Monday, December 21, 2020

NHL Mega-Mock Draft: We picked everything to build a league

The pitch came with a warning.

This is either a great idea or a really, really terrible one.

As the managing editor of our hockey coverage in the U.S., Sarah Goldstein is the best audience for these kinds of ideas because she generally likes them. And she has a sixth sense for understanding what subscribers will enjoy. That you’re reading this indicates where she stood on the idea.

The pitch was this: What if we got 32 hockey writers together and we drafted everything? A franchise player. An owner. A market. A GM. A coach. Had we consulted Mark Lazerus earlier, we probably would have included a mascot.

Besides being really fun to do, it was an attempt at trying to figure out what was most valuable to a successful NHL franchise. And within that conceit, ranking the value of each of those commodities since you could take any one of them in any round. For us, it was the first time we really tried to dig in and figure out if Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was more valuable to the success of an NHL franchise than Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

Even as recently as a few weeks ago, the jury was still out as to whether this was a great idea or terrible. Or maybe just simply the result of a bunch of writers and editors with too much time in between actual hockey games.

But sometime in the middle of a recent Zoom call with 30-plus hockey writers, each loudly offering their opinions of each pick and its merit, it was clear that maybe it wasn’t so terrible. When the debate extended for days in an internal Slack channel, optimism was even higher.

Here were the rules put in place for the 2020 NHL Mega-Mock Draft:

We had 32 writers join the draft, each charged with starting a franchise from scratch. They had to pick a franchise player, a GM, a coach, an owner and a market. The owner and market had to be actual NHL cities and owners. Sure, we’re operating somewhere in fantasyland already but we wanted some assessment of reality. We didn’t want to walk away with Beyonce owning a team in Paris. Although seeing that now, maybe we should have.

The players could be any age, which opened it up to prospects outside the NHL. They also had no contractual attachments, so there weren’t bonus points for getting Alexis Lafreniere on his entry-level deal. The GM and coach had fewer restrictions. If you thought there’s a better coach in college or the AHL than currently behind an NHL bench, you could grab them. Same goes for the GM. And these franchise starters definitely took advantage of that opportunity. This wasn’t an attempt to build an all-time team. It was to build a franchise from scratch to have success today. Lastly, for the sanity of Commissioner Goldstein, there were no trades allowed.

The process was fun. The results, we hope, are interesting. Ultimately, it’ll be your call if we ever do this again.

Here are the results of that draft, with commentary from Craig Custance and Sean McIndoe, and explainers from the writers:

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