It has become a daily occurrence for someone to ask me about trading Player X for draft picks, or trading Player Y for Prospect A. Aside from the immediate flaws of over valuing Players X and Y, there is a much larger issue at hand here. As New York Ranger fans, we have had very few players to call home grown and watch them grow up. It’s why we as a whole loved Mike York and were flat out pissed when he was traded for Tom Poti (a deal in which we won, by the way). It was an irrational love for a one time 30 goal scorer, but it was a love for a home grown player.
Fast forward to 2011, and the Rangers have 50% of their roster filled with home grown players, and the cupboard is stocked with a ton of great prospects. But there is always talk about trades for draft picks, always keeping that first round pick, and trading established players for more prospects. This is a very dangerous way of thinking.
The biggest flaw here is the obsession with always having prospects and draft picks; always having the cupboard stocked, and always re-stocking the stocked cupboard. The Rangers currently have a great cupboard, but there’s nothing eye popping outside of Chris Kreider (and possibly Christian Thomas). Teams need elite talent, which you may get in the draft, but sometimes you need to empty the cupboard to get that talent.
Sure, there is always the off chance that all the prospects meet every expectation the second they enter the NHL, with some exceeding those expectations. But that’s about as likely as me becoming a fan of Sidney Crosby or The Suit becoming a fan of “ill fitted clothing.” The reality of the situation is that 75% of the prospects will not meet their potential, and that those that do meet their potential –or those that fit into the system well– construct the core of the team. The rest of the team should be filled by signings or trades that fill holes.
Looping back to the title of the post, filling holes can be done with prospects, but that takes time. Then as those prospects develop, other holes emerge, and are addressed via the draft, of which takes more time. It’s an endless cycle of drafting to address more needs, which is not how good GMs build a team.
As fans, it is natural to grow attached to the idea of prospects and draft picks, but sometimes a step back is needed to evaluate the entire picture. Is Carl Hagelin going to be able to play on the second line? Maybe, but if not, then a free agent signing might be necessary. Will Chris Kreider be an impact player? Likely, but not right away. See where I’m going here? Hold on to Player X and Player Y, even if they had a bad year. They fill holes, holes that desperately need to be filled on the Rangers. Or, Player Y can maybe be packaged for that elite talent that fills another hole. Building a winner is a process, of which all possible solutions must be analyzed and considered.