Thursday, June 19, 2008


On Drafting

Paul DePodesta, former General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, assistant GM of the Oakland A's (under Billy Beane), and current front-office assistant for the San Diego Padres, is now writing a blog, and he recently spent some time talking about the MLB draft. I think it's a fascinating read, with some really useful nuggets in it. They include:

"Every year presents a different crop of players, and consequently the first evaluation is a macro one. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this draft class? It's commonplace to say, "This draft isn't very deep." That's usually true, though it may also be our subconscious managing expectations. Either way, a more detailed analysis can greatly inform a team's strategy for a particular draft. As I've mentioned before, due to the fact that baseball's draft does not immediately impact the Major League level, teams don't necessarily have to draft for need. This allows for more flexibility in the process on an annual basis."

"We weren't going to take a pitcher just to seemingly balance our draft."

"One of the biggest complaints about most drafts is that certain players were "overdrafted". I'll be honest - I don't really believe in that concept. First of all, our knowledge in terms of where players will be selected is imperfect to put it mildly. Remember, it only takes one team out of thirty to step up and take a player, and then he's gone. There are no do-overs. We may really like a guy, think we can get him in the 4th round or so, and then he's gone in the second. It happens all the time. Therefore, I believe that if you like the player and want him in your system, just take him. My litmus test is how I'm going to react when I hear another team call the player's name: a) a grimace with a head bob, b) an audible "Gah!" with a twist of the neck, or c) nauseous. If (c), then take the player if he's available."

"With each selection, we expected to lose some target players before our next selection, and of course we did, but the exhaustive planning paid off as we anticipated most of the "losses". Our decisions in each round, therefore, were factoring in these expected losses."

"The first round is always the most difficult, especially when you're picking in the bottom third."

All bolds mine. DePodesta's ideas can be applied to drafting in any sport, including the NHL. It's simple enough stuff. Not conclusive, obviously, but a sensible start. To summarize:

1) You don't have to draft according to need.
2) Don't take a player at a position just because you haven't already drafted a player at that position.
3) The draft is unpredictable, so if you want a guy, and he's there, take him. Don't get too fancy, playing a game and betting that he'll be there later.
4) Prepare for, and mitigate your losses.
5) Don't give up a 12th overall pick for a 22nd overall pick unless you are absolutely certain your team is going to make the Stanley Cup Finals within a couple years of trading that pick.

Makes sense to me.

As for the Oilers, I have no idea how things are going to pan out this weekend. They gave up what became the 12th overall pick for Dustin Penner, and they got Anaheim's 1st round pick back for Chris Pronger (22nd overall). They don't have a 2nd or 3rd round pick, so the gap between their first two picks is 81 slots (22nd to 103 overall). Then it's pick numbers 133, 163 and 193. Five picks total, in seven rounds. Needless to say, there is not a lot of margin for error.

My own belief is that teams should always take the best player available, unless there is a dire need for a player at a certain position. I don't think the Oilers are in that position. They need help and depth everywhere. I'd say that the greatest organizational need is at the goaltending position, but I don't think it's a dire need, and I don't think they will find anyone at that position that will help the big club immediately. So I expect them to just take the best guy available, especially in the 1st round (hey, it might even be a goalie).

As for a trade, I don't see it happening. Robert Tychkowski comments today in the Edmonton Sun that it isn't smart to trade a player when his value is low (or probable that someone will trade with you), and I agree with him. I therefore don't see Stoll, Torres or Schremp being moved. The wild card here is Pitkanen. If he's tossed in with any of those guys, a deal may get done. But is Lowe willing to move Pitkanen? He's always been high on the guy, and with Sheldon Souray in your lineup, you need all the defensive depth you can get. Then again, Pitkanen isn't exactly Steve Larmer in terms of endurance, and he hasn't signed the dotted line on a new deal. So he could get moved. Bah. I just switched my own position!

Okay. Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it: no major trades, no moving up, a couple guys from the U.S. college system, a couple guys from the WHL, and one Swede or Finn. No Russians taken. Overall emphasis is on speed and size (as always), and more than a few times over the next few weeks (or years) we hear a variation on the line, "Kevin Lowe really wanted to trade up in this draft, but couldn't find any partners."

Lowetide and YKOIL are the place to be if you want to talk NHL Draft. GOILERS.


Overall emphasis is on speed and size (as always)

I'm hoping the overall emphasis is skill. IMO even though the team needs size they've done better focusing on skill.

If we cant make the magical 3 for 1 trade, I'm also hoping we land a pick or 2 rounds 2-3.

I'm hoping the overall emphasis is skill. IMO even though the team needs size they've done better focusing on skill.

Agreed. More Cogliano and Gagner, less Jacques and Winchester would be fine by me.

It's worth noting that the reason the Oilers don't have 2nd and 3rd round picks is because they gave up those in addition to the first rounder to sign Penner.

5) Don't give up a 12th overall pick for a 22nd overall pick unless you are absolutely certain your team is going to make the Stanley Cup Finals within a couple years of trading that pick.

Sage advice, I'd say, but probably a bit overstated. I mean, there's definitely a gap in value, so it should at least be a smart trade.

Penner? We'll see. If he turns out to be a force, the "trade" might still be a win for K. Lowe.

There was no trade of the 12th for the 22nd pick. I wish people would stop pretending that there was.

There was no trade of the 12th for the 22nd pick. I wish people would stop pretending that there was.

You are right. But I never said that. No one here did. Well, maybe Earl. ;)

"Agreed. More Cogliano and Gagner, less Jacques and Winchester would be fine by me."

That's why I want Tedenby. Screw the 'he's too small,' the guy is incredibly skilled and a great skater. My only two concerns are i) he won't be available at 22 and ii) the Oilers scouts think he is too small and Lowe passes on him.

Good shit Andy.

I'm thinking Lowe deals someone (who I don't know) and picks up a pick or two along the way.

Wings' philosophy. Pick the most skilled guy. Seems to work for them.

I mean they're not very tough with all of these Europeans and all but ...

My guess?

Stoll to Phoenix for a couple second rounders.

Judging by the complete lack of talk about his contract status in the papers, I think he's a goner.

Pitkanen? We need him as Souray insurance.

Torres? We need him as Moreau insurance.

Well, maybe Earl. ;)

Hey, I used "trade" (in quotes) because it was part of point five.

Damn technical Oilfans.

Are you fucking kidding me? Two picks for Tanguay? It's not finalized yet, but holy shit.

God, I'm jacked up about Eberle. A superior offensive player on an inferior offensive team in an inferior offensive league. All the signs are pointed the right way on him. I'm pumped. I actually posted on my blog I'm so pumped. I think I'm going to go outside and jump around.

I take it that Lord Bob is "pumped" hahaha.

Got to say that I know almost nothing about this Eberle kid, but after reading everything I can find on him he's damn exciting to have. That and well we have nothing else really to be excited about right now.

I started following the Oilers in 1998, 1999 arounds so I don't remember seeing a pure out and out elite sniper on the Oilers ever, so here's hoping.

That Deschamps guy that TSN seemed to have a hard on for, and that Redline didn't think would get past the 1st going to Anaheim worries me though.

Geesh uni, was Bill Guerin chopped liver or something?




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