A controversial opinion I hold is that the Detroit Red Wings are not a very good team for either drafting or developing players. Usually I bring this up when someone states the direct opposite, usually mentioning Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The argument is usually that those two were picked in the later rounds and developed into veritable superstars. While that is definitely true, a good question is why Detroit picked them so late if Detroit's drafting staff was so sure about their talent. Additionally, these two players were picked in 1998 and 1999 respectively. That's almost 15 years ago (and yes, we're all old). Who has Detroit really developed in the last 10 years or so?
I thought it could be a nice exercise to actually look at an objective measure to see what teams are good at drafting and picking talented players.
For this I have taken the data off of Hockey DB and compiled it. The data includes all games through December 28th, 2013 played by players drafted in the 2000 NHL Entry draft and forward. I've chosen the 2000 Draft as a starting point as this was the first year that every current NHL team had a draft pick. The entire data I used is available as a Google Doc spreadsheet here.
|Detroit Red Wings||Atlantic||108||29||5744||844||1374||2218||2807||0.268518518518519||198.068965517241||53.1851851851852||0.386142061281337||76.4827586206896||20.537037037037|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Atlantic||121||36||3538||440||648||1088||2741||0.297520661157025||98.2777777777778||29.2396694214876||0.30751837196156||30.2222222222222||8.99173553719008|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Atlantic||105||41||7149||1022||1751||2773||2944||0.39047619047619||174.365853658537||68.0857142857143||0.387886417680794||67.6341463414634||26.4095238095238|
|St. Louis Blues||Central||115||43||5930||926||1534||2460||3767||0.373913043478261||137.906976744186||51.5652173913044||0.414839797639123||57.2093023255814||21.3913043478261|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Metropolitan||125||48||8316||1095||1625||2720||7049||0.384||173.25||66.528||0.327080327080327||56.6666666666667||21.76|
|New Jersey Devils||Metropolitan||109||41||5299||639||1087||1726||4083||0.376146788990826||129.243902439024||48.6146788990826||0.32572183430836||42.0975609756098||15.8348623853211|
|New York Islanders||Metropolitan||116||43||6227||843||1391||2234||3339||0.370689655172414||144.813953488372||53.6810344827586||0.358760237674643||51.953488372093||19.2586206896552|
|New York Rangers||Metropolitan||109||44||7426||909||1611||2520||4271||0.403669724770642||168.772727272727||68.1284403669725||0.339348235927821||57.2727272727273||23.1192660550459|
|Los Angeles Kings||Pacific||122||44||8617||1386||2213||3599||4737||0.360655737704918||195.840909090909||70.6311475409836||0.417662759661135||81.7954545454546||29.5|
|San Jose Sharks||Pacific||102||40||7244||1158||1884||3042||3839||0.392156862745098||181.1||71.0196078431372||0.419933738266151||76.05||29.8235294117647|
A word of caution
At this moment I should make note of some limitations of this analysis. While compiling this list was easy enough, it only shows the teams that picked the players, but not how many games of their career each player actually played for those respective teams. Another limitation is that hockey is not just goals and assists, and contributions from defensemen and especially goaltenders are hard to gauge in this manner. Even the number of games played can be significantly reduced for goalies even if they are always healthy, since even fantastic goalies in career years will at most start around 70 games for their team. On the other hand, backup goalies do not show up enough despite their value in my opinion being regularly under-appreciated.
The average number of Draft picks a team has received is between 112 and 113 draft picks. Chicago had by far the most with a whopping 144 picks, beating Edmonton's 126 by 18 picks. Chicago also manages to get a lot of players they draft into the NHL. 47 players is the second highest total of players who have played at least one NHL game, a number they share with Edmonton. Surprisingly Columbus beats this with 48 using 125 picks to do so (3rd highest).
On the other end of the spectrum we have Vancouver (27 players) and Carolina (30 players), which is hardly surprising considering they are the two teams with the fewest draft picks since 2000, 95 picks each. There already seems to be a correlation between the number of draft picks a team has and the number of NHL players that result from it (this correlation seems less strong though once the numbers are being divided by each other).
However, sandwiched in between them is a Detroit, a team one would hardly expect to find here. The Winged Wheelmen only managed to get 29 NHL players from their 108 draft picks (which is in the middle of the pack among all NHL teams). If one looks at the number of NHL players per draft pick (i.e. how likely is it that one of the players picked by a team actually gets into the NHL) the Wings place last at less than 27%. For comparison, the Bruins (43.5%) and Wild (44.2%) are on top.
What is good for the Red Wings is however that the players that make it to the NHL, stay in the NHL. They have the fourth highest average of games played by a player they drafted that made it to the NHL, with 198. This is almost a full 100 games more than the last ranked team, Tampa Bay Lightning, who are also the only team to get less than 100 games from each player they pick. The Buffalo Sabres are a surprising first place here, as players they picked stayed an average 234 games in the NHL.
Considering this number, it is less surprising that the Buffalo Sabres also get the most number of points per player that manages to get into the NHL, at 101. They are the only team above 100 even beating out the Capitals and Penguins (91 each) who can boast players like Ovechkin, Semin, Crosby or Malkin. Their rank falls a bit when looking at it on a per game basis, but is still good.
When adjusting the statistics to a per game basis (i.e. the number of points per game scored by players drafted by a team) the Flyers make a somewhat surprising appearance on top, narrowly beating out the Penguins. The Capitals are fourth, but above them to my astonishment rank the Winnipeg Jets née Atlanta Thrashers, but then one might remember that Ilya Kovalchuk and Danny Heatley were drafted by that organization. Detroit ranks in the middle of the pack here.
The team that seems to be doing worst at here is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who rank near the bottom of the NHL players per draft pick and are dead last in points per game played by their draft picks and games those draft picks even get to play in the NHL on average.
The Buffalo Sabres on the other hand have a very strong showing in this analysis. This also seems mostly through longevity of their drafted players.
While the Detroit Red Wings do not suck outright in developing NHL talent, it is still very surprising that so few players they have picked since 2000 actually managed to get into the NHL. The picks they have made and resulted in a points percentage ranking only around the middle of the NHL. The Red Wings management also has an approach to trading that can only be described as "ultra-conservative". Additionally it seems that they a hard time getting big ticket free agents sign there (e.g. Suter) and are reduced to picking up veterans on their last legs like Modano or Alfredsson. Zetterberg and Datsyuk aren't getting younger either.
Even Steve Yzerman doesn't seem to be doing too hot either in Tampa. Though the 10 years also taken into consideration in this analysis prior to his involvement are definitely a large part of the Lightning's miserable showing in this set of data, one should note that only 4 players of the 28 drafted by Yzerman have managed to make it to the NHL so far, and they have combined for 55 points in 159 games. Considering that Yzerman was groomed to be Detroit's next GM, this seems worrisome.
Taking all these factors into consideration one may very well wonder how long the Red Wings can keep up with the rest of the league.