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Dr Brett Lovda Eurotrashes the Leafs. (Rated -3 for Colourful Charts.)

It's a blockbuster Summer.

Moving players gets us through to September.

We got to Hold Steady.

We've already seen how Europe is the source of 40% of the high-scoring talent in the NHL. We've seen how the Leafs have drafted in each of 4 major European hockey regions. And we've begun to identify just what the team is doing wrong in its drafting.

Today's we;ll drop some charts into the mix, charts that compare the Leafs results in drafting high-talent, high-scoring European forwards against the results of other teams.

My intent was to create a chart for each team, that would enable a rough and ready comparison with the Leafs.

The charts combine colour, along with the key stats such as points and age, into a single chart for each team, that can actually be read at a glance to give us a rough and ready comparison. In addition, for those so inclined, they contain more information on both the breadth and depth of success each team has had in the past, and looks to have in its prospect pool.

Now, I’ll only say this once (or twice), but the charts were NOT designed to tell us how teams have done across all their drafting across all countries across all positions etc. They were created to serve the single purpose outlined above - to give people a rough sense of how teams compare on this one question.

It’s important to note the charts focus solely on the high-scorers drafted - either forwards, or the highest-scoring defencemen. Now, this raises some debates, so I’ll just say that:

I don’t care if a team drafts Europeans who score 20 or 30 points a year for us. Yes, it’s great if a forward knows how to play defence, kill penalties, generate energy and all that. But. Players who can do this are far more widely available than high-offence players. Just last year, we picked up Winnik and Santorelli. But we haven’t been able to capture a 1st line Center.

What matters most amongst forwards is the drafting of above-average scorers.

As for why 300 points was chosen as the line for inclusion, well... I wanted a simple marker that would show that a player had had a number of above-average seasons. If it had been set at 500 points, numerous teams would have struggled - such as the Leafs - to put anyone on the charts at all. Whereas at 100 points, even really lousy journeymen forwards were being included.

So. 300 points it is.

Bottom 6 Camp.

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Here’s a sample chart.

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  • The top section of BLUE names shows European players who have already scored above 300 points, whether retired or still active.
  • They are listed under the teams who DRAFTED them - NOT the teams they are with today. So when I discuss how "their" players did, it’s referring to their draft picks, not whether or not they were traded.
  • The DEEPER the blue, the more they scored. Light blue players have scored over 300 points. Dark blue, over 500. Dark blue and a BOLDED name means more than 1000. I have occasionally included a name in white which hasn’t surpassed 300 points, because they are approaching 300; are a player of interest to Leaf fans; or had some tragedy halt their careers (like Konstantinov, above.)
  • When you compare ACROSS the columns of each team, you'll quickly see who did better or worse.
  • The bottom half of mostly YELLOW names are players 25 years old or younger.The DEEPER the yellow colour, the better their chances (in my estimation) at exceeding 300 points, or making the NHL. i.e. The colouring forms a rough ranking of their progress and ability.
  • (D) is for "defenceman," and while I've listed both all Forwards and all Defencemen who have reached 300 points, under the prospects section, I've listed all the Forwards drafted, but only those Defencemen who have reached the NHL. Thus, the chart remains focussed strongly on Forwards, and with a slight effort, anyoine who wants to remove the D-men can do so.
  • An * asterisk shows the occasional OVER-AGE signing teams have done outside the draft, such as the Leafs with Nikita Soshnikov. I have done this as it forms a major route for some teams obtaining young European talent (e.g. San Jose, Colorado, etc.)
  • Finally, under the team name there will sometimes be a year in RED. This is because these teams only began drafting in that year, and thus, should have shorter lists.

Ok. Let’s go.

I’m going to add some commentary as we roll, but not on all teams. Because... to hell with clown car teams.

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These first 5 teams are all well-known for having done well in Europe. Therefore, when you scan down their columns, you will see not only extremely high scorers (in dark blue), but also a long list of names.

And moving forward, all 5 teams have better sets of young European players plus prospects than the Leafs (again, shown by dark yellow, but by the length of the list.)

Detroit, most obviously, has a great European record (with thousands more career points than the Leafs, coming from players such as Fedorov and Lidstrom.) In fact, if I was the Mayor of Detroit, I'd be trying to move the whole goddamn city to Europe, because America sure as shit seems to have forgotten about them.

Anyway! That this past record of Detroit's was no fluke can be seen in the fact that they were moving in multiple European nations in the early 1970’s, including drafting Thommie Bergman from Sweden a year before the Leafs took Salming. Detroit has done Europe well, and for a long time.

Today, Detroit still has a raft of strong Europeans, including Datsyuk (likely just 2 years away from 1000 points), Zetterberg and Kronwall. But most noticeable is that they continue to add top-notch prospects, including with middle and later round picks. e.g. Nyquist, Tatar and Pulkkinen went with picks #60, #111 and #121. In addition, they have some strong prospects who are not even on most fans radar as yet, such as the new Holmstrom - Axel - a 7th round pick, who has exploded this past season.

Te Detroit Sound. Straight Outta Cowbell.

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Washington also has a great past, and a great present in Europe, with players such as Ovechkin (less than 2 years from 1000 points) as well as Backstrom streaking up the charts.

And again, they have drafted a stunning set of new, high-end scoring talent. While the trading away of Forsberg will hurt them, the addition of Kuznetsov + Burakowsky + Vrana give them 3 full new top-end talents arriving. Of note about the Caps, they have a strong preference for using mid to late 1st round picks to get many of their best picks, e.g. at #26, #11, #24, #23 & #13.

Montreal has done much better than the Leafs in the past, and has been active in Europe for a long time as well, with Sammy Pollock, for instance, drafting Fetisov back in 1978 - a full 5 years before New Jersey began moving on him. Today, they have players such as Plekanec a point away from 500, Markov just 8 points shy, and Grabo 29 from hitting 300. Finally, the Habs have a deep group of European prospects, including players such as 4th round pick Martin Reway, who topped the Czech professional league in PPG last year at age 19-20.

Their draft picks, however, suffer a shared curse. They're all... tiny. And yet, somehow, the fact that Smurfing is not only repulsive, but contagious, continues to be ignored by League officials.

The Hunting Of The Smurf: Chapter le Hilarious.

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The Rangers have also done better than the Leafs historically, and were another team moving early on - signing Finland’s Juha Widing back in 1969. They also hold stronger hands of European players today and perhaps even moving forward. e.g. Tyutin will reach 300 points soon, and Anisimov, Hagelin and Fast have all graduated to the NHL. And while their more youthful pool has now grown weaker, they still have the 6’ 2" Pavel Buchnevich to come, who was easily the top-scoring Russian under age 20 in the KHL last year.

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A quick comparison to the other Canadian teams reveals that all 5 of them... ummmm... kicked our ass, by going to Europe and discovering astonishing, franchise-changing gold:

  • Pavel Bure, the Sedins and Igor Larionov in Vancouver.
  • Teemu plus Zhamnov plus Thomas Steen in Winnipeg.
  • Mats Sundin.... and the Stastnys came through Quebec.
  • Edmonton saw Jari Kurri plus Esa Tikkanen.
  • Oshawa had Marian Hossa plus The Ginger Dirtbag. (Or was he The Ginger Douchebag? Wouldn't want to offend the little shit.)

Anyway, this was an astronomical haul. Hall-Of-Famers for each team.

And all were Canadian teams.

Each of whom started scouting Europe later than we did.

Each of whom had less cash to work with.

Looking at the future, Edmonton has drafted a load of Euro prospects, some pretty great talents, and they may even not ruin one or two.

Meanwhile, Oshawa has Erik Karlsson and Zibanejad, but also drafted Silfverberg - the centerpiece that allowed them to obtain Bobby Ryan.

[What's that? OTTawa? Srsly? No freakin' way. Buddy just tried to tell me they were thinking of giving OTTAWA a team. GOOD ONE BUD!]

Vancouver’s Sedins are both closing in on 1000 points, but - more happily for the Leafs - they have almost no new European prospects coming up. {Snicker.} About their only recent gain is topping up the Euro-tank by signing Ronalds Kenins last year.

And while Colorado has a rising star in Gabe Landeskog, that’s about it from Europe. A gap they've been trying to backfill by signing undrafted 23 year olds such as Rendulic and Everberg. Odd choices, from an oddly-managed team.

My Sedin's Older Than Your Sedin, Sing It! mclusky.

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Turning to sunnier climes, we find 5 teams that appear to have done worse than the Leafs... until we note that they only began drafting in the 1990’s, giving the Leafs a 20 year head-start. Even with that, Florida and San Jose have caught up.

And more importantly, these teams have in recent years been busy filling the cupboard with a breadth, and depth, of European prospects well beyond that of the Leafs.

Tampa Bay’s European prospects are already in the NHL, and went to the Cup Finals in fact. A run which would have been impossible without Kucherov, Palat, Hedman and co.

Nashville looks amazingly deep, in part because of their European scout Lucas Bergman - Thommie Bergman’s son. They have Kevin Fiala rising fast, Roman Josi already playing D in the NHL, and a raft of potential NHL forwards coming up through the AHL, SHL and KHL.

Anaheim depended heavily on its young European defenders during its run, and has Richard Rakell along with a solid set of prospects coming up.

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The next group of 5 teams is only connected by the fact that they were each introduced into the NHL for the sole purpose of generating hatred and strife amongst the real teams. Thanks league authorities!

Buffalo has had some great European players, such as Alexander Mogilny, whose career they ruined. Just as today, they stand atop a roster of new and talented young European prospects, whose careers they will equally surely wreck.

What’s that? Grigorenko? Fallen on his own Sabre? Ahh, and so young. LOL FUFFABLOW.

Pittsburgh and the Flyers have both done massively better than the Leafs in the past, what with names like Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg pretty much bringing the conversation to a halt. Plus Malkin, a Stastny and a Yushkevich basically brought them so much European draft wealth it made you cry to see so much talent having to live and play in Shitsylvania.

Anyway. There’s hope, because the disastrously-managed Flyers have failed to notice they need to continue to draft more Europeans as the old ones flee back to Europe. And while the Penguins have Maata and Kapenen, their prospects beyond that don’t look great.

New Jersey, well, nobody ever gave a rat's about Patrik Elias, or the rest of them. Or their prospects.

And no, Lou, you weren’t even the first to draft Fetisov, so we don't want to hear about your "moral issues" around helping out ex-Communists, ok?

Attempting to Communicate with Lou Lamoriello.

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Finally, let’s just say, the Broons "style" has never been... "conducive" to Europeans. Which is to say, Boston prides itself on goon hockey. And always has. Though they did love their Kraut line. And their Uke line. So... tolerance!

Anyway. The Bruin fan-base... consisting mostly of emotionally-incontinent Irishmen who have retained only a vestigial ability to sing, dance, tell a story or otherwise be socially-engaging... while somehow doubling down on the genes responsible for binge drinking, random gun-play and inappropriate intra-familial faffing about... nonetheless appears happy to have partnered up with Zdeno Chara, himself another freak of nature... but also indisputably one of the great D-men of all-time... and perhaps best for all, none of the Bruins appear as yet to have noticed that Zdenos'... not from around here.Screen_shot_2015-06-21_at_4.42.41_PM.0.png

The next 5 teams are from the Mid-West, or similar places nobody gives a damn about. No no, don't go running off all pretending to be offended. You're the same as me on this. It’s like when people talk about "Calgary," right? You nod and smile and know they mean well, but face it, you don't actually know where it is, or what it's for. Do you?

I mean, it doesn't sound like a real name, does it? I mean, as if anyone could ever tell us EXACTLY where this "Calgary" was, right? Out West mebbe? Near Indianapolis mebbe? You don't know. No one knows.

Because....no... one... cares.

Anyway, this being the internet age and all, I just Wiki’ed it, and "Calgary" is apparently some sort of old-timey "oil town."

Remember those? Quaint or what?

Anyway. I suspect maybe tourists go there, like, from Texas or something, and they all get drunk and watch oil drilling demonstrations, and wear hard hats and chew beef jerky and the like.

Welcome to Carolvry! Cavalry! Sorry.... CAGALRY!

horseheads_dusk.0.gifAnyway, let’s let these cities pass through us quickly, like so many kidney stones.

Now, none of the 5 teams have actually been all that strong in Europe in the past. Which I put down to Mid-Western in-breeding and a generally lumpen attitude toward life. But looking ahead - they sure are filling the cupboard. Wowza. Tarasenko and Teravainen and Nichushkin and so on.

St. Louis is the real comer, and will soon surpass us, with Tarasenko and Lehtera and co. An amazing haul, and what’s more surprising, they got all this with a #16 pick plus some in the 30’s, 40’s and 60’s.

Can't get Tarasenko outta my head. Kylie.

Columbus’ drafting is also coming into its own with young Europeans such as Vorachek now soaring, Dano and Wennberg looking like comers, and a couple more in behind.

The Wild have only drafted for 15 years now, but already have two 500 point scorers. But again, they have a depth of prospects we can’t touch, with Brodin and Granlund and Haula already in the league, and more on their way.

Dallas has both Jussi Jokinen and Loui Eriksson about to pass 500 points, and Nichushkin, Klingberg and others coming.

The only real surprise is Chicago. Cup-winners today, we tend to forget the dark decades for the Hawks under Bill Wirtz - in 2004, named "Worst Professional Sports Franchise." Besides being cheap and badly-run, Chicago’s management also periodically felt it should help draft and develop American kids, which filled more draft spots, but not with Europeans.

However, while they missed hitting any European home runs in the draft, they got them through free agency and trades - with Marian Hossa at the top, and a revolving cast of supporting players. In recent years the Hawks have begun to work Europe harder, building on picks such as Hjalmarsson and Kruger, targeting top flight talent such as Tuevo, and recently, signing undrafted Artemi Panarin.

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This last group of teams - and I’ll be frank here - I’ve never seen them play. Nor met one of their fans. In fact, I suspect these NHL "franchises" are more likely Greek money-laundering scams than actual NHL teams. Come onnnn, Bettman. NOBODY'S BUYING IT.

I mean, right. You moved a team from Atlanta to Winnipeg. Right, sure you did, Gary Bettman. And how's that workin' for ya? BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULD NEED A ZAMBONI JUST TO GET TO THE GODDAMN GAME.

And then you tell us that you moved a team from Hartford, in New England, a region inhabited by semi-conscious, reasonably intelligent people, to... Carolina?

Jesus Bettman, you can’t just up and move a team of human beings across the Bacon-Christian line as though it wasn't AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW.

Almost had me, Gare.

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  • The chart above shows you why they killed off the Thrashers. They drafted Kovalchuk but then frack all else for a decade. NICE ONE THRASHERS. Anyway, now that they've returned to Canada, they’re drafting Europeans like old fury, with Ehlers alone showing great promise.
  • Carolina. Yeah, no. Willie-The-Kid Nylander’s dad played there for a bit. Anyway, they’ve got lots of good young Europeans now, none of whom will fully blossom til they escape that stupid state and the stupider one to their South.
  • And Calgary? Whut? The tourism people are still trying to make this "oil town" storyline a go? LOL. Well, sure, ok then, once upon a time, that team had some real nice hockey players, like Sergei Makarov - one of the best of All-Time - who came in in his 30’s and still scored 400 points. Shame the "Flames" never managed to win anything. I’m sure Edmonton will pick up their droppings though, once they officially fold. Anyway, I’m too tired to talk about them anymore.

SUMMARY.

Historically, the Leafs have done worse than at least 2/3 of the league, with only a handful of franchises that appear to have been worse. This record is actually even worse when you remember that 1/3 of the league’s teams have only begun since the 1990’s, and that numerous franchises have gone through dire financial straits during which they cut back on scouting, etc.

In sum, the Leafs:

  • A team with extraordinary wealth available for scouting - and none of the financial pressures of others...
  • A team in existence for 100 years - and none of the early-years start-up chaos of an expansion team ...
  • A team based in a massive, multi-lingual city with enormous ties back to Europe...
  • A team which signed Borje Salming and knew the quality of European players well before others...
  • A team with a massive global profile in hockey, and fans in every European country....
  • A team based in Canada, where every other team managed to be extremely successful in Europe...

... produced the results we have outlined above.

A truly disastrous record.

Looking forward, at the prospect list, the comparisons are equally unhappy. In sum, we're still thin - and no guarantee it gets better this year, with our OHL dominance. The Leafs only have 5 forwards drafted from Europe in the system, 1 of those - Soshnikov - was signed outside the draft, with all having just arrived in the last 2 years. Once again, this ranks the Leafs easily in the bottom 1/3 of the league, with perhaps again only 2 or 3 teams clearly being worse.

Combining these two halves of the equation, the Leafs fall into the Bottom 5 teams. And given that this is a rating of their ability to access a whopping 40% of the high-end scoring talent available to NHL teams, it is absolutely no surprise that the last 40 years have been grim.

And the sunlight hurts my eyes... Twista.

Perhaps the only way such a failure could have avoided being seen - by the fans, the media and the dozen General Managers - is that all were blinded by the success of two Hall Of Fame Europeans, Borje Salming and Mats Sundin.

Neither of whom the Leafs actually drafted.

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It’s best to wrap here, I suspect, and suspend any analysis of how and why things have gone so wrong til the next post.

That way, you people can go have a snack and a nap. After that, we’ll put together the formula behind how the Leafs have been drafting in Europe.

Because, yes...

They've. Got. A. System.

And no, it probably won’t make you happy to learn about it.

But then again... Brendan didn’t promise you a goddamn rose garden, now did he?

No. He frigging well did not.

He promised you discipline.

And you're gonna like it.

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