Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Morning After....

The Peerless notes a fair amount of disgruntlement over on The Official over the selection of Karl Alzner with the fifth overall pick and the dealing of the 28th pick for a lower pick this year and one next year. The Peerless regards the latter as not a big deal. There is a lot of uncertainty among the 50 or so players after the top three (where Esposito and Cherepanov fell is certainly evidence of that). 28 is a higher number than 41 (and that pick has now had four different owners), but the 28th pick isn't likely to be as large a difference in talent or potential than the 41st pick. This draft simply doesn't afford that kind of certainty.

In fact, there is a logic in this if one wants to engage in trying to read minds. If the Caps had a number of roughly equivalent players on their list at 28, then some (if not all) of these players would be available at 34, possibly at 41 (the pick they traded for). For what, perhaps, in their minds was minor tinkering with the order, they got an extra pick in next year's draft. That is not a bad strategy.

On one level, though, the Alzner pick is troubling. Not for the fact that he's a bad player, he's not. He would appear to be the "safest" pick in the first round, the player most likely to play to his pre-draft potential.

It's the "safe" part that is troubling. This franchise is in a fair amount of trouble. Not much success on or off the ice (although I suspect the new jersey will sell that the "Snyder effect"). And what did the Caps do? They went all Hitmen again. From 1999-2003, four of the Caps' five top picks came out of the WHL -- Kris Beech, Brian Sutherby, Nathan Paetsch, and Eric Fehr. Their results have been, well, let's say "mixed." All of them played an NHL game, but none have made a recognizable impact.

None of these guys are a #5 pick (although Beech was a #7), but the Caps appear to have had a "type" in mind, and it was a WHL type. This year, with the franchise in the balance in terms of what the Caps do this summer, they went back to what they know. Was it the right pick? I don't know, I've never seen any of these guys play. Maybe he's a "Keith Carney," dependable, but not spectacular; maybe he's a "Jeff Jillson," a promising start but a disappointing finish.

On the other hand, the Caps are weak down the middle (centers, defensemen), and team sports is about being strong in that area, hockey included. You can’t have too many defensemen. Buffalo won a President’s trophy with depth and balance on their blue line, Ottawa got fine play out of their squad leading up to the Cup final (and a disappointing finish among them – especially Wade Redden – did them in), and Anaheim won the Cup with sturdy blue line play from Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and the underrated Francois Beauchemin. While the Caps have numbers in this area, they have a lot of unproven talent and question marks, especially in terms of own-end play. Alzner addresses a shallowness in the prospect pool of defensemen. That’s the upside.

This is the first round in a process that will play itself out over the next three months or so. If there is any truth to a rumor that the Caps are in discussions with another club on a trade that has been put off pending the draft, well, that's a part of the process, too. So is today’s round of drafting. The Caps, as Mike Vogel reports this morning, got the man they targeted. If so, then the question that pops into my mind is, “because he was the best player available or the safest pick?”


Anonymous said...

Alzner's a decent pick...and a safe one as stated. But Kris Beech was a safe pick too.
Save a trade, McPhee might be gambling everything on unrestricted free agency. I don't see that as a good situation.
If Alzner plays in the NHL next year, as some say he will, the Caps will absolutely have to bring in a high quality NHL defenseman to play with these kids. It's virtually a requirement.

The Peerless said...

I think the trade route is likely at this point, with a defenseman likely to be part of a pakcage going bring back another center?

Next week could be very interesting.

crowesnest said...

On the WHL thing- I've always equated that to Frank Provenzano's input as assistant GM- when he left the club, that yearly WHL "desire" seemed to with him. But then, why would they go back after all this time?

Alzner was the best available player at #5, regardless.