The Columbus Blue Jackets are the perfect example of how poor drafting can decimate a sports franchise. From the moment they entered the league through today, almost without question, if they had a draft pick, they picked poorly. It’s hard for these sports teams to overcome poor drafting because not only do you not get a good player with the pick, you also have a player with no trade value. Continue to draft poorly, and your team really becomes devoid of any talent quickly unless you have some type of magician as your GM who can turn garbage into diamonds.
Looking at first round draft picks only (as later round picks are usually long-shots for any NHL organization), we can see the futility develop:
Round 1, Pick #4 – D Rostislav Klesla. Klesla turned out to be an average defenseman, with fairly low point outputs in his career. Not really what you would hope for with your first pick in franchise history, but a solid player nonetheless. Unfortunately for Columbus, the 2000 draft was notoriously weak in talent. There would be only 5 players in this draft to ever reach all-star status and three of them were drafted before pick 4.
Who they missed out on: Scott Hartnell, Raffi Torres, Alex Frolov, Anton Volchenkov, Justin Williams, Ilya Bryzgalov. Not exactly a list of superstars here.
Round 1, Pick #8 – G Pascal Leclaire. A career backup, for all but one season where he actually went 24-17 between the pipes for Columbus. He had alot of injuries in his career. Again, a disappointing pick. Traded for Antoine Vermette, which makes the pick somewhat palatable.
Who they missed out on: Ales Hemsky, RJ Umberger, Fedor Tyutin (who they eventually acquired), Jason Pominville, Patrick Sharp, Carlo Colaiacovo, Tuomo Ruutu. Again, not the worst pick ever considering Pominville and Sharp were drafted in later rounds, but still disappointing.
Round 1, Pick #1 – LW Rick Nash. This is the one draft where the Blue Jackets truly got it right. Nash has been a stud goalscorer his entire career. Unfortunately for Columbus, since all their other picks have been pretty bad, today in 2012, Rick has become very tired of all of the losing and privately has been wanting out of Columbus. He is on the verge of being traded as I am writing this article. It’s a miracle he lasted there this long – the brief ramp up to their playoff appearance in 08-09 is probably what kept Rick around.
Round 1, Pick #4 – RW Nikolai Zherdev. A very talented player, Columbus had him ranked number 1 on their draft list and were pleased to get him at the 4 spot. His early career was tumultuous and involved problems with the coaches, contract threats, and eventually he was deemed more trouble than he was worth and shipped out of town. His highest point total was 54, which is a little bit below average for a guy playing on the first line of a team. The team got back Tyutin and Backman, so clearly they did not get good value from this pick.
Who they missed out on: Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, and that’s just in the first round!
Round 1, Pick #8 – LW Alex Picard. The guy played 17 games his rookie season with not a single point to show for it and would continue to play a few games a year for the Jackets until 2010 where he was shipped off for a guy who played 2 games in the NHL. Picard’s career stats: 67 games, 2 assists. It’s incredible that he even played that many games. Somehow he was ranked the #2 skater in North America going into the draft.
Who they missed out on: In their defense, this was one of the worst drafts ever with only 2 all-stars taken in the first round, and 4 total in the entire draft. They missed out on a bunch of borderline NHLers, and in later rounds only Alex Edler and Mark Streit. But it would be just their luck that Picard was a complete and utter bust in the NHL and not even a serviceable 2nd or 3rd liner. His hunched over skating style might have hurt him the most of anything that derailed his NHL career.
Round 1, Pick #6 – C Gilbert Brule. Another draft pick that was a complete bust. Brule is basically a 3rd, and maybe 4th line center. He has hung around the NHL playing sparingly for the last 5 years. His point totals for Columbus from 2005-2008 when he was traded for Raffi Torres are: 31 points in 146 games. Unbelievable. And this kid was ranked 5th best in the skater ranks before the draft.
Who they missed out on: Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, Devin Setoguchi, TJ Oshie, Tuukka Rask, Andrew Cogliano, Steve Downie, James Neal, Paul Statsny, Guillaume Latendresse, Kris Letang, Keith Yandle.
Round 1, Pick #6 – C Derrick Brassard. This is probably the second best pick the Jackets have made. He is an average second line player. Every team needs this kind of player, they just hope to get them in a later round. He is still with the team and still quite serviceable. The list of players taken from picks 1 to 5 has to really hurt for Columbus fans: Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel. Ouch.
Who they missed out on: Peter Mueller and Claude Giroux are the only two players you might say are better than Brassard, so really not that bad of a pick here at all considering the circumstances.
Round 1, Pick #7 – RW Jakub Voracek. Voracek is a decent second liner. Again, not what you’d hope for from a #7 pick. His highest goal scoring season is 16 goals, but he did put up 50 points two years ago and 46 points last year. He was traded with a first round pick and third round pick to Philly for Jeff Carter in mid-2011. Carter of course has had a poor, injury-filled year for Columbus. So basically this turns out to be two first rounders and a third rounder for a crippled Jeff Carter who is likely to be shipped out when Nash is. Funny, because they could have drafted Jeff Carter for free in 2003. Voracek has 31 points in 55 games this year, continuing on the same pace point-wise.
Who they missed out on: Logan Couture, Max Pacioretty, PK Subban, David Perron, Jamie Benn. Not much.
Round 1, Pick #6 – LW Nikita Filatov. Ranked the number 1 euro skater in the draft, the Jackets snatched him up. Unfortunately, again, he was a defensive liability and Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock limited his playing time as a result. This made Filatov upset and he requested to return to Russia. When he came back to the NHL, he continued to be a below average player and eventually the Jackets traded him to Ottawa for a 3rd rounder. Just another colossal failure of a top 10 Jackets pick. He scored 13 career NHL points over 3 seasons with Columbus. His career is not over, but it is as a Jacket.
Who they missed out on: Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Michael Del Zotto, Jordan Eberle, Mattias Tedenby, John Carlson, Tyler Ennis, Mike Boedker…
Round 1, Pick #21 – D John Moore. Picking outside the top 10 for the first time in club history, they weren’t expected to necessarily find a stud… but they got a guy who put up 6 points in 46 games this season as a defenseman. Not exactly a fantastic pick, but the jury is still out.
Who they missed out on: It’s too early to tell, since most players picked in 2009 are in minor league hockey, developing.
Round 1, Pick #4 – C Ryan Johansen. He has 17 points in 45 games this season for Columbus as a rookie. He has potential.
Who they missed out on: The team did pass on Jeff Skinner who dropped 63 points in his rookie season in 2010-11, and already has 15 goals and 30 points this season. Again, most of these players are in the minors developing.
They traded their first round pick (#8) for Jeff Carter with Jakub Voracek. Philadelphia selected Sean Couturier with the pick. It is still too early to tell if they missed out on anyone special at number 8.
As you can see, getting a couple of second liners and a first line left wing out of 11 years of drafting is going to kill your franchise. Owner John McConnell issued a public apology about a month ago to all Jackets fans for the team’s ineptitude over the years. Now they are on the verge of trading away their best player, Rick Nash.
Things are about to hit an all-time low. Let’s hope their next draft pick pans out. They’re going to need it. Badly.