The NHL Entry Draft is a crap shoot.
With the Stanley Cup drought hitting 42 years, fans often ask themselves, "What if?"
No one can ever predict what sort of career an NHL player will have, but good scouting and a solid front office can go a long way in helping determine who will be good or great.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were the laughing stock of the NHL in the 1980s. If they had good management and ownership, things could have been much different.
Looking at many of the players I will mention, I realize that other teams missed a good pick, but their draft history doesn't reek like Leafs.
In 1981, Toronto selected Jim Benning with the sixth pick.
Who they could've had: Grant Fuhr, Al MacInnis or Chris Chelios.
In 1982, Toronto selected Gary Nylund third overall.
Who they could've had: Scott Stevens, Phil Housley or Dave Andreychuk.
In 1983 they drafted Russ Courtnall who was a solid pick. The Leafs later traded him for John Kordic, which is viewed as one of the Leafs' worst trades in history.
Another solid pick was made in 1984 when they took Al Iafrate fourth overall.
In 1985, fan favourite Wendel Clark was selected with the top pick in the draft. The mistake was made in the second round when Toronto took Ken Spangler.
Players drafted below Spangler include Sean Burke, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Richter.
1986 saw another solid pick by the Leafs when they took Vincent Damphousse six picks into the first round.
It looked like the Leafs were maybe turning the page and making good choices. Well it only got worse from there.
In 1987, the Leafs passed on a Burnaby, BC boy because he was seen as too small for the NHL. So, with the seventh pick, Toronto took Luke Richardson.
The boy from Burnaby (aka Joe Sakic) was instead chosen 15th overall.
When 1988 rolled around, Toronto had the sixth overall pick. A number of future stars were waiting for their name to be called: Martin Gelinas, Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind'Amour and Teemu Selanne.
The Leafs said thanks but no thanks and selected Scott Pearson.
Maybe in 1989 they would get it right...Then again, it's the Leafs we are talking about.
Scott Thornton was selected third overall.
So who went below Mr. Thornton?
Just a few names like Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, Olaf Kolzig, Adam Foote and Nik Lidstrom.
The final year I will mention is 1990. With the 10th pick, the Leafs took Drake Berehowsky. Leafs fans waved good-bye to the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Bryan Smolinski and Martin Brodeur.
Taking a look at what could have been has been the hot topic among disgruntled Leafs faithful. As mentioned earlier, it's difficult to predict who will be a boom and who will bust.
It's also unlikely that, even if the Leafs took a couple of these players, that they would have played with the team for long. But their value could have set the foundation for succesful Leafs teams for years to come.
Is it possible that a Stanley Cup banner might be waving in the rafters of the ACC if the Leafs had a dedicated and hockey smart front office?
It's an argument which could last until the cows come home.
But Leafs fans should feel more confident this year than ever before. A revamped management team and a commitment to rebuilding could be what has lacked for years.
Brian Burke will have his work cut out for him in the summer, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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