Congratulations to whomever had “Aaron Portzline vs. Doug Maclean” as one of this week’s Twitter beefs.
It began with this article by Portzline at The Athletic which revisted the now-infamous decision by Maclean at the the 2005 draft to select Gilbert Brule instead of future Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar. The worst part is that Maclean said this in 2016 and apparently didn’t hesitate to continue repeating this mindset: “Walking to the draft (that morning) I said to Boydy, and I’ll never forget these words: ‘How do we go with the Slovenian ahead of the Canadian?’”
Portzline then added more fuel to the fire on Twitter by sharing another missed opportunity:
#CBJ were talking trade w STL to acquire D Chris Pronger - HOFer, Hart/Norris winner, etc. - as the Blues were starting a rebuild.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) May 4, 2020
The Blue Jackets wanted to upgrade their blue line, but they wouldn’t include a prospect that STL really wanted:
LW Alexandre Picard. https://t.co/sqZ9Otyr5g
Maclean denied this:
Hahah hilarious. Pronger’s name never came up in one trade conversation. And as far as our scouts wanting kopitar someone should check with John Williams our western scout who fought daily for Brule . By the way 5 teams after us passed on kopitar as well. Same BS aportzline. https://t.co/WUBSF3E6Ab— Doug Maclean (@DougMaclean) May 4, 2020
But, uh, let’s go to the tape:
Now, I don’t like to condemn a person for one mistake. The problem with Maclean is he made blunder after blunder as GM of the Blue Jackets, and obviously not enough moves to make the team better. The best record was a 35 win/74 point season in 2005-06. Even Scott Howson - with some whiffs of his own - had just one full season worse than that.
This is “What If” Week at SBNation. We’re going to cover several alternate realities of CBJ history. Related to this, let’s take a quick look at Maclean’s first round picks. I’ll compare each pick to the 10 picks after to see if he missed on a better player.
2000: #4 Rostislav Klesla
Alternatives: Raffi Torres, Scott Hartnell, Ron Hainsey
Verdict: It’s fascinating to me that the best options after Klesla all ended up on the Jackets eventually anyway. Hartnell is the best of this group and Hainsey was a better defenseman overall than Klesla was, but since Klesla’s biggest drawback was his injuries, I’ll give Maclean a pass on this one.
2001: #8 Pascal Leclaire
Alternatives: Tuomo Ruutu, Dan Hamhuis, Ales Hemsky, R.J. Umberger
Verdict: Don’t draft a goalie in the top 10. Even the best ones are rarely instant contributors, which those expansion Jackets needed. Ideally in the top 10 you get someone who is NHL-ready but unfortunately there wasn’t much of that remaining in that 2001 draft. Dan Hamhuis is still playing so I guess he’s the pick here? Yeesh.
2002: #1 Rick Nash
Alternatives: Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Scottie Upshall
Verdict: I would question whether trading up was necessary; I think the Panthers were set on Bouwmeester regardless. But, if Maclean were worried about another team trading up, I don’t blame him for doing what was necessary to get The Guy. The team needed a franchise player and for the next decade Nash was the face of the franchise and recognized around the league as a star.
2003: #4 Nikolai Zherdev
Alternatives: Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, J*ff C*rt*r, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook
Verdict: Zherdev played the fewest games of the top 9, at just 421. Everyone else played at least 627 (that was Nathan Horton). Seven of the top 14 played 1000+ games, and six of those are still playing. Throw a dart at my list and you’d find a more useful player than Zherdev - and he’s far from the biggest bust on this list!
2004: #8 Alexandre Picard
Alternatives: Drew Stafford, Devan Dubnyk, Alexander Radulov
Verdict: As I pointed in this jersey numbers post, Picard played just 67 NHL games over the next five seasons and scored a grand total of two assists. Of the top 12 only Lauri Tukonen and A.J. Thelen made less of an impact.
2005: #6 Gilbert Brule
Alternatives: Jack Skille, Devin Setoguchi, Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal
Verdict: See above. It’s not like Kopitar was a surprise; many of the scouts were lobbying for him! Maclean went for the safer pick and it burned him, hard.
2006: #6 Derick Brassard
Alternatives: Kyle Okposo, Jonathan Bernie, Bryan Little, Michael Grabner
Verdict: I’ll give this one to Maclean. Okposo and Little have more career points than Brassard but not significantly more. 852 games and 483 points is good return for a top ten pick - even if most came after he was traded away in 2013.
To Maclean’s credit, the Jackets had the bad luck of missing out on the truly elite talent in all of these drafts except 2002. There were other teams in the ten picks after him that also picked busts. However, there were also multiple NHL contributors selected in that range in each draft who could have contributed as much or more than who he picked.
I’ll do a similar exercise with Scott Howson and Jarmo Kekalainen later in the week.
Meanwhile, for more bad Maclean takes, you can also check out this recent Reddit Q&A.
The week that was
We don’t yet know when - or if - the 2019-20 NHL season will resume, let alone what the schedule for 2020-21 will look like. Nonetheless, the NHL took the proactive step of postponing the Global Series that was supposed to happen this fall between the Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche. Hopefully this series will be able to be played in the 2021-22 season, and it will be safe for Jackets fans to make the trip for it.
In some good news, Jackets forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver BJORKSTRAND pitched in to buy over 600 pizzas for workers at 29 Central Ohio Kroger stores.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com checked in with several Jackets players and gives a positive outlook for the team. Some new info here: the door is open for Josh Anderson to play yet this season, if his recovery is on the short end of the timeframe and the season does not begin until late summer.
A couple of Jackets show up in this Fox Sports Ohio PSA:
Until we compete again… on the court, in the ballpark, on the ice – Keep it going Ohioans. We’re all in this TOGETHER. #InThisTogetherOhio @indians @cavs @monstershockey @ShaneBieber19 @MrLapara @RealTristan13 @CollinSexton02 @ZacDalpe22 pic.twitter.com/McSLIsci7O— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) May 8, 2020
Across SB Nation last week, we paid tribute to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For our part, we ranked our favorite MCU films, compared CBJ players to Marvel heroes, compared Infinity Stones to types of hockey players, and recapped Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as though they were games. We also assigned hockey roles to heroes in the Cannon Cast.
Play me out
This weekend we lost a rock and roll legend, Little Richard. His influence was not as much in the songs he performed, but rather the way in which he performed them. His flamboyant style (being black and queer at a time when neither was welcome in much of the country) was groundbreaking and highly influential. He was an inspiration and a mentor to the likes of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix (who played guitar in his band), The Beatles and Rolling Stones (each opened for him in England in their early days), and later acts like David Bowie and Prince.