Under The Rock

By Steve Gandour

LEAFS DRAFT RECORD ABYSMAL

What do the Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils have in common? First, they have split all of the last seven Stanley Cups amongst themselves. What possible reason is there that these four teams have been dominant over the last seven years? The answer lies within their other commonality, their franchise superstar and base of surrounding stars were built from there own great draft selections.

Colorado drafted Joe Sakic, their franchise superstar, and also drafted star players Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula and Chris Drury to compliment Joe. Dallas’ Mike Modano is their franchise superstar and a former first round selection. Dallas used draft picks to add Derian Hatcher, Jere Lehtinen and Jarome Iginla (who they used to acquire Joe Nieuwendyk) and this was the star base that took them to their Cup win. New Jersey’s franchise player, Martin Brodeur, was a Devils draft pick. They reinforced their lineup with superstar skill from the draft in the form of Scott Neidermayer, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. Finally, Detroit’s star player Steve Yzerman was a product of their amateur draft selections. They also added superstars Niklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Keith Primeau, Martin Lapointe and Chris Osgood from the draft.

If you look at the Leafs past decade of drafts, their top selections have never developed into anything more than role players. The only star they drafted, Kenny Jonsson, is far from a franchise player. Grant Marshall is a fourth line winger on an expansion team. Brandon Convery never was a regular pro player. Eric Fichaud could not keep a backup job on any of the struggling teams he got a chance with (Montreal, Carolina, New York Islanders). Drake Berehowsky is a seventh defenseman on most teams. Jeff Ware could not crack one of the weakest defense cores in the NHL in Florida. Landon Wilson is a fourth line journeyman. Even more recent picks like Antropov and Cereda have been huge disappointments to date. In fact, the only Leaf draft picks on their team currently are Tie Domi and Tomas Kaberle. While Kaberle is a star in the making, neither player is a franchise player. Besides, it takes more than one good draft selection as proven throughout Cup history.

With the trade deadline approaching next Tuesday, a lot of Leaf fans feel a need to make a move for a defenseman or a goalie. I honestly feel that any of the players who are available will not be able to make enough of an impact to take the Leafs to a Cup final. So why should they sacrifice the likes of a Brad Boyes or Carlo Colaiacovo for one of these rent-a-players? Boyes has proven himself at the World Juniors. The only other Leaf draft pick to be a stand out at that tournament was arguably their only star selection to date in Kenny Jonsson. Colaiacovo was also very solid in the World Juniors if not spectacular. These two players could be the first draft selections for the Leafs, since they drafted Damphousse in 1986, to actually develop into solid stars. However, based on rumour and speculation . . . neither is untradeable.

The track record is there . . . EVERY CUP WINNING TEAM builds around a foundation of solid star and superstar draft picks. Even back further than the past seven years, the New York Rangers built their team around Leetch and Richter for their cup victory. Montreal built around Roy and Desjardins. Pittsburgh built around Lemieux, Stevens and Recchi. Calgary built around Fleury, Nieuwendyk, MacInnis, Vernon and Loob. Edmonton built around Gretzky, Kurri, Coffey, Messier, Anderson and Fuhr. The Islanders built around Potvin, Smith, Bossy, Trottier and Tonelli. You can continue to go back through every Cup champion team and you won’t find one that won a Stanley Cup with less than TWO SUPERSTARS from their own draft picks.

Recently the Leafs released Director of Amateur Scouting, Mark Hillier. However, I feel that the scouting woes cannot be pinned on one man alone. Hillier had only taken over the post for the past two drafts, arguably the Leafs best drafts in the last ten years. Until the Leafs completely overhaul their amateur scouting staff, their scouting process and their prospect development methods . . . this team will not break their 34-year streak of Cup futility.

COAST TO COAST AND ACROSS THE POND

Jamie Hodson – South Carolina Sting Rays (ECHL)
Sources in South Carolina report things are not working out there for Jamie, whose name is mentioned often in trade rumours. Jamie was pulled after one period in a game Tuesday night and reportedly had a shouting match with coach Rick Adduono.

Jacques Lariviere – Memphis River Kings (CHL)
Jacques was activated from the IR list in time for the start of Sunday’s game. He had been sidelined with an aggravated hand injury for the past four weeks.

Jonathan Gagnon – Memphis River Kings (CHL)
Jonathan was recalled by the St. John’s Maple Leafs on Monday after a brawl saw several of the baby Leafs suspended. Jonathan was having a career offensive year with Memphis when he got the call while on the road with his team in Texas.

Michal Travnicek – HC Chemopetrol Litvinov (Czech Extraliga)
Michal suffered an undisclosed quadriceps injury earlier this week. He will have an MRI to evaluate the extent of the damage.

Sebastien Centomo – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Sebastien was named Central Hockey League Rookie of the Year last night. It marked his first honours, and a touching end to a great Central Hockey League Season.