Nature vs. Nurture

Dean Belanger
September 12 2011 11:19PM

 

The debate has raged for centuries, are we products of genetics or does our environment dictate the future outcome? Pro sports has it’s own version of this argument. Is drafting more important or is development? Would Mark Messier have been a Hall of Famer had Edmonton not selected him in the 3rd round of the 1979 entry draft? Would he have become that same player in another organization? How about Ken Daneyko? What if he had been drafted by Winnipeg instead of Jim Kyte in 1982? Would he still have realized all of that potential?

The NHL entry draft has been in existence since 1963. To be fair, the first several years were phased in because the 6 teams already owned most of the top players rights. The idea of the draft was to move away from territories and make the playing field level for all 6 teams. The draft saw many different versions until finally the stacked version of 1979 when the name was changed to the entry draft from the amateur draft. It then resembled what we see now with the exception that it was a bumper crop that in reality had three draft classes in one. Since that day, teams have been graded on how many players they produce. Some like Detroit and New Jersey are considered high end. Edmonton was above average in the 80’s and below average in the 90’s. Atlanta had some nice moments but their overall grade would be average at best, probably below.
 
Player development is more of a recent phenomenon. Truth be told, I can’t come up with the exact reason why teams started to finally pay attention to all things development that didn’t include the basics of a farm team. Was it a way to keep a veteran player in the organization? Was it purely innovation from someone like Roger Nielson? I would bet money it came to be because of the huge financial investment that teams put into the players and the cost of scouting. If a player development coach raises your success level of incorporating drafted talent into your lineup, you will save millions on free agents July 1.
 
As with all things this summer, everything is new for the Winnipeg Jets. There is a new GM, a new assistant GM, and many new front office staff members. They also brought in former Manitoba Moose Jimmy Roy to be their director of player development. The one department for the most part that did move to Winnipeg was the scouting staff, lead by director Mark Dobson. The merit of that decision is an argument for another day. In my opinion, one of the best decisions that Winnipeg made this summer was to become part of the Young Stars tournament which features Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and San Jose prospects.
 
Winnipeg had their first game tonight and played very well to earn a 4-0 win over San Jose. Mark Scheifele was dominant all night and his line mates Carl Klingberg and free agent signing Jason Gregoire were excellent. Edward Pasquale was in net for the shut out and looked very composed. His angles were perfect and he never seemed to be out of position. The player of the game may have been Levko Koper who may have to reconsider his decision to play for the University of Alberta this coming season. He scored a nifty goal on a 2 on 1 and capped the night with a short-handed empty netter.
 
You can catch the rest of the games on sportnet.ca as they will be streaming the tournament online and showing some games on TV. It’s your first chance to see all of this years draft class play together with the top picks from the previous Atlanta draft classes. Does a great tournament punch a player’s ticket to the NHL? Obviously not but it may get a fringe prospect an invite to the main camp. More importantly it gives the young players some quality time with the coaches and all of the support staff and helps them feel more comfortable. And really, isn’t that the point, to nurture your talented youth? 
 

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Dean has partied at Portage and Main (Bombers 1984,88,90) and cried (Jets rally 1995). He fondly remembers seeing Selanne's first goal, when Ellett scored in overtime, and not so fondly when they drafted Sergei Bautin. Is also a fan of the NFL Vikings and Raiders, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Oilers, and loves MMA. Participates in the best hockey pool ever and is addicted to Fantasy Football. He also has a weird fascination with the Bearcats. You can follow him on Twitter @bearcats_dean
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