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Benny: The Draft Weekend & My Unadulterated Rage

An opinion piece on the 2018 Entry Level draft weekend, and subsequent happenings of the Ducks franchise.

NHL: NHL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: This following article is as much of an opinion piece as it is a recap on the weekends going on. If you’re expecting only commentary on the Ducks draftee’s, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed, and potentially enraged. This article in no way attempts to sugar coat my own personal feelings and opinions of this draft weekend as an individual entity and an amalgamation of the past 10 seasons.

The draft weekend is often a curious piece on the hockey calendar. In many cases its a time for optimism - the equivalent of hockey Christmas - and in others its a time to remake a teams roster. It is of course one of the few times where every team is represented in one place at the same time. In every case however, the draft provides an insight into the psyche of a teams leadership.

For example, the LA Kings told the world before last season that they would play a higher tempo game with more skill to it, than what they had been serving up in the past. In the first round of 2018 draft they took a player who was once over rated, and now seemingly underrated, but who undeniably has the potential to win games off his own stick. They followed up Kupari, with a speedy scorer in Thomas on day 2. Even their 4th round pick Dudas, is lightning quick. A clear sign of where they’re aiming to be as a franchise. The Arizona Coyotes took a flyer on a player that in a bubble seemingly seems like a reach - and perhaps he is. Yet on a macro level, the Coyotes had recently acquired a young and dynamic scoring pivot at the expense of a more defensively responsible one. Their blue line is stacked as well as any in the league (with the exception of the godly Nashville blue line), and they have wings a plenty. Sure they could have traded a wing or a defenseman when the time came, but would they have been able to acquire a cost controlled young centre? Given that Hayton was considered the 9th NA skater by central scouting, and 11th overall by future considerations (amongst others), is it really that much of a reach? Nonetheless, we see that Arizona is building a team based on skill that is also well balanced going forward. Not just offense, and not just defence, but a team that has multiple lines that can do multiple things. Although the graphic below suggests that it was just a horrible decision....

Side note: Sorry Felix.....

Which leads us to the Ducks.

After the completion of the 2017-2018 season, General Manager Bob Murray made a number of comments regarding the state of the team, and of his coach and players. In particularly he preached that the team would play a faster system, and that the head coach would remain. So what did the draft weekend show us? Was this change in strategy noticeable? Was there a marked difference in personnel selected? Were trades made to address the teams function?

Lets go through the weekend by the moment

Prior to the draft the Ducks had their typical buzz about them. That is to say that there were a couple of trade rumours about them. The big difference to years past was that instead of the Ducks being the ones potentially trading for a big name player, it was the Ducks players to be shipped out of town.

  1. The Ducks send Brandon Montour to Edmonton for the #10 overall draft selection: Obviously the 10th pick came and went, and there was no trade made. No surprises there.
  2. Corey Perry is moved out of town: After Bob Murray called him out in an end of season interview, there has been a great deal of speculation that Perry might be on the move. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Perry is a big money earner with multiple years left on his contract. This make moving him difficult in its own right as few teams that may consider him are able to absorb his contract. It may be possible should the Ducks retain significant money, yet this may then defeat the purpose of moving him - particularly given he’s still already, and still, one of the teams top 3 scorers. Add in that Perry holds a full No Movement Clause, and the realisation that this trade was never going to happen should be more than apparent.
  3. Jakob Silfverberg is traded: The rationale behind this is that Silf is on the final year of his contract and that (somehow) he’s no longer any good. Unfortunately, that premise is wrong. Silf is very likely the Ducks 4th or 5th best player (Gibson > Getzlaf > Rakell > Silfverberg > Perry > Fowler… if anyone wants to come at me), and is one of the few players aged well enough to bridge the gap between the old timers like Getzlaf and the younger Rakell. Silf is also the one remaining piece of note from the trade of the last superstar Murray used as his scape goat and ran out of town. As the teams 4th leading scorer and one of their prime defensive players, Silf was going nowhere, and he didn't.

With all of that said, the big moves that could have been for the Ducks ended with the same result that they have for the past decade. Nothing. They resulted in nothing. The Ducks picked a player with the selections they entered the draft weekend with, in the same way as they have in nearly every year in Bob Murray's tenure with the Ducks.

Which of course leads us to the podium.

Prior to the draft, video emerged of GM Murray hopping around like he’s was gearing up for the fight of his life. I can only assume that he was pumping himself up to the same tunes that I was listening to at home, which for your own interest was Dilated Peoples. Specifically the line “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't,” from the nightlife track.

And without further delay …..

With their 1st round pick, #23 overall, the Ducks are proud to select Isac Lundestrom from Lulea in the SHL (Swedish Men’s Professional League).

Staff writer Felix has already covered the selection with some depth. To add to his commentary, I would add that of the Ducks draft picks that have been forwards, a high percentage of them have been out of the Swedish leagues - specifically, only the OHL has supplied more forwards for the Ducks in this decade of drafting. Somewhat off-topic, the Swedish leagues are tied for first in supplying the team with defensemen as well. Less surprising is that the Ducks selected a forward. Like many teams the Ducks have taken a higher percentage of forwards than defensemen (or net minders). A likely by product of having to ice more skaters. Thus far, the Ducks have stayed true to what they have in the past, yet that should hardly matter if the player is a unique talent.

In the recent past, the Ducks have opted to avoid draftee’s that have high ceilings and low floors (i.e. boom or bust players), and have stuck with safe picks that are considered “two-way” players. In this instance Lundestrom also fits the profile. This is a player who plays as a third line pivot on his SHL team - which by the way should not be considered a knock on him. A player that is even across all his abilities, but excels in none of them. Perhaps more damning than his limited minutes in the SHL, however, is that the Swedish national team also plays him in a checking role. This role despite the fact that most players receive a bump in GF% playing with him in Sweden (although this may be due to defensive capabilities more so than any offensive abilities) - he was the 8th ranked European skater for a reason. Of the drafted players similar to Lundestrom, near 60% of them have moved on to NHL careers, although they have been in varying capacities - for the record the Ducks Jakob Silfverberg is listed as a comparable. Lundestrom doesn't have the (league average) shot of Silfverberg, nor his passing ability, yet he has similar size and speed, and is similarly adept on the defensive end of the rink. This projects him in the range of a third line centre in the NHL. The SHL is a similar league to the AHL, which may provide greater context to those unsure or expecting greater things from him offensively in the future.

That of course, is an opinion and based upon his skill set in his own right. Pronman had this to say about him: ‘I’m not sure his upside is more than a 3C, but he shows glimpses of more than that. I’d slot him behind Sam Steel and Troy Terry in the Ducks system.’ This suggests, given that Steel projects as a middle 6, maybe 2C, that Lundestrom slots in behind him as the 3C. If he doesn't move to the wing. A move that could very well be likely given his troubles in the faceoff circle, and the Ducks infatuation with faceoff wins.

Nonetheless, Lundestrom very much fits the profile of a Murray era Ducks top 60 draft selection, with no deviation. From player type, to league selected from, Lundestrom should have been picked by either John or myself to be a Duck in our draft previews. It was simply so damn obvious that Lundestrom was a Duck. The reason he wasn't is that neither of us assumed he would make it to the Ducks. But since he did drop, there was no chance of him getting by Murrays team.

As a brief aside, who on earth though that “25 years” pregnant tumour logo was a good idea? I thought that was a joke. I didn't realise it was actually going to be seen, and worn, in public?

Following the night of the first round, news came out that the assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk was given the axe.

Reportedly occurring earlier in the week, this decision comes on the back of Trent Yawney being let go earlier in the offseason. One wonders why this news was only brought to light now, and a plausible answer could very well be that the Ducks expected the “good” news of the Ducks recent drafting to take the spotlight away from their removal of a coach. It seems unlikely that exit interviews on the season have occurred this far removed from the final game - although its not impossible - so one wonders what occurred in the past month that has caused this change in status.

Konowalchuk, was reportedly in charge of the Ducks power play, which as we all well know has been largely inept for eternity (despite that one magical year of wonderful shooting percentages under BB). This is particularly damning given that the Ducks PP went backwards in a season that many teams saw strides forward. In truth I cant complain about 2 assistant coaches being shown the door, particularly given the stated aim of improving the teams overall systems play, to play a faster more up tempo style. In fact I welcome the change.


The Ducks haven't drafted or acquired fast or dynamically skilled players - almost at all - in the past decade. They added to that misery when moved one of their best power play weapons this past season in Sami Vatanen - and before you all start up about his points, the power player scored at a ~60% better clip when he was on it, than when he wasn't over his tenure with the Ducks. Additionally, the Ducks opted to support and retain their head coach, who is still more or less using the same system he employed here over a decade ago. This is possibly more damning when the news that Konowalchuk’s position will not be replaced - at least externally - suggesting that Carlyle may take even more of a role in the powerplay going forward.

I can’t see the removal of the assistant coaches as anything other than scapegoating others, while covering ass, and protecting the boys club. Bob Murray has a history of doubling down on the decisions he’s made, of reacquiring people and players long gone, and of blaming everyone else and accepting no blame himself. At no point has he said that he didn't acquire the right people, or do enough to help the team.

Just going to leave this here

It should also be noted - although maybe with a grain of salt - that former NHL coach Dallas Eakins remains in San Diego, while a former player Murray had some contact with in Chicago was brought in as an assistant coach. Add that Carlyle, Boudreau, and Yawney all had similar contact with Murray prior to his Ducks tenure, and the question about the old boys club should at least be asked. Add that Burke and Nonis finding roles with the Ducks after being fired from other roles, at least for a time, after initially leaving the Ducks, and things become suspicious.

At the very least it can be said that this is more of the same from the franchise. Protect the guy in charge, look after the lads as long as you can, and blame everyone else for the troubles.

Which of course leads us to Eric Stephens latest article...

In this article once again Murray calls out his leadership group for underperforming. Specifically, ‘I think the players better look in the mirror pretty quick. Let’s put it this way. Come September, I’m starting with a real hard look at the leadership group. And we’ll work from that.’

Given Murray’s comments regarding Perry immediately after the season closed, one can assume that this is a very pointed and directed comment towards that one single player. Although its equally possible that he is calling out the teams #1 scorer, as he is the teams #3 leading scorer. While it is certainly true that Perry dropped away this season, this commentary reminds of the Bobby Ryan situation. Multiple years of pinning the blame on a star player without any real attempt to address the team’s situation.

I say no real attempt, as the Ducks were injured for most of the first half of the season, yet when they did get healthy they acquired Chris Kelly as an acquisition. Now I completely understand that the Ducks didn't think much of their chances this season and decided not to pull the trigger on a bigger name and to acquire further help. However, if that was the case, then doesn't it seem odd that certain players are being called out for not succeeding in an environment in which they were setup to fail in? Particularly given that the underperforming player in question was the third highest scorer on the team this season. This is by no means a paragraph to attempt to persuade or dissuade you of Perry’s worth, I’ve written of him enough in the past and you can hunt for that article should you desire to reflect on my thoughts there. This paragraph does however attempt to highlight that in 10 years at the helm of the Ducks, Murray is still casting blame on his top players, and he still hasn't provided them with help.

In 10 years at the Ducks, Murray has found one player that beat out Perry in team scoring and he (Rakell) didn't beat out the other player Murray inherited in Ryan Getzlaf. I’m just not convinced that 33 year old’s should be the top scorers on a professional team. Yes their contracts dictate they have to be productive, and we’d all like more than ~50 points. Yet Murray gave him that contract, and hasn't found anyone to alleviate the scoring woes... in a decade! Given the Ducks top draft pick projects as a non-scorer, and that the Perry situation is eerily similar to the Ryan situation, this scenario is just more of the same. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks it seems.

Speaking of the Stephens article, and I wont add too much of it because … well I don't want to be sued!... Murray also made some inane comments regarding Ryan Kesler.

‘Fuck... just write that. Ah, he’s fishing..... At some point in time, if this continues and nothing gets better … but he’s got to do right for him and his family. That’s the bottom line here.... As far as Elliotte Friedman, keep throwing spaghetti at the wall and see what hits.”

Now, I may be off base here, but this comes across in 3 possible ways:

  1. Murray didn't know about the rumour.
  2. Murray didn't expect to be asked about said rumour in one of the few interviews he makes and about a “star” player.
  3. He’s treating fans as fools and trying to alter the narrative of the story.

I’ve said this before about Murray but some of the things he says make him seem horribly incompetent. For instance the Kyle Palmieri will score too much next season and we wont be able to afford him 2 seasons after that, quote. The first two of the three possible ideas above, seem unlikely, and if were true would be incompetent beyond any doubt. Which leaves the final one. Why talk like this at all? Is it beef with Friedman? Is it some kind of gamesmanship, and when Kesler inevitably leadergrits his way through a bunch of games next year we can all go wooooooowwwwwwww he’s so gritty and tough? Is he (Kesler) not injured at all and we’re just milking the story? Or is Kesler for all intents and purposes already retired? Why is so god damned hard to just answer the fucking question. Regardless, and it may just be me, but this is hardly the first time Murray has frustrated me with his comments by not answering simple questions in a straight forward manner. He reminds me of a politician, and lets be honest here, no one likes politicians.

On a somewhat separate note, he also had this to say about Ryan Kesler: “I hope for his sake he becomes a healthy functioning human being again. Because he was just … he was hurting all the time.” Which leads me to believe that the Ducks knew that he was broken and ruining his future ability to function, but played him anyway. As a health professional in my regular life, this really irritates me. I’m sure there is more to this story, but once again, a lack of ability to communicate only leaves me with thinking the franchise is incompetent.

Par for the course once again.

However its the draft, and I’m going to channel some of that optimism that I hear other teams have this time of year. Tomorrow is going to be such a good day, Ice Cube is going to rap about it. For sure. Probably.

In other news, Stephens broke news of the Ducks in discussion to extend Adam Henrique, John Gibson and Jakob Silfverberg. With most of the Ducks top 9 already signed for multiple years, these expiring Unrestricted Free Agents could have been let go to begin to force a roster turnover from the inside.

Additionally, Restricted Free Agents, Brandon Montour, Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase are also being looked at to extend.

So all in all, there appears to be no sign of a roster change into the future, and a continued log jam that will keep current prospects such as Troy Terry out of the line up. Or on the flip side a big money vet sitting on the pine.

So Day 1 I wrote while on the road, and in between playing DnD. Yeah I’m a nerd, and fantasy island was serving up more realistic scenario’s that the Ducks trade rumours. But here we are at 1am and I’m charging through to well.... at least the first few rounds on day 2 of the 2018 entry level draft. By all reasoning it’s moments away from the second round kicking off, and thus far no trades to speak of. Nothing from the Ducks, and not a rumour in site. Not unlike other years.

And here we are... the Ducks are up for their second round pick and high upside players like Nordgren and Zavgorodny are still on the board. So with no delay the Ducks step up and select a grinder who is an... interesting skater (depending on who you ask, you get he’s a good skater right through to it a serious problem) and who not only cant score freely himself, drags down other superior scorers (i.e. Zadina and Moynihan suffered playing with him and were far more efficient away from him). Now that's not to say that Groulx cant play, he can. He is a coaches dream, and because of it he’s very likely to make it in a bottom 6 role in the NHL. He is a very solid penalty killer. He even has a seemingly good shot, despite his offense not really working for him overall. His wrist shot is fantastic, and he can even hammer a good one timer from the point... but why can’t he actually produce? Getting a regular player doesn’t seem to be an issue here, at least in my opinion - although take it with a grain of salt, given that players similar to him have only had a 13% success rate of succeeding in the NHL, and that the most optimistic projections sit him in the maybe 3rd liner who kills penalties section. However, prospect reviews aside, not being a good skater (even If he did improve over the season), and being an inefficient scorer despite playing with the leagues elite, seems to go against the direction that Murray said he wanted to go in the end of season press conference.

It’s hard to say the Ducks have gone wrong here, as they did need to develop some centre depth. However, RW is a concern, as is defence, and potentially more importantly literally anyone who can score. Doubling down on defensive pivots suggests the Ducks are likely to continue in the same manner as they have in the past. There is no new direction. But with 2 selections in round three maybe the narrative will change!

With the first of those selections, the Ducks take a longer term project in LW Blake McLaughlin. Taking aside that he needs to put on a lot of size before he’ll be considered an NHL chance, he’s somewhat intriguing. He has pretty good foot speed, and is pretty toolsy, with great dangles. An intelligent player, should he develop - and he’s attending the University of Michigan, so he has time to - he could contend with Ducks draft picks from last year for a middle 6 LW role in the future. He didn't wow, and his underlying numbers are kind of average, but I believe he has the highest potential upside of the Ducks picks so far. This is a good thing, as he will be competing against Nick Ritchie, Rickard Rakell, Max Jones, Max Comotis and Jack Kopacka for one of the elusive LW roster positions. Given Ritchies play to date, and that Jones was largely ineffective this season after making a concerted effort to reduce his (awful) penalties, there might be an outside chance of him snagging a place with the Ducks in the future.

As an aside, it should be mentioned that Staff Writer John Broadbent was the only one of us to actually predict one of the Ducks draft picks this season, and McLaughlin was in fact that guy. Sadly for myself this means I will suffer an indignity of the highest order. Being forced to shotgun warm New Zealand beer. Pray for me, people.

With their second 3rd round pick, the Ducks take a goalie. It was the smart move and predictable. But they snagged the #1 European tender on offer. Not a bad birthday present all in all (22-June-2000.... when did I get so old?). Also this, right here, is the best pick the Ducks will make this draft. Well done. It wont change the direction the franchise is taking so I wont dwell on it overly much, but damn, this is nice. He is just really, really, good. Adding him to Eriksson-Ek in the pipeline, for when Gibson leaves for his big money UFA deal is a wonderful move.

I wont lie, I have no idea about the 4th round pick. Jackson Perbix. Another forward, so there goes the idea the Ducks would draft a defenseman... at all. He is however the elusive RW that the Ducks are lacking. With Perry on the out’s, and Eaves being ancient, there is a clear pathway to the Ducks on that side of the ice. Perbix is going to Notre Dame however, so he has plenty of time before the Ducks have to worry about him. In the end the scholastic time line may fit perfectly for both parties.

Similarly I know very little about the 5th and 6th round picks. Roman Durny is an additional netminder, who was ranked #288th overall, and was the 9th ranked North American netminder. A little older than the other prospects to this point, although that shouldn't mean too much for the netminder.

If I had to critique the pick, I would have to make mention that in selecting Durny, they left top 100 skaters such as Eggenberger on the table. It’s not the kiss of death, by any stretch and I don't know enough about this particular prospect to delve into it. It is however notable, that in a draft that was widely though of to be weak on goalies and pivots, 4 of the ducks 7 picks were in fact goalies and pivots. Its a curiosity, no more or less.

In Hunter Drew, the Ducks finally pick up a defenseman. Turning 20 in October, Drew’s path to the NHL hasn't been easy or perhaps normal, but he’ll get his chance in training camp for the Ducks to see where he fits in.

The second day of the draft followed the 1st in being relatively uneventful. They picked up a position of organisational need, and maybe made some superfluous picks as well. The biggest curiosity is likely that the 1st and second round picks this season, despite being quite different players, are likely to be competing for the same roster spot in the future. There is some chance that the first round pick will be moved to the wing, due to poor abilities on the face off dot, and thus its plausible that this draft sets the foundation for the Ducks 3rd line of the future. Or at least 2/3’s of one. Goalies are voodoo so who really knows how that will pan out in the wash, but they appear to be reasonable selections in an area that required at least one to be chosen.

Still no trades out of town, and no dramatic changes in player selection, make it hard to judge where the direction on the team is heading. At least from this small snap shot, it appears that the Ducks will be the same as last season so far as personnel and (head) coaching. But with free agency around the corner, we can always look forward to acquiring Orpik.

All in all the Ducks draft weekend was pretty underwhelming. They acquired a bunch of kids that wont really move the needle a great deal nor drive the Ducks fortunes in the future. Naturally there will be supporters of the picks who will lay claim to them being future star’s of the highest order, yet as of today that doesn’t appear to the case. They all, for want of a better term, appear to be role players.

Nor did the Ducks make any trades to move out or move in any players of note. This despite news of the Kings signing Kovy, or Calgary picking up some interesting players in a big trade. The west remakes itself, and the Ducks stayed pat. That isn't to say this is the last chance for the Ducks to make moves, Free Agency is just around the corner. Yet for those seeking an indication of change, a lack of change is somewhat concerning.

What the Ducks did do, was replenish a skinny prospect pool with a number of depth players. This should allow the Ducks to go a little trade happy in the future, as they wont be required to spend assets to acquire depth players. Whether this is the plan for the Ducks going forward is unsure. However what can be said is that the changes the General Manager Murray suggested may be coming, did not manifest in any way, shape, or form, over this short period. More than anything, it appears that it was business as usual.