Monday, June 29, 2015

The most (and least) surprising moments from NHL draft weekend

The NHL’s draft weekend is, in theory, a pretty straightforward affair. It’s the annual chance to divide up all the incoming young talent, with teams making their picks, posing for a few photos, and heading home.

In reality, draft weekend often ends up feeling like 90 percent of the league’s offseason crammed into a few days. The combination of having all 30 front offices in one city, incoming cap space, and free agency looming just days away builds up into a whirlwind of rumors, speculation, and (eventually) action.

Some of it works out the way we expect. Some of it doesn’t. So let’s take a look back at this year’s just-concluded draft weekend in stifling Sunrise, Florida, by breaking down all the major moves based on just how surprising they were.

Connor McDavid going first overall: 0/100 — No surprise here; we’ve known that McDavid would be the first overall pick of the 2015 draft for the last three years. He’s the most heavily hyped prospect since Sidney Crosby, and his ridiculous numbers in junior this year — he had 120 points in just 47 games — just reaffirmed his status as the game’s Next Big Thing.

The question now is this: How big? And how quickly? McDavid goes to an Oilers franchise that hasn’t been good at anything other than winning draft lotteries in almost a decade. His arrival, and the front office overhaul the franchise underwent while anticipating it, should spell the end of the Oilers’ misery. The question is how quickly he can get them into the playoffs, and then into Cup contention.

We have some history to look back on. Crosby had 102 points as a rookie in the high-scoring post-lockout 2005-06 season, but Pittsburgh didn’t return to the playoffs until the following year. The Penguins went to the Cup final the year after that, and then won it all in 2009. Alexander Ovechkin debuted the same year as Crosby, but the Caps didn’t make the playoffs until his third season, and they still haven’t been to a final. The Blackhawks debuted the double whammy of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in 2007-08, missed the playoffs, and had won their first Stanley Cup by 2010.

So if you’re an Oilers fan, there’s your realistic window: one more tough season, playoff favorite status the year after that, and Stanley Cup contention soon after. It’s no sure thing, of course, but I’m guessing long-suffering Oilers fans will take it.

McDavid’s selection was the least surprising moment of the entire weekend. Well, except for this one …

This whole thing being a disaster: 0/100 — Let’s play a game called “How the hell did this happen?”

Scene: League headquarters.

NHL executive: “So, Connor McDavid has finally arrived in the NHL. How can we make the best possible first impression with this incredibly marketable new asset?”

Intern: “Hey, has anyone checked to see if the owner of the Oilers would want to awkwardly corner him on live television, then babble on about how wonderful his terrible organization is while blatantly reading off a cue card?”

NHL executive: “Great idea. Did anyone check it with Connor?”

Intern: “Sure did. He said he’d spend the entire segment visibly trying to swallow his own tongue.”

NHL executive: “Awesome, let’s do it!”

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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