Patience needed to obtain stardom
Quickly, which one of the following players does not fit?
Jarome Iginla. Jose Theodore. Markus Naslund. Jaromir Jagr. Ron Francis. Peter Forsberg. Alexei Yashin. Chris Pronger. Alexei Kovalev. Jean Sebastien Giguere. Brendan Shanahan. Mats Sundin. Eric Lindros.
J.S. Giguere, you say?
Beep! You lose.
Believe it or not, Jose Theodore, the reigning Most Valuable Player in the NHL is the one player out of place in this list because he was not chosen in the top 15 picks in the NHL Entry Draft and he hasnít been part of more than one NHL organization.
We learn a hat trick of things from this quiz.
First, you donít have to be in the top 15 to become a star. Second, if you are in the top 15, there is a good chance the scouts did their job correctly. Lastly, this is a very impatient time in the NHL, where teams are under pressure to win now -- and often a player is either in the wrong situation and fits better somewhere else or he never gets a chance to grow up from the highly regarded 18-year-old prospect he was on draft day.
Consider for a moment that of the top 20 scorers in the NHL last season only Coloradoís Joe Sakic, Dallasí Mike Modano and Ottawaís Daniel Alfredsson have never played for another organization (and it could be said that Sakic was actually drafted by Quebec and Modano by Minnesota, even though they are the same franchises now in different locations).
So that means that 17 of the top 20 scorers last season have already been a part of more than one organization -- have been highly regarded, but for one reason or another sent off to another team.
When discussing the next generation of stars in hockey, this is, in my mind, the biggest difference in the game from what it was when I started covering the NHL in 1969 -- when almost every player worth his weight in goals played for the same club his entire career.
"When I look at the way we scout now," says Blues GM Larry Pleau, "I donít see a big difference except for the fact that there are more big players who have great skills than ever before.
"If you look at the top 15 players in each draft, most of them still are right on as far as their ability."
But when you see Iginla going from Dallas to Calgary, Naslund from Pittsburgh to Vancouver, Todd Bertuzzi (a 22nd pick in the first round of the draft) from Long Island to Vancouver, Sundin from Quebec to Toronto ... and so on and so on ... the young guns of the NHL leading scorer list stinks with impatience on the part of the first team; an impatience because of a bad record in development of talent or an impatience and need-to-win-now attitude.
And most of that wonít change.
"You have to do whatís best for your club right now," says Islanders GM Mike Milbury. "We hadnít made the playoffs since 1994 and until recently had a shaky ownership situation."
Part of that can explain for the Islanders letting go Bertuzzi, and defenseman Eric Brewer (traded to Edmonton), plus goaltender Roberto Luongo (dealt to Florida). In their new digs, each has achieved a level of stardom.
"Itís a sign of the times that you have to win now in many situations and you canít wait for a young kid to develop," Pleau says. "Look at Chris Pronger (Blues star defenseman) and how the Hartford Whalers were on the verge of moving and couldnít wait for him to become one of the best defensemen in the NHL."