Why Scott Howson Made the Right Decision

Posted by The Coach on June 25, 2012

Today Aaron Portzline reported the New York Islanders offered their entire draft for the number 2 selection. Twitter went crazy at how terrible Columbus GM Scott Howson is for turning down that offer. I’ve recently done a lot of research regarding the draft and the value of draft picks. Per that research, here are the corresponding draft pick values for that trade: Pick #2 is equal to 185 points of value; pick #4=140, pick #34=25, pick #65=14, pick #103=8, pick #125=7, pick #155=6, and pick #185=5. That is a total of 207 points of expected value. However, those later picks don’t actually hold value, they only hold value if an NHL player is found, which is about 10% of the time for rounds 3-7. The 34th pick gets you an NHL player around a quarter of the time. So essentially, this trade would be a move down for a worse player with a lower chance of being a major contributor, for a couple of low chances at an NHL player. But don’t take my word for it, below I went through every draft from 2000-2009 and looked at the players selected with the picks in the rumored Isles deal. Read through these picks and try to tell me Scott Howson made the wrong decision.


#2) Dany Heatley, 751 GP, 742 PTS


#4) Rusty Klesla, 596 GP, 147 PTS

#34) Ruslan Zainullin, 0 GP

#65) David Morriset, 4 GP, 0 PTS

#103) Brett Nowak, 0 GP

#125) Phil Cole, 0 GP

#155) Travis Moen, 570 GP, 107 PTS

#185) Patrick Foley, 0 GP

So would you trade Heatley for Klesla and Moen? Hell no.


#2) Jason Spezza, 606 GP, 616 PTS


#4) Stephen Weiss, 637 GP, 390 PTS

#34) Greg Watson, 0 GP

#65) Brenden Bell, 102 GP, 28 PTS

#103) Tony Virta, 8 GP, 5 PTS

#125) Jeff Lucky, 0 GP

#155) Michal Vondrka, 0 GP

#185) Mikael Svensk, 0 GP

Would you trade Spezza for Weiss and Bell? Hell no.


#2) Kari Lehtonon, 344 GP, .914 Career SV%


#4) Joni Pitkanen, 513 GP, 273 PTS

#34) Tobias Stephan, 11 GP, .883 Career SV%

#65) Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, 163 GP, 12 PTS

#103) Joonas Vihko, 0 GP

#125) Johan Bjork, 0 GP

#155) Armands Berzins, 0GP

#185) Ryan Murphy, 0 GP

After seeing it was Lehtonen at #2, I thought this one would go in favor of the trade. But every other pick was either a bust, or barely an NHL player. Jay Bouwmeester went #3, and had he been the 2nd pick, this also would have been a hell no.


#2) Eric Staal, 642 GP, 574 PTS


#4) Nikolai Zherdev, 421 GP, 261 PTS

#34) Mike Egener, 0 GP

#65) Branislav Fabry, 0 GP

#103) Kevin Jarman, 0 GP

#125) Konstantin Volkov, 0 GP

#155) Josh Robertson, 0 GP

#185) Francis Walthier, 9 GP, 0 PTS

In the best draft in NHL history, the trade would still be a hell no. A resounding HELL NO! from Blue Jackets fans. Wouldn’t it have been great to trade every pick in this draft to get Staal instead of Zherdev?


#2) Evgeni Malkin, 427 GP, 527 PTS


#4) Andrew Ladd, 484 GP, 259 PTS

#34) Johan Fransson, 0 GP

#65) Mark Tobin, 0 GP

#103) Roman Tomanek, 0 GP

#125) Andrew Sarauer, 0 GP

#155) Alexander Mikhailishin, 0 GP

#185) Josh Disher, 0 GP

Obviously, no one in their right mind would ever trade Andrew Ladd for Evgeni Malkin.


#2) Bobby Ryan, 332 GP, 259 PTS


#4) Benoit Pouliot, 257 GP, 104 PTS

#34) Ryan Stoa, 37 GP, 7 PTS

#65) Kristofer Westblom, 0 GP

#103) Mattias Ritola, 43 GP, 9 PTS

#125) Tommi Leinonen, 0 GP

#155) Mark Fayne, 139 GP, 31 PTS

#185) Kris Freidheim, 0 GP

Bobby Ryan is on the trade block right now. Think they would take an offer of Pouliot, Ritola and Fayne for him? Hell no.


#2) Jordan Staal, 431 GP, 248 PTS


#4) Nicklas Backstrom, 365 GP, 367 PTS

#34) Michal Neuvirth, 108 GP, .909 Career SV%

#65) Brian Strait, 12 GP, 1 PT

#103) Michael Caruso, 0 GP

#125) Chad Johnson, 6 GP, .911 SV%

#155) Peter Aston, 0 GP

#185) Timo Seppanen, 0 GP

This is the first one in favor of the trade. But this year it was pretty well known that the top five players (Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel) were all superstar level talents.


#2) James van Riemsdyk, 196 GP, 99 PTS


#4) Thomas Hickey, 0 GP

#34) Josh Godfrey, 0 GP

#65) Olivier Fortier, 0 GP

#103) Vladimir Ruzicka, 0 GP

#125) Brett Lefler, 0 GP

#155)  Jens Hellgren, 0 GP

#185) Nick Larson, 0 GP

JVR has been something of a disappointment in the NHL so far, but he’s a hell of a lot better than getting 0 combined NHL games.


#2) Drew Doughty, 316 GP, 162 PTS


#4) Alex Pietrangelo, 177 GP, 97 PTS

#34) Jake Allen, 0 GP

#65) Jori Lehtera, 0 GP

#103) Johan Motin, 1 GP, 0 PTS

#125) Kristofer Berglund, 0 GP

#155)  Anthony Nigro, 0 GP

#185) Paul Karpowich, 0 GP

This swap is probably the closest comparable to this years draft (with Murray as Doughty, Reinhart as Pietrangelo). Doughty is definitely a slight step up, but Jake Allen is probably not enough for Los Angeles to make that trade (the rest of the picks can be considered busts already).


#2) Victor Hedman, 214 GP, 69 PTS


#4) Evander Kane,, 213 GP, 126 PTS

#34) Carl Klingberg, 7 GP, 0 PTS

#65) Joonas Nattinen, 0 GP

#103) Kris Foucault, 0 GP

#125) Cody Sol, 0 GP

#155) Jimmy Bubnick, 0 GP

#185) Levko Koper, 0 GP

I’d probably still take Hedman over Kane, but just barely. Not 100% sure that Klingberg would be enough for me to trade Hedman for Kane.

So look back on those ten drafts. There is one draft where the trade would have made sense for the Jackets, two that would have been close, and seven that would have been the kind of trade that is looked back upon with shame. Howson made the right call.

12 Comments to Why Scott Howson Made the Right Decision

  • Excellent analysis. Will it be repeated independently or copied from here by anybody with national scope? Nope. Because it is too easy to write lazy jokes about Howson being a dope.

  • WOW! Applying facts to the analysis. Great job.

    I like what Howson did this draft because it was clear there was a strategy.

    Murray or trade
    and get GOALTENDING!

  • Great article but you’re also basing it on the drafting of the worst franchise in the NHL over the last 10 years… they just fired 4 of their scouts.

    • They didn’t ‘fire’ the scouts, they just didn’t renew their contracts which expire shortly after the draft. It makes sense, considering how getting fresh blood into an organization between the players and the front office is always a good idea.

      Also, if it were actually a fact that Columbus was a terrible drafting team, not adding the extra picks and solidifying the selection of what appears to be a franchise level player was easily the better option of the two.

    • And the picks are not based on the Blue Jackets picks. They are based on the picks taken in the exact slot they would have acquired in a trade with the Isles.

  • An analysis can only really work if the conditions are the same and all other environmental factors can be controlled. This is comparing apples and oranges. You would have to have situations where D-men are compared to D-men and not just points and games played in the NHL (can’t compare defensive d-men to scoring forwards). According to a similar analysis based on previous trades of super stars, Do you trade Rick Nash? The answer is No. Howson wins this one and loses Nash is still a loss.

    • It’s not exactly comparing apples to apples that way, but it’s far from comparing apples to oranges. It is comparing every player picked with the picks the Jackets would have acquired. And the vast majority of those picks had absolutely no impact on the NHL whatsoever. The only times the team trading back would have come out ahead is when the 4th overall pick happened to outperform the 2nd overall pick.

      This wasn’t meant to be perfect analysis. It was just meant to show that the whole “entire draft” thing is grossly overstated. Odds are that most of those picks would have had no impact in the NHL, and if they were lucky they might grab one or maybe two guys who would player a depth role (ala Travis Moen, OK Tollefsen, etc). Draft picks are massively overvalued by most fans, especially draft picks in the draft that was already under way (meaning there was little time available to move those picks for more valuable assets).

      As for the comparison, the numbers I used in the opening paragraph are based on a very in depth study I did. In this study, all points/games played were adjusted for every player based on draft position, meaning that those apples, oranges and bananas (goaltenders) could all be properly compared.

      • As for your in-depth study, it is still not a study or an analysis. If you took points/game and gave it an average value based on where the player was drafted you still can’t really compare a defensive d-man to offensive forward. What measure did you use? Plus, did you have a minimum number of games played in the NHL? How did you account for players who never made the NHL… did they get a zero which could be The same as someone who could have played many NHL games but never scored a point? Points per game does not indicate a players value to a team or the environment that he played in. Look at the possible HOF class. Lindros and LeClaire had good point per game numbers, but one of the other members of the class, a d-man with much worse numbers has 4 or more Stanley Cups. What would you rather have… a good player or a Stanley Cup? These are not analyses but observations of data to support your point. Look at Eric Smith’s article at hockeybuzz today, he showed who the Jackets could have gotten with those picks in addition to Reinhart rather than Murray. It may give you a clearer picture of why this is not so black and white. Plus, why are we focusing on moves that Howson isn’t making anyway?

        • I don’t understand what you are commenting on. If you are referring to the stats I posted here, you are right. I was merely putting up some stats with player names to give people a sense of what those players did at the NHL level. If you are referring to the draft pick value part I discussed at the beginning, I definitely did a study. It used a combination of games played and points. The points portion was adjusted for defensemen so the curve of defensemen points approximately equaled the curve for forward points. For goaltenders, games played was adjusted so that a year as a starter equaled an 82 games season, and save percentage was used instead of points. Save percentage was then adjusted so that the curve of save percentage matched the curve of forward scorers. Then after all of that was done, I adjusted the values based on the expected number of NHL seasons based on their draft year (so that players from different draft years could be compared). That is what was used to get the value of the draft picks that I referenced at the start.

          As for Eric Smith’s piece, it gives us a good idea of the players the Jackets might have ended up with, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how they might pan out. Nor does it really mean much, as the Jackets probably wouldn’t have selected any of those players.

    • When rebuilding, it usually starts with moving your most valued asset, Nash. (The classic example is the Cowboys trading Herschel Walker).

  • Excellent analysis. Of course the hockey media would much rather make cheap jokes about GMSH being clueless.

    Saw a great one on twitter though…something along the lines of “Garth Snow and GMSH at lunch today, Snow offers a burger, fries, and some pocket lint for GMSH’s steak. Thanks but no thanks.

  • It’s an interesting analysis, and might make sense for Columbus. If I were Marc Bergevin, and Brian Burke came along offering 5th + every Toronto pick for the rest of the draft (assuming they had them all), I would definitely do it. There’s still just 2 picks, but Montreal has a better history of finding gems later in the drafts.
    (see Subban, Weber, White, Latendresse, D’Agostini, S. Kostitsyn, Emelin, Grabovski, Streit, Lapierre, O’Byrne, Halak, and Plekanec for details, among others – very rare are the years when Montreal does not find an NHLer with a pick after #30, even if they don’t get one in the 1st round and trade the one they got later for peanuts…grumble grumble)

    If the GM has confidence in his scouts, then he goes for it. If he doesn’t, then he stands pat.

    Also: I wonder how different this would be if you used 5th overall instead of 4th? Alzner instead of Hickey, Price instead of Pouliot, Vanek instead of Zherdev…Which may just be proof that teams who draft 4th make consistently terrible picks.

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