Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Tale of Two Drafts, Part 1

"With the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals select, Center Evgeni Malkin from Magnitogorsk, Russia."

How would you feel today if you heard this on June 26, 2004?

The NHL draft will take place on June 27-28 of this year, 10 weeks from now. Coincidentally, this will be the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Draft, where the Caps picked Alex Ovechkin first overall.

Today, many analysts think the better pick would have been Evgeni Malkin, who went second overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. What would have happened then?

Over the next few weeks, I'll look at how this event would have affected the entire NHL in each year and offseason, starting with 2004-2005 today.

So, let it begin.

The 2004 offseason began after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 7 games, and as the final buzzer went off, the old CBA expired. There were rumors of a lockout to occur, although nobody knew how long it would last.

Focus switched to the coming draft, which would feature two extremely talented Russians who had led their team to World Juniors glory and were considered some of the most talented players the league had seen in a long time.

The Capitals entered with the third-best odds to take the top pick, with a 14.2% chance compared with Pittsburgh's 25% chance and Chicago's 18.8%. Surprisingly, the Caps won the first pick.

Alex Ovechkin was viewed as the consensus top pick in 2004. But say today's media 'pundits' went back in time and told the Capitals organization that Evgeni Malkin is a better pick. What would have happened then?

Let's say the Caps picked Malkin. The Penguins would have had no problem taking Alex Ovechkin second overall.

Assuming the rest of the draft went the same way, the Caps would've picked Malkin and defensemen Jeff Schultz and Mike Green in the first round. There's where we'll end the draft for now.

The NHL lockout started and the NHL died for a year. When an agreement was reached on July 21, 2005, attendance and interest in the NHL had dropped drastically. ESPN declined to continue to air NHL games in the 2005 season. Teams like the Capitals and Penguins were in dire need of something (or someone) to increase interest in their team again.

That takes us to July 30 (my birthday!) and the 2005 NHL Draft, where we'll pick up our story next week.

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