Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?

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Connor McDavidNo doubt Connor McDavid will be taken first overall in this June’s NHL Entry Draft. He has the ability to turn an organization around very quickly. Getting the best talent in the draft is key to building a good organization.

But contrary to popular belief, one player does not make a team. Assembling a championship squad requires lots of scouting and evaluation both internally and externally. It is being able to acquire the right pieces that will turn a pretender into a contender. It doesn’t hurt to have the best player in the league on your team but, as I have said time and time again, there is more to it than that.

Even if teams gets the best player with the first overall pick, it will still take years before they end up hoisting the Stanley Cup. Since 1990, only four first-overall picks became Stanley Cup champions: Vincent Lacavalier, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane. Kane was the quickest having his name engraved on the trophy 3 years after being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. So Maple Leafs fans better pack some patience before we can plan the parade.

We have seen a number of times where the first overall pick ends up setting the team back a number of years. The Oakland Raiders found that out the hard way when they took quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Russell was an outstanding college player but couldn’t carry that into the pros. The Raiders organization hasn’t been the same since. And how about Greg Oden? Don’t you think the Portland Trailblazers are having second thoughts about taking him with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft? I don’t even have to tell you about Rick DiPietro.

Which brings me up to the mind set of the Maple Leafs tanking in order to get the first overall pick. Wasn’t the purpose of a draft lottery was suppose to neutralize the temptation to set a team up to lose every game in order get the worst record in the league? No doubt there will be conspiracy theorists who will say the NHL rigged the process so that the Leafs end up with McDavid. Just you wait. I can also bet you the so-called Leafs fans on the tank bandwagon also belong to these kook groups.

Perhaps the one common denominator with all first-round busts is mentality. One quality people seem to overlook is whether the player has the smarts to compete as a pro. It is not always see ball, hit ball. Anyone can score a goal, how you get there and the ability to do it consistently separates you from the rest of the pack. And it is up to managers and scouts to do their homework in finding out if that particular player has that quality.

Baseball is perhaps the best example of the myth of building a championship team through the draft. One thing baseball has compared to other sports is a farm system that provides players with an environment to develop their skills. Although lately, baseball teams are often taking college players in the draft as they have developed more quickly than those in high school.

If McDavid does end up with the Leafs, at least he will have a familiar face in Connor Brown on the team. The two were teammates with the Erie Otters and played on the same line producing a ton of points. By the way, Brown was a 6th round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2012 and is currently leading the Marlies in scoring. Just sayin’ as they say.

Also see:

Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money
Tournament Win Destroys Myths
Blue Jays Need Players… Ones That Don’t Get Hurt Easily

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