Why the Frown Bytown? (Drafting Drama Queens)

As I was rudely interrupted while enjoying a raucous candidates debate last night with the news that Senators will make the 6th selection in the 2011 I was a little bummed out at first knowing that the worst case scenario had unfolded. I was in fact out of Sun Chips and my beloved Senators were now drafting in the lowest possible slot for their regular season ranking. It lasted a minute or two until I saw a hockey community collectively step out onto the ledge and dare to jump. It may have been the worst case scenario but it’s still palatable. I can count 24 other teams who would prefer to have our draft slot (but not our tee time). The manic depression and outright anger blew me away. Here’s my take on the colossal sigh that was the 2011 lottery.

Magic Bullet Theory for All!

I am astounded how many people actually think and suggest the lottery is rigged. I kept hearing this suggestion as I followed the lottery through two different live blogs and twitter. It got even worse when I scoured the net reading articles and the commentary that readers leave behind. Really, tinfoil hat people actually exist? Did you just swap your beer league hockey gear for a shot of paranoia?

I mean, I think Bettman is a bit slimy, just watch any interview between him and Ron MacLean and you’ll get that vibe in several seconds (definitely not the guy you want your sister to bring home) but slimy enough to rig a draft lottery? I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sure there’s a system in place to prevent that from happening.  However, to think the draft is actually rigged to favour large American markets/Bettman’s close friends/personal interests of the league/Not the Leafs is just completely asinine. I mean, Colin Campbell’s whining and amateur thug intimidation techniques were one thing, but to think that a professional sports league with how many millions of dollars at stake resting neatly on its competitiveness is borderline Don Cherry la la land territory.

Really hard to tell if everyone is being serious, I do realize this is the internet and it can be a wonderfully stupid place but take a look around at the usual places and you’ll see what I mean. Remember Pete Rose and all that trouble he got himself into for jeopardizing the integrity of the game? People take this stuff seriously. Nigerian soccer referees, designers of Tour De France masking agents and Manny Ramirez will all tell you the same thing – without competition there is no sport.

It’s simple, we lost, there’s nothing more to it. I would hate to see some of the phone calls and emails the Ontario Lottery Gaming must get every week when they draw the lotto numbers.

“We won’t get a good player at 6! Now I’m mad because I wanted Player X!”

This one is pretty simple, you’re most definitely not a scout and you’re certainly not a brilliant hockey mind if you’re reading this blog. You don’t know the players as well as the (key word) professional scouts who log unimaginable hours watching teenagers play other teenagers in rinks around the world. The Senators scouts seem to have done alright in the first round the past few years. Hockey’s Future just named David Rundblad and Jared Cowen as two of their top 20 prospects at #5 and #18 respectively. Erik Karlsson was an All Star before he could grow facial hair. We’ve got two first round picks this year and Murray has indicated he’s willing to trade up. This is a good situation to be in. Remind yourself of that or at the very least just stop bitching about it.

We all have ideas of what type of player the team needs to improve but they’re usually based on flat, generic and overly flattering write-ups which year after year lead you to believe that the entire first round of any given draft will also enter the Hall of Fame on the same ballot. We look at scouting rankings too closely and get caught up in these kids like they’re stocks and not individuals at the mercy of other individual’s draft boards or critical eye. Sometimes I wonder if there’s actually just a small pool of people watching these kids play on a regular basis and then the rest of the world turns them into unique literary heroes that take on all new dimensions with every passing week. They’re trendy too, oh of course, there’s always a flavour of the month disguised in dude talk as a ‘riser’ or a ‘faller’.

I’d venture a good guess that many of you may have seen a handful of action in the World Junior Championships and in person at your local junior barn and maybe even streaming video when you get a chance for an overseas game. That’s great but that’s no substitute for years worth of research, discussion and analysis and in no way shape or form makes you an expert worthy of writing this one off as a disaster with no hope for recovery since no one would be so stupid to trade down to the terrible 6th overall pick and we’ll only pick up a garbage eating dinosaur with that a pick like that. So you’ve seen 12 games in one draft year, tell your livejournal about how we’re not drafting Hercules in a Camero.

I, like probably most of you, have a preference for a few players this year but I wouldn’t whine that at #6 spot we’re going to get a player who is only going to amount to (whatever that isn’t good) because my guy isn’t going to be available. The scouts know better, let’s not be foolish and act like we know. I couldn’t tell a boom from a bust from a youtube video. Can you?

“I heard we were high on_______”

Meth? Sure, it sounds like it. Most teams are probably high on similar players when you’re looking at a top 10 pick. I’m sure this is a very closely guarded secret in team circles and saying that a team is interested in X could very well be like saying, “I heard this draft is full of hockey players.” Think about it this way, anyone who has ever done a fantasy draft in any sport knows how quickly your draft plan can go out the window when someone does something unexpected and suddenly you’re in a situation you never thought would present itself, for better or worse. You manage and you roll with it. I have a hunch real life can be like that too. When the scouts get together and hash out their lists and try to forge some sort of clarity out of the many names in front of them I don’t think they’re gonna waste a years work by divulging the information. Have the scouts even gotten toegther yet for their year end meetings? I don’t know what their draft board will look like and I doubt anyone else outside of the brain trust will either (I realize brain trust sets me up nicely for some heat). We can speculate, but it’s frivilous to start basing arguements around a supposed player ranking that may or may not exist.

“We should have tanked harder, all this for 6th overall? What a waste of a season! We can’t even fuck up right.”

Wait, you think we tanked? Sorry, what? You think these guys tried to lose games or even wanted to? I’m sure the last thing players want is some hotshot 1st rounder coming in to take one of their jobs. I really believe it when the players say they’re playing for pride. We want the team to compete and play hard but at the same time you’re upset because we didn’t throw in the towel? I’m lost, it’s like I’m trapped in that Damian Cox blog about Alfie again and can’t escape the insanity. How many of you paid to see games in the first half and felt completley ripped off by the effort you saw on the ice? I’m sure I’m not alone. After seeing those types of games in the first half it was welcome to see a team that gave the impression they actually cared as the season wound down. Yes I know it affected our draft position. Yes, the rebuild will take as long as the rebuild takes. That’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a draft. These are the fun times to be a Senators fan, when we bottom out then slowly add more pieces until we’re in a position to be a contender (really going out on a limb with this one). The 90’s were great to watch the team come together, now a new generation of fan gets to understand what growing pains are all about. I hate coming off as a bleeding heart seeing the pissy entitlement of the fans who think we deserve a top 3 pick just because we had a really bad year (but clearly not as relatively bad as others) and losing their minds over some bad luck.

And yes, there are teams worse than us. Sure some had injury problems, unlucky stretches, Brian Elliot, Siberian winters or whatever the case may be but that’s just the nature of the beast. Maybe there’s a silver lining to not being the worst? So in short, someone has to draft 6th. It just happened to be the Senators.

Again, I’m just as disappointed as you we didn’t get the #1 pick or hell even maintain our #5 pick but come draft weekend we’ll as be as excited as kids in an Apple store (that’s what kids like these days over candy right?) about whoever we select and who knows, we just may end up with the guy we wanted after all. I’m also encouraged by this pick since @DHSpeedwagon so cleverly pointed out, “Sens 6th? @!”So it’s gotta be a half decent omen.

So step back from the ledge and let the experts do what they get paid to do and then we can criticize it to no end if the pick doesn’t pan out. All I can say is I hope we take the best player available (yes, even if it’s a defenseman) and deal with the rest later. That’s all we can ask and all we can do for right now. It may not be a sexy top 2 pick but it’s a really good looking 6 and it’s all ours.

Here’s how the top six shake down in case you were trapped under the political rhetoric last night and couldn’t get out…

  1. Edmonton Oilers
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Florida Panthers
  4. New Jersey Devils
  5. New York Islanders
  6. Ottawa Senators
  7. Could be worse, we could be picking here, remember that.