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Woodlief: Isles Should Pass on Tavares, Draft Eckstein

I miss the good old days of the site Fire Joe Morgan. Not just because we're deprived of Michael Schur's best work. The Office has gone way down hill--wake me up when this latest multiple-episode guest star's contract runs out, his plotline ends awkwardly, and things go back to exactly the way they were before in a forced fashion--and while Parks and Recreation may be getting decent reviews, I've learned many, many times before not to waste my time with things involving Amy Poehler. I miss FJM because last Saturday, while watching the Indians 14-run inning against the Yankees, Tim McCarver--who to his credit, managed to choke back his tears--said he was surprised the Indians had such a big inning despite hitting a grand slam, because "usually home runs are big inning killers". Sure, I was mad about the poor logic of that preposterous statement, but could only muster an unintelligble scream of frustration, wherea FJM would have turned that idiocy into an amusing story about robots or something.

What does all of this have to do with hockey? Not at a lot. There's usually not a lot of head-exploding stupidity in the hockey world, partially because so little in hockey is actually quanifiable, and partially because the guy who thought Chris Simon could contribute to a playoff team is out of a job. But then there is the most recent Redline Rankings, which put John Tavares third overall behind Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene.

Before we start, let me make a couple things clear. I'm usually slow to complain about RLR because I get it; they need to sell magazines. They spend a ton of money going around scouting for the draft, and probably have the least visually appealing of the various draft magazines. They need something to set themselves apart, and that something usually involves BOLD STATEMENTS and saying incredibly negative, mean-spirited things about prospects. It seems to work for them. Whatever.

I'm not even going to debate the merits of putting Tavares behind Hedman, or even Duchene. I'm not overly familiar with any of the three so I have no strong opinions on the individual merits of each player, though I suspect the gap between Tavares and the other two is much closer than most people think. Both could very easily end up being better than Tavares.

But where I have a problem is the logic used to denigrate Tavares, which basically boils down to: he scores too much. Let's go to the quotes:

"Tavares may score 40 or 50 goals a season, but he's one-dimensional. If he's not scoring, he's not helping."

This past season, 8 players in the NHL scored 40 goals. Alex Ovechkin was the only player to score 50. The player with the most goals on the New York Islanders this past season was Kyle Okposo with 18. I think another 40 to 50 goals in the Islanders lineup would help them a great deal, regardless of whether or not he throws the occasional hit or picks up the check at the bar for his teammates.

"London has a great power play, and Tavares is getting all his points on the power play"

This is a valid criticism if either A) powerplay goals counted less than even strength goals, which they do not or B)if the NHL had no powerplays, which they do not.

He also cites Tavares' even +/- rating as a negative. So what he's saying is that a kid breaks even 5-on-5, but then scores a ton of points on the powerplay? If I were a GM, I'd take that in a heartbeat. You can kind guys that can kill penalties anywhere.

"We all know what Tavares is going to be a good player," Woodlief said. Referring to NHL superstars Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, he added of Tavares, "At the same time, he's nowhere near the level of an Ovechkin, Malkin or Crosby. They were all multi-dimensional players. Ovechkin hits you like a ton of bricks. Tavares will hit and take hits, but he won't mash guys. Ovechkin works just as hard in his own end."

I'll double check this with the Capitals, but I don't think the Islanders will be allowed to draft Alex Ovechkin this year.

Asked for the prototype Tavares fits, Woodlief chose Brett Hull. It wasn't meant to flatter him. Hull was a pure goal scorer who put up huge numbers at a time when that was possible in the NHL, but he wasn't necessarily regarded as a winner. He was more of a compiler.

" Hull was a goal scorer who was selfish and not a particularly good skater," Woodlief said. "He wasn't a particularly good locker-room presence. Tavares has the same attitude, even the same body."

Sweet ghost of McCarver! We've reached the crux of the issue. Sure, Tavares may compile a lot of points, but he's not a "winner". Nevermind that the very definition of a "winner" in hockey is the team that compiles the most points.

Sergei Brylin was a "winner," having won three Stanley Cups, and nobody would ever accuse him of being a compiler points. Again, I'll check with the Washington Capitals, but I bet they'd be cool with it if the Islanders drafted him.

The Brett Hull comparison is equally hilarious. Over his career, Brett Hull scored 741 goals(3rd all-time) and 1391 points(19th all-time), and, oh yeah, also "compiled" two Stanley Cup championships, where he was a key member of both teams. If you could guarantee that any draft pick would do even half of that, a team would be crazy not to pick him.

Explaining why he jumped Brampton Battalion center Duchene ahead of Tavares in the rankings, Woodlief said, "I put Duchene ahead of Tavares because he's the most complete forward in the draft, and he has dramatically improved his game. He's a Steve Yzerman-type. If he's not scoring, he's a center who can act as your shutdown guy against the other team's top line."

If he's not scoring--which I think even Woodlief would cede is more likely to happen with Duchene than Tavares--those teams probably aren't winning regardless. All three teams in the top three of the draft were in the bottom six of the league in goals per game and goals against per game. Of the two, I think it's a lot tougher to find the right guys to improve the goals per game, than it is to find guys that can improve goals against per game. Most of this is just what I like to call Tavares Fatigue Syndrome(or TFS). It's just one of those things that the more times scouts watch a player, the more they start to nitpick and find minor flaws. Tavares has been in the OHL longer, and watched closer than any other potential draft pick in history, and has been the consensus first overall draft pick for years now. There's really nothing interesting about saying he should go first overall in the draft. Trying to throw stuff against the wall to tear him down garners some attention, even if none of it sticks. But that doesn't make it stink any less.