I'm a pretty active critic of Bob Murray's tactics, and my initial reaction when he traded down from 22 to 30 and 39 emphasizes my dislike. However, let me take a second to applaud Murray for going from 5 picks to 7 in what was largely considered a very deep draft that was somewhat lacking in star power. Honestly, I think it was a good move giving Toronto the 2012 6th round pick for a chance to draft a player that Madden and the amateur scouting staff determined was worth getting now. That's the kind of move I expect from a GM who wants to make his team better. I just wish Murray could make more moves like that. What follows after the jump is my assessment of how the Ducks did this weekend.
However, I'm not sure they needed to make this trade. It probably would have still been possible to get Chris Gibson with the 53rd pick that they used to get William Karlsson. Throw in the fact that the Kings probably favored Chris Gibson over John Gibson, identifying Chris as "a starting, elite goaltender", and it's not hard to imagine John Dropping. If nothing else, the Ducks should have been able to get at least ONE quality goalie prospect at 53. Still, if Madden insisted on John, this isn't necessarily a bad move.
However, there are two reasons I think that Murray didn't get this trade right. First, he should have gotten 25 from Burke, not 30. With 25, The Ducks still could have gotten Zach Phillips or Niclas Jensen. Phillips has question marks about consistency and acceleration, but the offensive upside was pretty undeniable. Picking that late in the draft, it's almost always the better bet to get the most talented player, rather than filling a need. Rakell doesn't project as a top 6 forward. He does have some offensive skill, but he seems to be more in the mold of a Samuel Pahlsson, a solid third line center who can moonlight in the top 6 and probably provide quality special teams play. By not insisting on 25, as he should have done, Murray left Phillips and Jensen, two talented players, on the table. Then, by taking Rakell, Murray left Brandon Saad and Boone Jenner on the table, two other prospects with great talents. To be fair, Jenner is probably the same as Rakell, but Rakell seems to be the better skater. I don't think Murray made the most of this trade, and I think he left talent on the board in order to draft for need.
Speaking of drafting for need, it seems to be all the Ducks did for the first 3 rounds. Three of their first four picks were centers who excel more at defensive aspects of the game. First, was Rakell, but after that, the Ducks chose William Karlsson with the 53rd pick, and Joseph Cramarossa with the 65th pick. You can find analysis on them here. I've learned to appreciate the job that Madden and his staff do. I'm convinced that they got a couple of good players, but I'm not convinced that these players are that different from the one they got in the first round, which makes it even more confusing that they didn't use that 30th overall pick to get a little more talent and value. As Bob Murray has proven, there's almost always a GM willing to take a small risk on a former first round pick.
Not that long ago, Arthur and I were having some beers with my sister and a good friend of ours. Arthur observed that our waitress was having trouble multitasking and then recounted something that he had heard in a recent documentary, dinosaurs can only work on one task at a time, only enough brain power to keep on one light at a time on their switchboard. When they are hungry, they can only think about food. When they are scared, they can only think of self preservation.
Arthur has disagreed with me on how much a GM really determines what the "best available talent" to draft is, but I'm beginning to wonder if Murray has a Dinosaur brain. When he traded Pronger, his main offseason work was Wisniewski, Boynton, and Eminger. When he needed a top 4 defender at the deadline last year, he overpaid for Beauchemin, and barely upgraded the bottom 6, some might argue he only upgraded the fourth line. The Ducks forward corps gets outworked by Nashville, and he spends three of four picks on defensive centers. It seems to me the Ducks could have taken a risk on Brandon Saad, and still picked up this depth up the middle.
I was a fan of the Ducks picks from the late third round on. The struggles of Mitera and Clark in their first full AHL season made it necessary to consider adding defensive depth to the organization. Welinski isn't a physical defender but does present a quality option. Josh Manson is NHL sized, and just needs to round out his game in the BCHL and then at Quinnipiac in the NCAA. Max Friberg is a strong character guy who will only improve when he goes to the Swedish Elite League next year. In fact, Friberg might be a solid third to second line winger in the NHL if he develops properly.
Overall, I think the Ducks started slow and finished going downhill, culminating in Murray acquiring the 6th rounder he needed to get Manson. However, I can't help but think the Ducks focused too much on their later picks and not enough time on the top of the draft. I can't help but think they lost a golden opportunity when they traded down. They should have been able to pull a more talented player than Rakell. I'm sure Rakell will be a fine NHL talent, but the Ducks didn't get good value on that 30 pick, in my opinion.
Murray needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat and get focused on the free agent period. If teams want to make the floor, he should be selling Jason Blake for a cup of coffee. The Kings and Sharks have made major moves. The Ducks need to keep up with them by getting a key free agent. Personally, I think this is a do or die offseason for Murray. If he can't find a way to make a big move for the team, that doesn't require him to lose his shirt and jacket in the process, then it's time for the Samuelis to go in a new direction. As Arthur noted, once Murray's scouting staff tells him to trade down, it's Murray's job to decide what trading down looks like. This draft, it didn't look too great. Ducks didn't have an awful draft, but it certainly wasn't anything to celebrate. It must be tough to make decisions when quality players don't fall into your lap.