However, scouting and selecting players in the draft is not an exact science, even in the first round. For every player who takes off like a rocket, there is a player who crashes like a lead zeppelin. Those players earn the label of "draft bust."
Here is a list of the five biggest draft busts in Washington Capitals history, with one honorable mention. Each player is listed with his position in parentheses, along with the year, round and number of his draft selection (for example: 2013 1-23).
Note: All statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.
Chris Bourque earns honorable mention for being the only second-round selection on this list. But this supposedly talented center is definitely worth mentioning.
The son of the great Ray Bourque was a point-per-game producer with Washington's AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears between 2005-12, scoring 131 goals with 262 assists for 393 points in 392 games. He was money in the Calder Cup Playoffs as well, totaling 16 goals, 48 assists and 64 points in 73 playoff games with four game-winning goals.
Despite his success in the minors, however, Bourque was a bust in the NHL. During two stints with the team between 2007-10, the Boston native registered all of one point in 13 regular season games with the Capitals.
The underachieving Bourque was the fourth selection by the Capitals in the 2004 NHL Draft, made famous by the team's selection of Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick and Mike Green with the 29th overall pick. With the help of Chris Bourque and one other member of this list, the Washington Capitals' 2004 Draft will forever be viewed as "boom or bust".
Hear me out on this one.
But Schultz was a first-round draft pick. He was supposed to have more than four good seasons in a row. In fact, this stay-at-home defender was supposed to be the cornerstone of the Capitals defense for the next decade. Alas, the foundation began to crumble in 2011-12.
Schultz started that season playing below his standards, eventually losing the faith of Bruce Boudreau, Schultz's first NHL coach and the man who coached him at the AHL level with the Hershey Bears. According to The Washington Times, Schultz was eventually healthy scratched by Boudreau.
Dale Hunter was hired Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 to replace Boudreau, and Hunter's defensive philosophy replaced the offensive mentality of Boudreau. Despite this new emphasis on defense, Schultz could not win over his new coach either.
According to The Washington Post, Schultz was a healthy scratch for 14 of the first 20 Capitals games with Dale Hunter behind the bench. By the end of the season, Schultz played in only 54 games despite no injuries, and his 15:08 of average time on ice was the lowest in his career at the time.
The debut of Adam Oates for the 2012-13 season marked Schultz's third coach in 14 months, but another coaching change saw no improvement from Schultz. Oates frequently employed the healthy scratch with Schultz as well, at one point justifying his decision by saying “sometimes you ask a guy to take a step back and re-evaluate themselves." For the season, Schultz played in only 26 of a possible 48 games and set a new career-low in average time on ice at 14:15.
Over the last two seasons, Schultz played in 80 of a possible 130 regular season games (or 62 percent), and 10 of a possible 21 playoff games. In the previous two seasons, Schultz played in 145 of a possible 164 regular seasons games (or 88 percent), and 16 of 16 playoff games.
Brian McNally of The Washington Examiner tweeted on May 30 that Schultz himself is growing tired of this trend, and demands action:
#Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz, frustrated by lack of playing time the past 2 seasons, has asked team for a trade. Details on blog in a bit— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) May 30, 2013
This is what it has come to, after being a former first-round draft pick Jeff Schultz saw his playing time curtailed by three different coaching staffs with three different systems. All of whom would have loved to pencil in a shutdown defender like Schultz on their blue line every night. The continued inability by a player of Schultz's pedigree to crack the lineup despite a lack of injuries, along with Schultz's inability to perform when he did crack the lineup, reveal that he is indeed a draft bust. Sad but true.
The year he was drafted, Corriveau scored 23 goals in 59 games for the Toronto Marlboros of the OHL.
The following year, while also debuting for the Capitals, Corriveau scored 54 goals in 59 games for the Marlies.
But that player never showed up for the Capitals.
In 146 games in Washington from 1985-1990, Corriveau scored only 23 goals with 18 assists, for a mere 41 points. In 18 playoff games with the Caps, Corriveau scored one goal and registered two assists.
During that same period, Corriveau played 82 games in the OHL and 75 games in the AHL. As the Hockey Hall of Fame notes, these continual trips back and forth between multiple levels of hockey negatively affected Corriveau:
It was apparent that any confidence Corriveau may have had was long gone. He was once quoted as saying bouncing between the NHL and the minors had taken its toll on him. He noted that it was tough to get called back up to the big leagues, only to get two or three shifts a game, or to sit in the press box time and time again.
Although, if the Ontario native had played to his ability in the first place, he never would have earned all those demotions.
The NHL dreams of Pat Peake were not busted.
They were broken, concussed and shattered.
After being drafted 14th overall in 1991 NHL Draft, Peake starred in the OHL, scoring 58 goals with 78 assists in 46 games in 1992-93. Peake was promoted to the NHL the next season, but he only played 134 games with the Capitals from 1993-1998. Joe Pelletier of WashingtonCapitalsLegends.com explains that a series of severe, unfortunate and even bizarre injuries kept Peake from realizing his potential:
But as quickly as the accolades came, so did the bad luck. Peake endured a variety of injuries to his ankles, shoulders, kidney and knees. He even suffered a concussion in a car accident, had mononucleosis and broke cartilage in his thyroid.
The final insult came during the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, on a seemingly innocent play:
Pat Peake remembers April 26, 1996, like it just happened. It’s impossible for him to forget it. The Washington Capitals center was 22 years old when he was trying to negate an icing play against J.J. Daigneault of the Pittsburgh Penguins. All of a sudden, Peake said, he was “water skiing.” His right heel bone broke in 14 places and twisted. “I remember looking down and I can remember [referee] Kerry Fraser being the first guy over,” Peake recalled. “My right foot was out while both my knees were facing up. I said I think I’m going to be sick. I remember Kerry Fraser there, he was just fantastic. He said: ‘Turn this way if you’re going to be sick, ESPN camera’s right there. What can I do? Take your time.’ ”
After that injury, Peake had nothing but time. The once-promising teenage phenom played only five more games in the NHL, failing at a comeback bid. Peake retired at the age of 24, with 28 goals, 41 assists and 69 points to his name.
Some hockey players are judged not by who they are, but by who they are not. Such a player is forced to shoulder all of the responsibility when a certain franchise drafts them instead of a more highly regarded player. The ensuing comparisons—however unfair—will haunt this innocent player for the rest of his career.
Such is the fate of one Darren Veitch, chosen fifth overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1980 NHL Draft. Veitch was the third defender selected in the Top Five, but his selection was immediately followed by that of another defender. Take a look at the first six picks in that year's draft, paying close attention to the sixth pick:
- Montreal: Doug Wickenheiser (C)
- Winnipeg: Dave Babych (D)
- Chicago: Denis Savard (C)
- Los Angeles: Larry Murphy (D)
- Washington: Darren Veitch (D)
- Edmonton: Paul Coffey (D)
Instead, the Capitals selected Darren Veitch: 257 career points, 15 career playoff points; owner of zero Stanley Cup rings; member of the Moncton Hawks.
Joe Pelletier of WashingtonCapitalsLegends.com wrote that Darren Veitch "was actually quite serviceable even if he never reached the high expectations placed upon him."
Caps fans did indeed place high expectations upon Veitch because Washington chose to draft him instead of Paul Coffey. And no, a player who turns out to be "quite serviceable" is not acceptable compensation for a future Hall of Famer.
Greg Joly was the first draft selection in the history of the Washington Capitals franchise. He was expected to make an immediate and lasting impact on the team he unwittingly joined. Instead, Joly became the Capitals' biggest draft bust, although it is now painfully obvious he was the victim of circumstance.
Being drafted by an expansion team meant that the 20-year-old Joly was never afforded the luxury of developing in the minor leagues. Instead, he was immediately called up to the NHL, a decision that may have affected his entire professional career:
Defenceman [sic] Greg Joly was supposed to be the foundation of the Washington Capitals in the first few seasons. He ended up being a solid blueliner who played 365 career games. Joly might have turned out better had he been allowed to develop in the minors instead of being thrown to wolves on one of the weakest teams in NHL history.
Joly played the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons in Washington, suiting up for only 98 games due to various injuries. He totaled nine goals and 24 assists with 72 PIMs. Joly's abysmal plus/minus rating of minus-114 provides at least partial proof of the quality of those Capitals teams in the early days.
Nevertheless, the Caps were unsatisfied with Joly, and traded him to Detroit for an enforcer in November 1976. Joly played the rest of his unspectacular career in Detroit, retiring at 31. As Capitals.com says, "Like many before and after him, Joly never did live up to the expectations and pressure of being a number-one draft pick."