following year - from the blueline! - two years of seasoning in the AHL lead to him being called up in 2006 and sticking around from then on. Also part of the Phaneuf trade, like Stajan he was on his way to a career high in points when the trigger was pulled - he finished that year with 38 points, 12 above his previous best - and like Stajan, things haven’t gone quite so well since then. He was traded in November 2010 to Carolina, I believe as a cap measure, then again around the deadline to San Jose, before signing with Detroit in the offseason. Is it wrong to hope he flops there? Probably, but fuck it, I dislike Detroit and hope he does and they do.

Still On The Board: More or less nobody, he was the best pick.

Verdict: A win on all counts. A very solid player while he was here, and then became part of Dion Phaneuf, who I love so much I seem to have convinced my girlfriend that if we do get a puppy in the future I can name him/her Dion Phanwoof. The fact she didn't object too hard to that scares me a little.

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Round 7, #222 Overall - Scott MAY
Round 8, #254 Overall - Jarkko IMMONEN
Round 9, #285 Overall - Staffan KRONWALL

Although two out of three played in the big league (i.e. not May), neither really made much noise. Kronwall was probably picked because he was Niklas’ kid brother, the scouting staff clearly unaware that the Sedins can only do what they do because they have that Shining-esque twin telepathy going on, while Immonen has the ignominious honour of being the second Jarkko Immonen taken in that year. Jarkko A. Immonen was drafted by Dallas, but has never played in the NHL or even America, so the Jarkko Immonen without an initial actually had the better career - he played 20 games with New York, after being dealt there as part of the Brian Leetch trade.

Still On The Board: In May’s case, JOEY CRABB (226)

Verdict: Bust, semi-bust, neutral. Getting 66 games out of Staffan Kronwall was a pleasant surprise considering it was the NINTH round, though, so as always ‘bust’ is shorthand for ‘well, what else were you expecting?’ And it should be noted Immonen did help make the Leetch trade happen, so he's saved the ignominy of being too closely scrutinized.

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Overview

Picks: Nine

Career Players: Three

Grade: B. Hitting on the first two picks and stumbling into Ian White makes for a good result, and Kronwall was a nice surprise, but those middle three picks ended up being wastes on all counts, especially D’Amour. The fact some of the above were part of trades that helped the team past, present and future - I still have high hopes for Keith Aulie - has been noted.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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