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Thursday, June 26, 2014

If the NHL Draft Was Like a Fantasy Draft

Hockey pools, hockey drafts, fantasy drafts. Call it whatever you’d like, we all participate in them. I got to thinking that wouldn’t it be fun if this weekend’s NHL Draft in Philadelphia played out in the same way, and featured the same cast of outlandish characters that we experience when you and I get together at the pub for our annual regular season or playoff hockey draft.

Eight Things I’d Like To See Unfold at the NHL Draft

1. Last Minute Bails – Sure, things did look good for the NHL as of Thursday when all 30 participants -- including six first-timers, sounded committed and ready to go. But, it never works out that way. Instead, this year’s NHL Draft has been reduced to 25 guys because Doug Armstrong is stuck at work and can no longer make it, Steve Yzerman’s kid has a soccer game so now he won’t be there either, Glen Sather wrote down the wrong date and thought it was next Friday, and newcomer Brian MacLellan just didn’t show up and nobody knows how to get hold of him. Also, Dale Tallon and David Poile have decided to pair-up because they couldn’t afford the entry fee on their own.

2. Draft Order Drawn From a Hat – Forget the previous year’s standings and screw the lottery. For some real suspense, host Ron Hextall begins the proceedings by passing around a grimy Philadelphia Flyers hat and with eyes closed, everyone picks out a folded slip of paper with a hand-written number on it. Chuck Fletcher - 23, Lou Lamoriello - 4, Jarmo Kekalainen - 19, Dean Lombardi - 2. After this simple process determines the draft order, the expected juvenile behaviour begins:
  • After Craig MacTavish ends up drawing ‘1’ once again, everybody starts yelling ‘fixed’ and cracking Nail Yakupov jokes.
  • Holding up similar slips of paper, Brad Treliving and Marc Bergevin are embroiled in a debate over who has ‘6’ and who actually has ‘9’. Similarly, Bryan Murray is really confused about how he ended up drawing ‘91’. 
  • Ken Holland is pouting. He rips up his paper with '24', complaining that he, "Never, ever gets a high pick." 
  • Jim Rutherford, the unlucky recipient of ‘25’, is grumbling that there are too many guys and that he has time to go home, mow the lawn, walk the dog and still make it back in time for his first pick. 

3. The Obligatory Mis-Prounounc-Ed Name – Sitting with pick No. 5 and after much consternation, Kevin Cheveldayoff crosses the name Michael Dal Colle off his list and loudly declares, “With the 6th pick, I select Michael Dal Collie.”

I’m sorry, who?

“Dal Collie.”

Hoo boy, the smart asses in the room live for this moment, don’t they. The banter begins immediately: "Oh, you mean Michael Collie, the BBC broadcaster?”, “Which team does Dal Collie play for?”, “If I were you, a way better pick would have been Michael Dal Colle.”

4. The Hilarious First Name Switcheroo – With 7th pick, an amused and giggling David Nonis announces he will take Nicole Richie. That, of course, is greeted by a spattering of chuckles and a few predictable remarks such as, “I can’t believe you took her over Paris Hilton” and “Don’t you mean Lionel Richie?”  Of course, there’s always that one guy, who thinks a gag that wasn’t that funny the first time will somehow be funnier the second time. Sure enough, at No. 17, a snickering Stan Bowman states that he will pick Alyssa Milano. LOL. Not.

5. Steal of the Draft – It happens at least once every draft and when it happens to you, there is no place to hide. When it gets down to Doug Wilson’s pick at No. 21, there’s a long delay. As everybody grows restless and impatient, “Hang on, hang on, just one more minute,” begs Wilson as he flips through a bunch of bookmarked/highlighted pages in his Future Considerations Draft Guide and scans his handwritten draft list one final time. Finally, he confidently announces that he will take the “steal of the draft” in Brendan Perlini. But, um, there’s one problem. Perlini was already taken over a half-hour ago by Don Maloney at No. 8. Oh, crap! Between all the guffaws and sarcastic remarks, Maloney is left wondering if he took Perlini way too early and Wilson -- a combination of embarrassed and flustered, panics and selects Thatcher Demko, then orders another drink.

6. Mr. Splash Maker/Risk Taker – It’s a strategy that is never to be confused with a winning strategy, but that doesn’t stop that one guy every draft from trying it. You know the type, he loves to show off his 'hockey IQ' by going off the board and picking rookies you've never heard of way too early. Mesmerized by the ‘high reward’ part of the player profile while conveniently overlooking tiny details like the ‘high risk’ part. In Philadelphia, I envision Garth Snow revving up the NHL Draft proceedings early by taking Josh Ho-Sang at No. 3, then emphatically banging his fist on the table and declaring him, “Best player in the draft. Guaranteed.”

7. The Long Distance Pain-in-the-Ass – Does this sound familiar? As a favour to your buddy, who really wants in, but cannot make the draft in person, you agree to be his proxy and contact him each time it’s his pick. In theory, it's a simple idea. In practice, it’s a terrible idea. Picture Jim Benning, stuck back in Vancouver, waiting for his pal Peter Chiarelli to contact him when it’s his turn. Meanwhile, Chiarelli has stopped texting the picks as he’s been busy researching his own pick. This results in a long delay as Chiarelli -- in a noisy pub full of guys not listening or paying attention, has to try and figure out what picks he missed so he can type the names into his phone for Benning. "Who? How do you spell Draisaitl? Who's after that? Did you say Lars Eller? Oh, Ehlers. How do you spell that?”

8. Mr. Insecure/Indecisive – Oh man, this guy is exhausting and for your own sanity, always try to sit on the opposite side of the room from him. Played by new guy Tim Murray, who drew pick No. 10.  When the draft finally gets to him, he can’t decide. Two minutes go by. “How bad is Virtanen hurt?” he asks. “Has anyone taken Honka?” “What have you heard about Fleury?” Another two minutes pass. “Who is Kapanen playing with?”  “Is Fiala still available?” "Is there anything wrong with Nylander?" Another two minutes pass. “Should I order nachos or dry ribs?”

I suppose it’s a stretch that any of these things will actually happen but you never know. I’ll be watching just in case. Considering a make-believe player was once selected by the Buffalo Sabres, I like to think there’s always a chance.

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