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?