Guesswork guides NHL draft coverage

 

 
 
 
 
Calgarian Rhett Holland’s play for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season is a big reason while the defenceman may hear his name called at the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh this weekend.
 
 

Calgarian Rhett Holland’s play for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season is a big reason while the defenceman may hear his name called at the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

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If you haven't already immersed yourself in the endless sea of drivel being written and spoken about Friday's NHL draft, beware of what you might be hearing in the next three or four days.

If you've already begun taking in all this stuff, there may yet be hope for you but only if you keep reading.

What you need to remember about all the material being written and broadcast about the forthcoming division of young talent among teams in the league is that most of it is second-hand information.

There is virtually no chance that anyone you might hear or read describing these young hockey players has seen these guys play any more than two or three times, tops.

They are flying by information provided by other people, central scouting or maybe a scout or two they may have spoken to, if they've really been doing their homework.

How that can possibly lead to information of any credibility being passed along to the consumer of said information is anyone's guess. Yet there seems to be a market for this kind of random guessing, judging by the number of outlets doing stories on it, including our own staff.

Even the scouts who are employed by the teams that will make the selections are largely flying blind with respect to whom they're really watching and what meaning they can ascribe to whom they are watching and in what context they are watching them.

Increasingly it's becoming quite clear that the draft is a total crapshoot, even for the people who do it for a full-time living.

The chances of people even as good as Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and the rest of the TSN crew being able to tell you with any degree of certainty what these kids will actually be capable of in the NHL is remote to say the least.

Draft day for people in the reporting business is a day in which you should not be comfortable. You are asked to write about a player or players you may never have seen play or if you have, nowhere nearly enough to have the slightest idea about what they can really do.

You rely on quotes from scouts who might have seen said players - or more likely, on quotes from general managers who themselves have not seen the player in question play more than a handful times.

And that's if the GM in question is a real go-getting keener. That's what makes TSN's coverage particularly amusing because right after first-round selection is made, the network traditionally sits and talks briefly with the player chosen and the GM whose team has just made said choice.

The commentators, who are doing their very best in a difficult situation for everyone involved including the networks them-selves, proceed to ask questions about a player they haven't seen much of to a general manager who hasn't seen much of the player himself, while the player listens. It's essentially the blind asking the blind what they can see.

What, for example, was one able to learn when asking Pat Quinn that day back in '92, questions about the skills and future of Libor Polasek? Were those comments enlightening or were they absolutely total horse manure? And here we don't mean to pick on Quinn or any other particular GM because it happens to them all.

The fact is the GMs them-selves don't have a clue. It's pure guesswork for them as well, and asking them questions about a player they don't know just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

About the only question with any validity is 'why did your organization pick this player' because that will lead fans to insight into how teams think and process information. And then four or five years down the road when it's really known what kind of player the team did in fact select, remembering that answer if it is given in any detail can give the fan some insight into how good or how flawed that particular club's information gathering and processing was.

This isn't really to criticize TSN or pan television in any way because coming up with better ways of providing insight on this day is a genuine challenge to anyone undertaking its coverage, including print and digital media. As it is, many of us still watch and read, so they must be doing something right.

But for the most part, fans would do well to remember the stirring words of Todd Bertuzzi: "It is what it is."

tgallagher@theprovince.com

 
 
 
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Calgarian Rhett Holland’s play for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season is a big reason while the defenceman may hear his name called at the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh this weekend.
 

Calgarian Rhett Holland’s play for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season is a big reason while the defenceman may hear his name called at the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

 
Calgarian Rhett Holland’s play for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season is a big reason while the defenceman may hear his name called at the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Nail Yakupov, expected to be the NHL's No. 1 draft pick Friday, undergoes strength-testing.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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