Timmins and Churla: The Drafting Kings

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy: Hakuna Matata! Yeah, sing it, kid! It’s our problem-free philosophy: Hakuna Matata!

What a great motto! Fans – and sometimes media members – tend to worry too much. Yes, that’s an understatement but hear me out. We keep reading and hearing that Montreal Canadiens’ Assistant General Manager Trevor Timmins is terrible in his role, people only citing some of his draft misqueues. Often times, in order to differentiate the forest from the trees, one must take a step back… or two… or oven three as we can’t see what’s right in front of our nose. You want to be critical of Timmins? That’s fine. But at the very least, compare him to his peers, not to some preconceived narrative, or by listening to what you’ve been told by some biased, disgruntled, attention-seeking individuals. Wow! Now there’s a new concept!

This is not the first time that we try to analyse his work as we have touched before on Timmins’ overall performances, which placed him at the top of his class since he took over that position in Montreal in games played by players he had drafted. But then, it was pointed out that he is particularly struggling in the first two rounds of the draft, which we also researched on this very blog site. Then again, particularly in the second article, we didn’t really compare him to the rest of the NHL.

Trevor Timmins has a lot of reasons to smile.

Let’s just demystify Timmins’ work in the first two rounds and see exactly where he and Director of Amateur Scouting Shane Churla rank amongst their peers since 2003. For this exercise, I started tabulating up until 2013 as for every team, as the 2014 picks have several players who are just starting their career in the NHL so it’s too early to classify them as success or “flop”.

It is important to note that by “flops”, I used the same criterias for all teams: how are these players doing based on their drafting ranks, the number of NHL games played compared to their peers from the same draft year, and overall production. I was quite lenient for all teams. For example, if a first rounder played 200+ games, I didn’t consider them as “flops” even if their offensive numbers weren’t that great… unless they were a top-5 pick.

Admittedly, this type of analysis is very fluid, even quite murky at times and far from a top scientific go-to guide. But at the very least, it’s a measure of comparison with all teams in the NHL. You will also notice that I didn’t include the Winnipeg Jets, who started drafting in 2011, or of course the Vegas Golden Knights.

First Round

In this table, let’s only look at the columns with the yellow heading, the first round picks. The team with the fewest first round selections between 2003 to 2013 are the Detroit Red Wings with only five picks and their only “flop” was in 2008. Every other first round pick has turned out to be a decent NHL player. The Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes, on the other hand, have had 14 first round selections each. Only two of Anaheim’s 14 picks turned out to be “flops”, in 2006 and 2007.

As you can see, the league success rate average is 68,55% (100 flops out of 318 picks). The Habs are slightly above average at 72.73% success rate with three flops in the first round: David Fisher (2006), Louis Leblanc (2009) and Jarred Tinordi (2010). I did not include Michael McCarron in there (yet) as he showed some great signs this season until he was injured. Nothing to write a book about, but Timmins isn’t as bad as some make him out to be in the first round it seems.

Second Round

In the second round (blue columns header), the league’s success rate drops to 33.53%. The San Jose Sharks lead the pack with a 55.56% success rate while the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and the Philadelphia Flyers are all below 20%. Note that the Chicago Blackhawks had the most second round picks from 2003-2013 with 21 selections, while the Calgary Flames only had five.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Canadiens find themselves 4th in the entire NHL at 45.45% success rate in the second round. They messed up on Cory Urquhart (2003), Ben Maxwell and Mathieu Carle (2006), Danny Kristo (2008) and Sebastian Collberg and Dalton Thrower (2012). GM Marc Bergevin did turn out Collberg into Thomas Vanek for a playoffs’ run however.

Combined

And that’s where we see the ensemble of the NHL’s teams’ draft work in the first two rounds. The league average sits at 50.46% success rate as the Chicago Blackhawks topped everyone with a total of 33 picks, followed by the St. Louis Blues with 29, and the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers close behind them with 28 picks each. Amazingly enough, only 11 of the Capitals’ 28 picks are considered “flops”, putting them second in the rankings at 60.71% success rate. The LA Kings lead the NHL at 62.50% while the Philadelphia Flyers rank third, thanks to an amazing first round success rate of 88.89%.

Fourth overall is where the Canadiens and Trevor Timmins sit, with a very impressive success rate of 59.09% in the first two rounds of the draft. While this may (or may not) be enough to debunk the misconception of Timmins’ work, at least it is somewhat supported by information other than perception and dislike for the guy.

Most people will agree that his last couple of draft seasons, which include the likes of Noah Juulsen(2015), Mikhail Sergachev (2016), Ryan Poehling, Josh Brook, Joni Ikonen (2017), Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov and Jacob Olofsson (2018) will go a long way in bringing the Habs closer to the top of the league in the first two rounds. Here’s hoping that Timmins and his team can repeat again this coming summer in Vancouver, with three more selections in the first two rounds. Go Habs Go!

Draft Lottery: It’s All Over But The Crying

And there we have it folks. The suspense is over, the NHL theatrical is behind us and we now know that the Montreal Canadiens will, indeed, be talking 15th at the next NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21st… unless the Canadiens’ General Manager has something else up his sleeves at the Draft table that is.

Marc Bergevin has always been consistent in his message in saying that good teams aren’t built through free agency and that some of the biggest mistakes are made on July first, the opening day of the free agents’ market. For the most part, he has been able to avoid those mistakes with the exception of Karl Alzner. Does that mean that Bergevin won’t try landing a big fish through free agency? Not at all. As a matter of fact, he’s heading to the Draft and to the free agents’ market with pockets full of cap space, the backing from Geoff Molson to spend that money and with several spots available under the 50 contracts limits. The Canadiens also have no fewer than 10 draft picks at the upcoming draft.

Source: capfriendly.com

If I were a betting man, my money would be on Bergevin being most active between June 21st and July 1st on the trade front and looking at his track record since taking over the Habs, that is definitely the way to go. He absolutely and categorically must finally find a suitable and capable left-handed top-4 defenseman and anything short of filling the team’s biggest need would be a failure, at least in my opinion. Just as he fixed the holes at centre last summer, a player capable of playing big minutes from the left side of the defense is a must in order for this team to take the next step.

Prospect Alexander Romanov will not be suiting up for the Canadiens until 2020-21 at the very least

As the Canadiens’ top hockey man mentioned himself during his year end press conference, top prospect Alexander Romanov cannot join the Canadiens until the 2020-21 season and I would add that even then, it would be unrealistic to think that he can step into a top-4 role at the NHL level right off the bat. If anything, the Habs must do with him what they’ve done with Jesperi Kotkaniemi by bringing him slowly and gradually with favourable matchups. So that’s why a stop-gap top-4 defenseman would be needed, someone who can eat up 3-4 years on the left side until Romanov is ready. The Canadiens simply cannot wait that long to address that need.

In the meantime, everyone and anyone will try to play prospects’ experts by making their own mock drafts, selling you on prospect A, B, C or even D for the Canadiens. But remember one thing: Trevor Timmins is the only one with all of the information, and he has his own list which he will be sharing with his management team first, then announce his choice to the rest of the NHL on June 21st. If you don’t believe me, just look at a year ago. That said, let’s hope that fans have learned their lesson and don’t make fools of themselves once again. Go Habs Go!