2012 NHL Entry Draft: The Doug Armstrong Years, Failure or Success?

DALLAS - OCTOBER 14: Trevor Daley #6 of the Dallas Stars takes the puck in the first quarter against the Detroit Red Wings on October 14 2010 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

A draft takes many years to evaluate. Prospects take time to develop and whether a pick was the right decision or not won't be known until several years down the line. The draft is, after all, mostly down to luck because no one can reasonable predict what the future holds for a player and what intangibles might have caused them to perform in the way they have.

It has come to the point when it is time to look back on an era of the Dallas Stars were many believe we neglected the draft and prospect side of the business. I am of course talking about the time that Doug Armstrong was General Manager for the Dallas Stars and when he oversaw the 2002-2006 NHL Entry Drafts. Many believe that Stars wasted many of their picks and that the drafting in these times was of particularly bad quality. But in reality how true is this? Though the first round picks were generally late in the first round could the Dallas Stars have drafted within the first better?

The Stars, since Joe Nieuwendyk stepped into office as the General Manager, has made it a point of emphasis to focus on the farm system and to rebuild the team through the draft. It is considered that perhaps the mediocrity of the Stars the past three years was due to the lack of successful drafts under Armstrong, but just how true is this?

As a point of definition I am classifying a NHL player as someone who has played, at the very least, 30 games in the NHL over their career. Anyone who has played less than this and has spent most of their time in the AHL is a full time AHL player.

This is the list of players that the Dallas Stars drafted according to each year:

2002:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games Played
1st Martin Vagner 0
2nd Janos Vas 0
2nd Tobias Stephan 11
2nd Marius Holtet 0
2nd Trevor Daley 577
3rd Geoff Waugh 0
4th Jarkoo A. Immonen 0
5th David Bararuk 0
6th Kirill Sidorenko 0
7th Bryan Hamm 0
8th Tuomas Mikkonen 0
9th Ned Havern 0

2003:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games played
2nd Loui Eriksson 453
2nd Vojtech Polak 5
2nd B.J. Crombeen 288
3rd Matt Nickerson 0
4th Alexander Naurov 0
5th Eero Kilpelainen 0
5th Gino Guyer 0
6th Francis Wathier 9
6th Drew Bagnall 2
6th Elias Granath 0
8th Niko Vainio 0

2004:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games played
1st Mark Fistric 257
2nd Johan Fransson 0
2nd Raymond Sawada 11
2nd Niklas Grossmann 355
3rd John Lammers 0
4th Fredrik Naslund 0
6th Trevor Ludwig 0
7th Sergei Kuskushkin 0
8th Lukas Vomela 0
9th Matt McKnight 0

2005:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games played
1st Matt Niskanen 371
2nd James Neal 314
3rd Rich Clune 14
3rd Perttu Lindgren 1
5th Tom Wandell 211
5th Matt Watkins 0
7th Pat McGann 0

2006:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games Played
1st Ivan Vishnevskiy 5
3rd Aaron Snow 0
4th Richard Bachman 19
5th David McIntyre 0
5th Max Warn 0

2007:

Round Drafted Name Number of NHL Games Played
2nd Nico Sacchetti 0
3rd Sergei Korostin 0
4th Colton Sceviour 1
5th Austin Smith 0
5th Jamie Benn 222
5th Ondrej Roman 0
5th Michael Neal 0
6th Luke Gazdic 0

The first thing that has to be noted is that in reality its highly unlikely to get more than two or at the most three NHL capable players in the draft. So bearing this in mind were the drafts under Doug Armstrong particularly bad? The answer is not as simple as many might think.

Out of all those listed above there is only one draft where the Stars failed to draft a single NHL player according to the definition of at least thirty games played. This was the 2006 NHL Draft, however within a season this is likely to be untrue; with Richard Bachman now playing as Kari Lethenon's backup he will probably hit the 30 mark next season. Therefore, making this assumption, then none of the drafts can be classified as complete failures.

Bearing this in mind there were two particularly bad drafts, the 2002 and 2006 drafts. Only one NHL player has been found out of either of the two drafts. With 12 picks in the 2002 draft this is the worst draft during Doug Armstrong's tenure. Though it becomes more unlikely to find an NHL player lower in the draft not finding another apart from Trevor Daley is a sign of a poor draft. You would expect the Dallas Stars to find at least two or three with that number of picks during a draft. Our first round pick, Martin Vagner, three of the four second picks were duds. In particular Martin Vagner in the first round was an enormous disappointment. He would redrafted in 2004 dropping all the way to the 9th round. However it would be unfair to place all the blame upon the Dallas Stars because it is generally accepted that beyond the top 5 picks of the draft it was a very weak draft.

However one thing that should be noted is that some of those who were picked are now becoming an important part of the Dallas Stars organisation. Players such as Loui Eriksson, Trevor Daley and in the future Richard Bachman were drafted during this period, mostly in the second round or in the case of Bachman in the 4th round. James Neal was also picked within the second round, a steal by all accounts considering Matt Niskanen was drafted before him. The Dallas Stars did not draft poorly, the lack of prospect depth was caused by the poor drafting within the first round and throwing these players into the deep end very early on. If we had used these picks more effectively we would have had a much better pool of players to draw on.

Of the 4 players we drafted within the first round over those 5 years, Martin Vagner, Mark Fistric, Matt Niskanen and Ivan Vishnevskiy, two have gone on to become NHL players. Though Mark Fistric is well liked by many Dallas Stars fans the fact of the matter is that he is not a top 3 defenseman and has often found himself getting the short straw with the healthy scratches over the past few years. Matt Niskanen on the other hand went from two good opening seasons, playing alongside the legendary Sergei Zubov, to several poor seasons as the Stars fans whipping boy and eventually sent away in the deal that brought Alex Goligoski to Dallas.

In reality, despite Fistric and Niskanen reaching the NHL, it's likely the Stars could have drafted better within the first round. Drafting two successful picks and two complete failures is not great. It also doesn't help that the Stars had traded their first round pick in one of the deepest drafts since 1979, that pick coincidentally was sent to the Anaheim Ducks who drafted Corey Perry with it.

Of the 5 second round picks which reached the NHL, Trevor Daley, Loui Eriksson, B.J. Crombeen, Niklas Grossmann and James Neal, there are some names which jump out to Dallas Stars fans. Daley, Eriksson, Grossman(n) and Neal all still play key roles in Dallas or have done before they were traded. Having a nearly 50% success rate in the second round is pretty impressive, especially considering that two of those were top 6 forwards, one is a efficient puck moving defenseman and the other a specialised penalty killer and stay at home defenseman.

So were the Doug Armstrong years overseeing the draft failures? In my personal opinion no. The Stars could obviously have drafted better but in the grand scheme of the draft it is hugely uncommon to find a team getting more than two or three players per draft. The deficiencies the Stars had in the first round were made up partly by the better selections within the second round. Out of 11 second round picks over this period five went on to become NHL players. Several of these players would go on to become very important parts of the Dallas Stars.

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