I read an interesting comment on Twitter from Damian Cox the other day. I understand Cox, who’s better known on Twitter as @DamoSpin, is usually trying to provoke minor controversy, however, when I read his tweet, I knew it wasn’t accurate. There was simply no way.

Here’s the tweet I’m referring to:

Umm, OK Damian, here it goes: The majority of the line up the Sabres have put together over the last few (successful) years was done through drafting. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of players who the Sabres drafted that ended up playing key roles for them over the last few years:

  • Tyler Myers, 2008, 1st round
  • Tyler Ennis, 2008, 1st round
  • Mike Weber, 2006, 2nd round
  • Chris Butler, 2005, 4th round
  • Patrick Kaleta, 2004, 6th round
  • Andrej Sekera, 2004, 3rd round
  • Drew Stafford, 2004, 1st round
  • Nathan Paetsch, 2003, 7th round
  • Clark MacArthur, 2003, 3rd round
  • Thomas Vanek, 2003, 1st round
  • Daniel Paille, 2002, 1st round
  • Jason Pomminville, 2002, 2nd round
  • Derek Roy, 2002, 2nd round
  • Paul Gaustad, 2000, 7th round
  • Ryan Miller, 1999, 5th round
  • Dmitri Kanlinin, 1998, 1st round
  • Henrik Tallinder, 1997, 2nd round
  • Brian Campbell, 1997, 6th round (who was traded for Steve Bernier and the 26th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Tyler Ennis)

Clearly, Cox was way off on this one. In fact, the list above is a testament to how important drafting is. Obviously the Sabres are pretty good at it, too. If you look at their 2009-2010 roster, the year they placed 3rd in the Eastern Conference and won the Northeast Division, you’ll see nearly every player (with the exception of a few) in the list above was a part of that team. The Sabres strong drafting is a big reason why the team has managed to stay competitive after losing stars like Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Campbell.

In saying all this, it’s possible Cox’ tweet might have been a reference to is the importance of having a great coach. In which case, I agree Lindy Ruff is a very good NHL coach who’s capable of getting the most out of his players. But if that was the point of the original tweet, why not just say “Lindy Ruff is a great coach” or something to that extent?

Make no mistake about it. Ruff inherited a number of very good, very serviceable NHL players from drafting. Sure, he’s done well to get the most out of his roster, year after year, but the Buffalo Sabres were and are a winning team largely because of the players they drafted. This leads me to one final question: in today’s NHL, how do you build a winning team if not through drafting? Anyone?

Comments (13)

  1. Love it when you guys rip on dumb-ass writers.

    Build a team without drafting: Talk load and be truculent!!

  2. Pretty sure Cox is referring to the Buffalo Sabres not being a winner rather than them not having plenty of homegrown talent.

  3. And just to clarify, I’m not disagreeing that it’s a stupid comment by Cox, slanted just enough to “foolproof” his own biased argument. Who really says that draft picks are a sure way to build a winner, or that you can ignore other elements of team building simply by drafting well? Certainly nobody in Columbus, Florida, or Atlanta. And, these days, in Buffalo.

  4. Nah, Sabres have been a winner since the lockout. Their bad start this season is a bit of a surprise. Cox is a fool, just spouting in defense of “Burkie”.

  5. I’m confused. Cox wasn’t saying buffalo wasn’t built through the draft. Hes critizing people who say you can only have a winner if you bulid throught he draft because look at buffalo they built through the draft and they still suck. I don’t like cox either but i don’t understand what you guys are getting at…

  6. Rereading that tweet theres nothing wrong with that tweet… Buffalo has been GREAT during the regular season but has been pretty aweful more years than not in the playoffs. The last team they made a deep run in the playoffs as i remember alot of there players were not originally drafted by the sabres. And how do you explain the sharks? the bulk of that team was built through trades… I hate to be rough but im pretty sure saying theres no other way to build a team other than through drafting is just as dimwitted as cox saying you cant….

  7. To follow up on this. I’m not ripping Cox… I just disagreed with his view, or what I thought he was suggesting.

    He responded (via twitter – fitting, I suppose) that “[The Sabres] were built with picks, proof that it doesn’t always work.”

    Personally, I didn’t get that from his original tweet. I thought Cox meant they are successful, but not because of their draft picks (obviously…).

    Regardless, I still feel the Sabres are a pretty successful team as a result of their drafting. Sure, they haven’t won a Stanley Cup, but neither have 20+ other teams in the last few years. The Sabres have made the Conference finals twice since 2005, largely with the group of players in the list above. I agree with Scott that their bad start is a bit of an anomaly.

  8. @Kevin Burgundy

    i dunno i agree the sabre have been real good last few years and lindy ruff has a big part in that but buffalo has taken steps back this year. You knew it was going to be difficult since there defense is non existant. I mean they lost some crutial players back there and replaced them with some youngsters that while have a lot of potential just arnt that good at the moment. Myers is coming back to earth i mean hes played VERY BADLY to start the year and i expect hell be better going forward but not nearly as good as he was last year. I think myers is gunna be somewhere between where he is now and where he was last year. I dont think the sabres playing badly to start the year is an anomaly in the slightest. Theyre going to be bad this year but i expect them to get better and rebound next year.

  9. Yeah, it makes me sick to defend Cox but he’s definitely saying that the Buffalo Sabres, despite following the system that simple-minded fans and hockey writers suggest is foolproof, have failed to win anything of note.

    Funny that you should say they are a successful team despite never having won a Stanley Cup because I am sure that your compatriots in Senators fandom would never have acknowledged the same of the Leafs from 1992-2004.

    Jon – Read any paper in Toronto during the last five years and you’d see hundreds of articles about how tanking is the only way to build a winner with nary a mention of the dozens of other factors that have an impact. And you’re bang on in suggesting that Columbus, Atlanta, and Florida are great examples that there’s more to winning than getting high draft picks.

    Scott – What have the Sabres won? As a Leaf fan I’ve been led to believe by 29 other fanbases that only Stanley Cups matter.

  10. I simply cannot believe that was Cox’s original argument. There are so, so many better examples of that argument.

  11. “Funny that you should say they are a successful team despite never having won a Stanley Cup because I am sure that your compatriots in Senators fandom would never have acknowledged the same of the Leafs from 1992-2004.”

    Well, that’s the thing – it fits Cox’s narrative to say that the Leafs have been a disaster since 1967, since he sells more horrible books that way.

    But in a 30-team league, multiple trips to the conference finals IS a successful run, even though you don’t win it all. Crap, only a little more than 25% of the league even wins one playoff series now; I’d certainly argue that the Sabres have been a successful organization with their plan in the post-Hasek era.

  12. Stephen – I’d argue the same all day but that’s not what the average fan believes and Cox caters to no one if not the average fan.

  13. Is anyone out there really arguing that building through the draft leads to a sure winner? Atlanta would like a word with you. The argument for draft picks is that not building with them guarantees not winning, which is a very different thing.

    To formulate this somewhat more precisely, having a core of drafted players is considered a necessary condition for winning, not a sufficient one. I generally disagree with that, but it’s worth at least trying to get the argument right, otherwise you end up like Cox, pointing out that a team with a mostly drafted core is failing and arguing against a nonsensical strawman.

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