Hockey Thinking is Medieval, and the Expansion Draft is Exposing That

Although the results of the 2017 Expansion Draft are still more than two full days from being revealed to the public, the lists of protected players have already been announced. All 30 teams protected one goaltender, and 24 clubs elected to go with the conventional method of protecting seven forwards and three defenseman, while six (Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins) protected eight skaters. Due to the nature of this expansion draft compared to the ones that took place in the past, there was guaranteed to be more talent available to George McPhee and the Golden Knights than ever before.

No matter what the thirty general managers who fielded hockey teams this past season did, most of them would be losing a player of value for nothing to Vegas. There were ways for certain teams to minimize the damage, and some teams took advantage of those possibilities. However, a number of teams made head scratching decisions when they assembled their protection lists. As the game of hockey has evolved and statistical analysis has become a more important tool in player evaluation, it has become easier for the public at large to scrutinize decision making around the league. Thankfully, Jeff Gorton didn’t throw any curveballs and elected to use his protection slots in the most sensible way he could.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your rooting interests) not every team decided to go with who conventional wisdom would say to protect. That’s fine in some cases, as there could be valid reasons to opting to prioritize one player over another depending on the circumstances. However, if history is anything to be learned from, we can assume that NHL general manager don’t always make the best choices for their clubs, and the expansion draft seems to be the worst, league-wide case of sub-optimal decision making.


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