Sunday, February 17, 2013

Success At The Draft: 10 Years Of Maple Leafs Draft Picks

The Toronto Maple Leafs don't know how to draft or develop players; we hear this all the time.  Just last week, Damien Cox wondered if the Leafs had finally figured it out as Kadri and Frattin were both making a meaningful impact at the NHL level.  Well, it may surprise a lot of you to hear this given what you're forced to read, but the Leafs are actually pretty good at drafting players.

An interesting post by Aaron Chan over at Maple Leaf Muse got me thinking about the Leafs' track record at the draft.  I've always felt like it was better than they got credit for.  Aaron made some interesting points but I wanted to be a little bit more precise with how picks are compared to one another.

With that in mind, I looked at 10 years worth of draft data (1999 to 2008) and the results are impressive.  Over this 10 year period, the Leafs had a first round bust rate of 14% (note: The only bust, Luca Cereda, is an interesting case. He was diagnosed with a heart defect the year after his draft.)  Their median first round draft slot over this time was 21st which makes the low bust rate particularly impressive.  When compared to the league-wide bust rate of 42% among first round draft picks, the Leafs' draft record stands out yet again.  The Leafs' impact draft rate in the first round was over 70% compared against a league-wide average of roughly 39%.

In the second round, the Leafs had a bust rate that was slightly lower than league average and their record for drafting impact players (top-6 forwards or top-4 defense) was double that of the rest of the league.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Positional Draft Analysis By Round: 10 Years of Forwards and Defensemen

About a week ago, I was talking with a friend about 2013 eligible draft prospect Darnell Nurse.  He's huge and athletic and while I'm not a pro-scout, I'd guess that he's a guy with an awfully high ceiling.  I suggested that some team that barely missed the playoffs was going to be awfully lucky to draft him and that I wouldn't even be surprised if he snuck into the top-10 on draft day.  It was at that point that my friend suggested that taking a defenseman in the top-10 was a risky proposition.

We shot some names back and forth of forwards and defense who had worked out, where star players came from, Cam Barker, &c. &c. Are your odds better of getting a good player in the first round if you take a forward?  At what point, if any, are defensemen generally safer picks?  We couldn't really come to any reasonable conclusions without doing the work.

So with that, I set about putting together a spreadsheet with 10 years of draft data (1999 to 2008) where each pick in the first three rounds was categorized as an All-Star, an Impact Player, a Replaceable Player, or a Bust.  For now, I've held fast to defining an All-Star strictly (must have actually been an All-Star) but I do think this analysis would benefit from a little more flexibility in this regard (ex. Hamonic and Subban are not All-Stars but Justin Williams and Alexander Frolov are.)  An Impact Player is a top-6 forward or a top-4 defenseman, a Replaceable Player would be a guy who has predominantly been an NHLer but generally in a support role, and a Bust would be a guy who didn't have a significant NHL career. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Revisiting When Elite Players Breakout

Nazem Kadri has been on fire to start the season, putting up an impressive 8 points in 9 games and creating chances seemingly on every shift.  It's early, and I think we're a long way from being able to make anything approximating a conclusion based on statistical data, but a lot of Leafs observers, including myself, have been preaching patience with Kadri.

A while ago, I had a look at some milestones that we should be watching for if we expect our prospects to eventually reach the upper-echelons of NHL scoring.  With Kadri off to a fast start, I thought it might be interesting to track his production relative to the development of other premier point producers.


What I did was pretty simple.  I looked at every player who scored 70 or more points between 2008-09 and 2010-11, and then tracked a few key measures.  First, I looked at their ages when they produced a 60+ point season, a 70+ point season and an 80+ point season.  On the graph below, I divided the group by draft position to make the comparisons a little bit tidier.

Here are the results:

As we can see, the 6th - 10th position is a little out of whack with the standard trend which is clearly the result of having a small number of cases (only Selanne, Mikko Koivu, and Doan meet these criteria.)  Aside from this aberration, the trend is fairly steady.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Brief History Of Dave Nonis

When Brian Burke was shown the door by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and Dave Nonis was named as his replacement it may have felt sudden but it was probably a transition that most saw coming to some extent or another.  Nonis seemed to be doing an ever increasing amount of the legwork in the Leafs' front office and Burke was always quick to praise his assistant GM for the things he'd accomplished.  In essence, the timing was odd but the change was not.

Having adjusted to the surprise of the timing of Burke's dismissal, we were then left to wonder whether this move signalled any change in direction for the franchise.  I'm a big believer in not firing coaching or management staff unless you think you can get someone better or if there's some dissatisfaction with the philosophy of the individuals currently in place.  In Burke's case, reports seem to suggest that he was let go largely based on his personality which isn't an answer that I'm particularly enamoured with but, be that as it may, the on-ice results were poor enough that it's tough to really take umbrage with his dismissal.

With Burke out and Nonis in, we're left to wonder what we should expect from our new GM and a little bit of history would probably be instructive in this regard.  Nonis was General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks from 2004 until the end of the 2007-08 season when he was dismissed following a second season outside of the Western Conference playoff picture during his three year tenure.  While his time in Vancouver may have been short, his track record is pretty close to being squeaky clean.


Out: Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, Alex Auld
In: Roberto Luongo, Lucas Krajicek, 6th Round Pick

This deal was a clear win for Nonis and really solidified the one area that Burke had been entirely unable to address during his time in Vancouver.  Nonis inherited the core of the team that has won the past two President's Trophies but it's fair to say that the acquisition of Luongo was the piece that truly put them over the top.