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Monday, June 29, 2009

The "Non-Traditional" Invasion Begins

Well, well, well...The 2009 NHL Entry Draft took place last weekend, and Big Tex feels like doing a little victory dance. Some of you may remember a blog post from early May, in which I stated that non-traditional market teams were helping to grow the NHL's talent pool. Others may remember me making the same argument in comments on one of my favorite sites, Illegal Curve. Naturally, as I watched the draft, I was particularly cognizant of draftees from "Non-Traditional" markets. Here's the breakdown, by state of birth:

Utah: 1 (Dylan Olsen - 28th - CHI)
Texas: 1 (Chris Brown - 36th - PHX)
Colorado: 2 (Matt Clark - 37th - ANA & Drew Shore - 44th - FLA)
California: 3 (Kyle Bigos - 99th - EDM, Brandon Kozun - 179th - LAK & Mitchell Callahan - 180th - DET)
Florida: 1 (Brandon Maxwell - 154th - COL)
Arizona: 1 (Anthony Hamburg - 193rd - MIN)(NOTE: Hamburg gets DOUBLE non-traditional points because he was drafted out of the Dallas Stars' AAA Midget team)
Alabama: 1 (Nic Dowd - 198th - LAK)

That's a total of TEN draftees from non-traditional markets. According to nhl.com, that makes the 2009 Non-Traditional Market Draft Class roughly 43% larger than the 2009 Russian Draft Class. Yes, I'm well aware of the reasons (KHL) behind the NHL's reluctance (no transfer agreement) to draft Russians these days (KHL, cough, cough), but it is heartening to see the development of a new talent pool to help offset the rapidly dwindling Russian pipeline. The question all you makeitseven folks should ask yourselves is this: Without the Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes, Panthers and KingsDucksSharks (among others), would these kids have been drafted into the NHL, NFL or MLB?

I'll say it again, both because I believe it and because I like to repeat myself: Non-traditional market franchises, while an affront to Canadian and East Coast hockey purists, are helping grow the NHL talent pool. In the long-term, the growth of the talent pool will allow for expansion without a significant drop-off in quality of the on-ice product, and will gradually raise the level of play throughout the league. So, in regards to the so-called "Southern Strategy", I'm going to say something I've never directly stated before now, and may never say again: Gary Bettman was right.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

GM or Mad Scientist? You Make the Call

DISCLAIMER: The following is certified 100% pure uninformed speculation. Unlike a certain Blogger Who Shall Remain Nameless, I didn't hear any of this from "my sources", or even "a guy I met in the elevator". This is simply me putting on my "Mad Scientist/GM" hat and drinking too much coffee.

If I'm Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli, I'm wondering if the Isles will take Phil Kessel (or Kessel and a draft pick) for the top pick in the draft...which I would use to take Victor Hedman.

Let's see a show of hands: Who wants Jay Bouwmeester? Okay, now: Who can afford JayBo? If I'm Isles' GM Garth Snow, I'm wishing I were in that group. I'd draft John Tavares and make Bouwmeester an offer he couldn't refuse, and wait for the blogosphere to proclaim the Islanders "The Next Blackhawks".

If I'm brand-new Stars' GM Joe Nieuwendyk, more than anything else, I am VERY INTERESTED in the health of Sergei Zubov.

If I'm Blue Jackets' GM Scott Howson, I'm betting that a healthy Derrick Brassard will quickly become the top line center I so desperately need, but I'm on the prowl for a good #2. And if I'm Ken Hitchcock, I'm very quietly talking to both Howson and Jere Lehtinen about what it would take to convince Lehts to move to Columbus for a year or two.

A conversation I had with my son a few weeks ago keeps coming back to me. When I mentioned to him Toronto GM Brian Burke's stated desire to trade up for the top pick in the draft, Tex Jr. hit the nail on the head: "If I were the Islanders, who does Toronto have that I'd want? Nobody! Luke Schenn, maybe...but that's it, and that's not enough for me to give up John Tavares." Out of the mouths of babes...

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