If you were to tell us that the Dallas Stars selected U.S. goaltending prospect Jack Campbell at #11, and we hadn't seen any of the other picks or the way in it unfolded, we would not have been surprised. We had been hearing (rather "off the record," so to speak) that the Stars were quite taken with the young man, and were zeroing in on him as well as Derek Forbort. I adjusted the draft preview on Friday morning to match, thinking there was a good chance they'd take him.
The problem is, we do know how it unfolded and we're left now to look back on a weird first round that has most Stars fans scratching their heads. The bottom line is that Dallas had a chance to draft what the hockey community considered "top 5" talent at #11, and they passed on it without any apparent hesitation.
Joe Nieuwendyk would say later on in the evening that they feel Campbell is a franchise player, on the level of Hall and Seguin. General Managers say these kinds of things about young men they've just committed to. It happens. But with all the attention the Stars have paid to Campbell this weekend, you kind of get the sense that they mean it. Dallas said before the draft that they would take the best player on their board. If this isn't a reaffirmation of that, I don't know what is.
The sad thing is that most fans seem to be focusing on what kind of player he ISN'T rather than what kind of player he IS. Taking a goaltender in the first round is a bit of a gamble, but you don't get to be in the top 10 of most draft rankings by some kind of sublime accident. Jack Campbell is a big kid: A fierce competitor, brimming with confidence, and more importantly he's a proven winner. He is a blue chip goaltending prospect in a system that didn't have any a couple of hours ago.
The key word there is prospect, which Cam Fowler and Gormley would have been as well, admit it or not...
No Help Next Season
The lack of defense in the system is sometimes confused in discussions with the obvious defensive shortcomings of the NHL club. The two are completely different entities and only one was going to be helped with the #11 pick. Fowler, Gormley, Forbort...none of these are NHL ready and none were going to help Dallas next year. That's not the need that the Stars were satisfying with the #11 pick, whoever it was going to be. That pick was always going to contribute to the long term health of the organization.
For help with the NHL level defense, a trade for an established NHL player is the only way to go. Given that we have completed only one round of the draft and exactly 0 days of the free agency period, it's difficult to judge what Joe Nieuwendyk has done to help the Dallas Stars make the playoffs next season, which is what we would all like to see. I am going to reserve my judgment of this off-season until I have all the information necessary to make a proper one.
The Goaltending Well is Dry
The quantity of goaltenders in the Stars system has nothing to do with the shape that it's in. Matt Climie and Brent Krahn (27 and 28 years old) do not represent any kind of future for the team at the NHL level. Barring some kind of legendary transformation, the two are fine AHL caliber players that do not a Marty Turco replacement make.
Richard Bachman, a 22 year old 4th round pick cannot be written off so easily given how far he still has to go, but his 5'10" frame and mediocre career path thus far do not make him a prime candidate to lead the Stars anywhere in the future, much less a Stanley Cup.
Tyler Beskorowany, the 6'4" 20 year old who impressed everyone at Stars training camp last year is a different story. I was sufficiently enthused by his performance last September that I won't say a bad word against him just yet, but the experts consider him to be a less than steallar goaltending prospect.
Jack Campbell isn't the sexy pick. He may not have been the best pick, but he's one that can help this organization and I think that once we get over our brand name lust that was given and taken away so abruptly by the draft gods, I hope we can appreciate what we DID get a little more.
Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Morning News "There was a time when we had Eddie Belfour and we had players like Martty Turco, Roman Turek and Manny Fernandez pushing him and pushing each other. That competition, I think, was great for Eddie and great for everyone else. Then, you look back at how Mike Smith and Dan Ellis pushed each other. That's what you need in an organization. It's still the most important position in hockey, and I think we're in good shape here now.'' [DMN]
You Don't Need Good Goaltending To Win? "Look at the Blackhawks!"
That's silly. It is the single most important position on the ice.
In a town where people have mercilessly complained about Marty Turco's play season after season, it is the irony of the evening that they would dog pile on the Stars scouting staff for making the position a priority. Perhaps that's my opinion coming through a little too strongly there and I apologize for that, but that's the way I feel.
I do, however, subscribe to the notion that you must put a competent defense in front of any kind of goaltender, be he hall of fame quality or Kari Lehtonen. Yet when you're taking kids in a draft aimed, as all drafts are in the NHL, at improving your team 3-5 years down the road can you afford to ignore what your scouts are telling you about someone they feel is near can't miss?
Time Will Tell
As in all sports, you can't judge a draft before it's over. You can only hope to judge it 3 to 5 years down the road when the dust settles and guys mature. The problem with drafting defensemen is that a lot of GM's these days feel that they take much longer to develop; Nearly until they reach UFA status. How else can the slide of Fowler and Gormley be explained this evening?
The real unfortunate thing (that I as a fan have the luxury of worrying about) is that the Ducks, Coyotes and Kings are the ones who took the defenders we were coveting the most. Joe Nieuwendyk can't worry about those kinds of things, but I can, and I do. If those young men develop into Star-killers for the next two decades, the name Jack Campbell will be cringe worthy for an entire generation of Stars fans.
When you had Johansen going at #4 and McIlrath going at #10 (THAT is the real head scratcher), Jack Campbell at #11 isn't going to be the weirdest memory from the 2010 NHL Draft.
"Except that he's bigger and has accomplished a lot more at a young age than I did," Turco said. "I got started late. But he has that inner confidence, which is something I cherish. I'm glad the Stars drafted him. Any team would be lucky to have him. I expect great things from him. With my era ending, picking him, it feels like things come full circle."
So let's just take a deep breath. I was disappointed when the pick was announced, but I can see why the made it. These are all gambles at this stage. These are all prospects.
I am so tired of talking about the bad. We have no money. Our defense sucks. Our goaltender is a question mark. Our owner needs to go. We have NO MONEY.
I am going to stay defiantly positive on this one for a change. Jack Campbell is a veritable bad-ass, and pardon my bubbling patriotism, he's an American who just won us a gold medal at the World Juniors. I like it. We'll see you in 2-4 years, Mr. Campbell. Make this pick worth it.