After Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sent Andrew Ladd to gun for another cup, some of the Jets’ fans started expressing concern whether they should be cheering for Ladd to win the cup or not. Most (should be all, really) Jets fans truly appreciated the Jets’ captain, and wishes success for him…
…but there are some of us who are more analytical than emotional.
Part of the Jets’ return was a conditional pick. The condition was this: if the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, they will throw the Jets a third round pick in 2018. However, this would also mean the Hawks won their series in the playoffs, diminishing the value of the 2016 first round pick the Jets also received in return for Ladd.
So from this all business perspective, should the Jets cheer for Ladd to win?
Discerning the true value of a pick is difficult, especially when there are subjective elements like whether it is better to receive one good player versus two weaker but combinative equal players.
There is one way we can look at it though, with looking at the value of these picks relative to that of the first overall selection. This is something I’ve studied before, looking at the relative difference in pick selection value when used to garner new prospects versus trading for other draft picks.
What scenarios are possible?
The order of the NHL draft depends on both playoff success and the regular season. The last pick, number 30, goes to the Stanley Cup winner, with the second last pick going to the loser in the finals. The two teams that lose to those teams in the conference finals receive pick 28 or 27, with 28 going to the team with more regular season points. Then the remaining division winners will receive picks 23-26 in reverse order of their regular season point totals, with the team with the most regular season points receiving the 26th pick. The remaining playoff teams are then ordered in reverse order for picks 22 through 15.
Micah Blake McCurdy currently estimates the Chicago Blackhawks to earn 101.6 points, which would place them behind Washington, Dallas, LA, and Anaheim. DTM About Heart‘s model using his expected goal model places Chicago only behind Washington and Dallas. On average, this means we are looking at the Blackhawks likely finishing this season somewhere around 4th overall.
If this is the case, the only possible positions for the Blackhawks first-round selection is 30-19, with 18-15 being impossible to reach. Even then, 20-19 requires mostly upsets in the first round, which is incredibly rare to have.
The Blackhawks are loading up this season too, with the additions of Tomas Fleischmann, Dale Weise, and Christian Ehrhoff, as well as Andrew Ladd. It is more likely that the Blackhawks push themselves deep into the playoffs than not. However, the best team does not always win in the playoffs, as eloquently shown here by the late Tore Purdy.
The primary use of a draft pick is to simply add prospects to the cupboard. For this, we will look at a method produced by Michael Schuckers when he looked at probability of a draft selection making 200 NHL games played:
When we use this model to gauge the relative value of the possible selections we get the following:
Using this, we find that the Blackhawks winning the cup garners the Jets about 0.46 of the overall value, with a possible +/- 0.03 depending on Chicago’s performance in 2018.
So, from this model, the Jets optimal situation is for Ladd to earn his 3rd cup, with losing in the 1st round being the second best scenario, and so forth.
There is another, and often forgotten about, usage value to draft selections through the draft pick trade market. Draft picks have a perceived value, which differs from, while related to, their true-value in generating NHL talent.
Looking at the same pick spread as we did above, we get the following values:
The truth is trade value drops far faster than probability of success does, mostly due to the fact that teams rightfully give extra value to the elite, top-talent in the drafts first few picks beyond that in just their probability to make the NHL.
It all depends on what the Jets are trying to do with their picks.
If they are trying to just draft players, then the more selections they have, the more likely they will hit on players to make the NHL. In this case, Chicago winning the Stanley Cup is a best-case scenario.
If they are trying to use these picks as a form of trade chip, the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup may actually be a worst-case scenario.