During my article on Jim Benning’s asset management history, I began thinking about comparing draft pick values to points percentage. I wanted to get an idea of how teams that sold draft capital saw an impact on their overall points percentage.
I decided to take a look. I started with Michael Schuckers’ 2011 paper on relative draft pick valuation. Schuckers identified that on aggregate, trading down was more likely to yield surplus value than most believed. These findings have since been replicated by Garret Hohl and later Dom Luszczyszyn who identified a weaker version of the trend.
Draft Capital Management
I compiled the trades from the end of the 2015 season to 2020 trade deadline that involved at least one draft pick. Next, I used Michael Schuckers’ relative draft pick value data to attach a relative to each pick on the move. There’s a bit of hindsight here: managers making trades didn’t always know the position they were trading from or to at the time (sorry San Jose).
This allowed me to isolate the net buyers and sellers over the last five years. Cumulatively, the Detroit Red Wings have been the draft pick enthusiasts of the bunch, obtaining several first-round picks of additional value through the trade market. The Flames have been the draft pick haters, fuelled by their sale of two first-round picks and several seconds:
The Canucks’ change in overall value since 2016 is approximately equal to giving up the 16th overall pick (Toffoli trade included, Schmidt trade excluded). This makes intuitive sense. The team gave up the 20th overall pick in the JT Miller trade, and other exchanges of seconds and thirds (the Torts compensation was included) moved them up the draft board in net value loss.
Next, I used the draft capital data as a manager evaluation tool. I thought it would still be interesting to see who bought draft capital in advance of a season for “win now” assets and compare that purchase to the team’s subsequent points percentage. Any sale of draft capital should see some kind of impact on points percentage.
I took all the draft capital changes for a given team that happened between the draft and trade deadline and attached them to a given season. Next, I grabbed the team’s points percentage for that season.
Using the data I collected, CanucksArmy’s Brett Lee put together a tableau viz with logos:
You can play around with the viz yourself here. There are a couple of trends to highlight. The first is how the Canucks have done:
Winning came at a significant cost last year. The Canucks gave up a first, a second and a third (plus more in Tyler Madden) for a less-than-commensurate impact on points percentage.
So how bad have the Canucks been according to the data?
Keep in mind that as an individual variable for performance prediction, draft capital isn’t very accurate. I ran a regression with the following output. The low R^2 value indicates significant variation:
In regular speak, the output implies that while draft-capital does impact points percentage, there are other significant factors at play.
According to the regression, the Canucks rank 28th on the average difference between expected points percentage by draft capital, and actual points percentage. Detroit slides in ahead of Buffalo and Arizona, fueled by their abysmal 2020 season for which they didn’t accumulate picks at a rate commensurate with their losing. The Wings’ result surprised me: it turns out that they broke history by being so awful in 2020 that their cumulative buying habits couldn’t save them.
So I’d say this: the Canucks would be 29th, but Detroit cheated last year.
Here’s the complete list:
Keep in mind: this is average yearly difference in predicted vs actual performance. As a result, Colorado is heavily skewed by their accidental tank (this year was excluded).
Washington stands up impressively here. The team ranked 26th in draft capital over the period, but offset that spend with very strong seasonal results.
Though an imperfect methodology, it’s unsurprising to find many perennial basement-dwellers at the bottom of the list. Harvesting assets is incredibly important. Arming a strong scouting department with multiple chances at the draft table dramatically increases the probability of landing a player like Adam Fox.
If the Canucks are to escape the basement of shame, I think it’s time to start recognizing the value of a draft pick and banking for the future.