Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Musings: The Expansion Draft

Call it the lull of the summer, call it the throngs of ideas of Jim Balsillie or some one else not being able to buy a team and the NHL going the expansion it playing too much NHL '94 with the expansion rosters-- but the Expansion Draft has been going through my head. In order to get this silliness out of my skull, I figure I'll write about it. It may be exciting, it may be crap-- but it's something.

Of course, the Expansion Draft is used for teams to assemble a team of players that are the cast-offs of their teams, for the most part. This, of course, has allowed the league to see it's fair share of horrible teams, like the 1974 through 1976 Washington Capitals, the 1991 through 1993 San Jose Sharks, as well as the 1992 through 1996 Ottawa Senators. Yet, it allowed those teams prime draft position to built their team the way they want to and develop players through their own systems. It's may be because some of the players are awful, but some guys step up and actually show their true worth.

It seems that most of the success stories that happen in the net. Of all players selected, it seems that goalie come out smelling like roses. It started with Glenn Hall being left unprotected and helping the St. Louis Blues get to the Stanley Cup finals in his first year and second years there. Then you have guys like Billy Smith and Arturs Irbe, both who got selected and had to go through a couple years of hardships before fully flourishing. The two goalies of the 1993 Expansion Draft, John Vanbiesbrouck and Guy Hebert, both immediate became the face of their teams. Beezer was pushed out of Broadway by the Rangers with Mike Richter coming of age, yet make a mark in Miami, while Hebert was stuck behind Curtis Joseph in St. Louis before getting his shot in Anaheim. Meanwhile, Tomas Vokoun had to wait for Mike Dunham to move aside to show his way in Nashville.

While not all success stories are goalies, not many skaters seemed to be the big names from Expansion Drafts. To an extent, Pat Quinn played a big role in both building the Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames, as he brought his hardnose game and a little bit of passing touch to those teams. Scott Mellanby seemed to get new life when picked by the Panthers, being a leader on and off the ice, while Scott Walker found a sort of scoring touch to his physical game while in Nashville. Those are the guys who jump out in a good way.

For the downside of things, Bill Mikkelson had the worse luck with the Expansion Draft. Mikkelson was drafted twice, first in 1972 by the New York Islanders and then two year later by the Washington Capitals. Prior to these, Mikkelson played 15 games for the Los Angeles Kings and had an assist and was a minus-11. Mikkelson played two more years, in '72-'73 and '74-'75, to which he compiled four goals, 18 assist and a whopping minus-136 (minus-54 and minus-82 respectively) in those two seasons. pretty much all you can say.

But, Mikkelson was one of the few who was drafted through the Expansion Draft more than once. Quinn was taken twice in 1970 and 1972. Ron Low was picked by the Capitals in '74, while being picked in '79 by the Quebec Nordiques when they moved from the WHA. The most intreging Expansion Draftees was Frederic Chabot was picked three times, first by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, then by the Nashville Predators in 1998, and finally by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. However, a misconception is Andrew Brunette, who was selected by the Predators in the '98 E-Draft, but signed with the Thrashers in their first year even though he wasn't picked in 1999's E-Draft.

Again-- those are the names that jump out, while I think in the earlier days they had plenty of guys jumping to and fro. If I was a real journalist and/or researcher, I'd take time to do all the leg work.....but here we are.

As an aside, the 1991 Expansion Draft had a Disperal Draft as well. It had to do with the owners of the Minnesota North Stars wanting to move the team to the California Bay Area, but was rebuffed by the NHL. To compromise, the NHL gave the owners of the North Stars an expansion team in San Jose, but a condition of the owners selling the team; the Sharks would have a first shot at some North Stars players before taking the league pool of players.

This is just boredom taking over, I'm sure-- but it would be interesting to see what guys would be left unprotected nowadays. Right now, the talent pool for every team is very deep and the skill level of kids is spectacular, that you may not have the hiccups that these first expansions or middle of the road expansion teams would have had. We have seen that with the recent expansions teams, aside from the Atlanta Thrashers first season, the teams have been somewhat competitive and not as awful as some people would have thought. With the talent, the management, the style of play nowadays-- the next expansion draft could be the most exciting one to date.

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