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Another take on Gropp

Jon did an excellent piece the other day breaking down the decision by Ryan Gropp to make a commitment to the University of North Dakota. I've seen comments on here blasting the kid for his decision and I think that is completely unfair. Let's look at the circumstances.

I think we all need to admit as Tbirds fans that we're a bit biased towards the CHL route over the NCAA route and I'm certainly a member of that club. I personally think the CHL is the best route for kids that are high/top end prospects. Assuming Gropp gets drafted and has a successful college career and assume he sticks around through his Senior year (not a lock certainly) he'll probably then need at least 1 or perhaps 2 seasons in the AHL and maybe he carves out a role for himself by the time he's 24. If my son had the kind of talent that Gropp has, I would have told him to take a shot at using his gifted talent and try making it to the NHL as fast as possible. It isn't the "only" way to do it but going the CHL route appears to give a young man the chance at getting to the big leagues faster than going the NCAA route.

Now... maybe he gets there sooner, we don't really know but let's take the test example of Danny Kristo. Kristo just completed a very successful Senior season at UND. He played two years in the U.S. Development program before getting drafted in the 2nd round (not bad at all) and playing in Omaha for a season. He then won WCHA Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman at UND posting 15 goals and 36 points. He stayed for 3 more seasons earning WCHA 1st team honors as a Senior posting 26 goals and 26 assists. So he must be going straight to the Montreal lineup right? Oh... he went to Hamilton where he played 9 games and just got traded to the Rangers. If Danny Kristo can't crack an NHL lineup before he is 23 what makes us think Gropp could? (and of course... maybe he will... this is just an example). Of course, there are examples of kids that do it. Colin Wilson went 7th overall to Nashville in the same draft, played two seasons at Boston U. and wound up skipping his final two years of college to play in Milwaukee and Nashville the following year. There are also plenty of CHL kids that were in the same draft that haven't seen the NHL yet either: Kyle Beach at 13 (snicker...), Chet Pickard at 18, Nicolas Deschamps at 35 and Eric O'Dell at 39 are some examples.

Furthermore... while I would certainly place my child's education in high regards I firmly believe that if you want your education badly enough you can always go back to school or get your education while playing professional sports. Players that get their education while playing or after playing are likely in the minority but it does happen. You literally have a lifetime to get your education but you have a very small window of opportunity to become a pro and hit it big. The school experience is a great one, I greatly enjoyed my time at Willamette playing baseball but I would trade it in a heartbeat if I had had a chance to go play pro ball.

So... it's not the decision that I would have made if my kid was the 6th overall pick in the Bantam Draft but you have to keep in mind that due to these F'd up NCAA rules the path to the CHL is a one way street. By keeping his options open, he can literally pack up and leave UND at any time (sorry UND fans). If he had come to Seattle (and wasn't sure about what he wanted to do) he would have literally been stuck. This leaves his options open. I wouldn't have made this choice... but I don't blame him for doing so.

Who do I blame?

If you go back to the 2011 Bantam Draft the Kamloops Blazers (Gropp's hometown team) had the 4th overall selection in the draft and passed on taking Gropp. I've been told by several sources that Gropp had told Kamloops not to draft him or had at least told them he wasn't sure but we don't really know what was said and what wasn't said. Did he tell Kamloops not to take him but didn't mention it to Seattle? Did he tell Kamloops he just wasn't sure and didn't tell Seattle? Did he tell Seattle he wasn't sure? I have no idea.

It is safe to say though that Gropp likely didn't tell Seattle "Yes, I'm definitely coming" and then suddenly had a change of heart. He seems to have been fairly honest the entire time that he genuinely wasn't sure what he was going to do and had he known he was going to go the college route he could have committed earlier than he did. He also actually came to camp as a 15 year old before leaving before the first exhibition game. So, rather than making assumptions I'm just going to go with the facts. Kamloops passed on him at 4 and to me that signals that there is at least "some" risk in his selection. Could Kamloops have simply liked Jordan Thomson that much more? Perhaps, but that scenario doesn't pass my smell test.

We'll likely never know exactly what was said and what wasn't said or how close Seattle was (or is) to having Gropp change his mind and come to Seattle but the decision to draft Gropp amounted to a gamble by GM Russ Farwell and Director of Player Personnel Colin Alexander. I personally don't think you take that gamble with the #6 overall pick but as I said we also don't know exactly what was said and what wasn't.

I don't think it's fair to put this on Ryan Gropp. If I were to guess based on the events that we know and not things we don't know for sure, it appears as though Gropp had considerable doubt from the beginning and that Seattle definitely had a chance. Ultimately, he decided to go the NCAA route and leave Seattle as a backup option. We all know it wouldn't have worked the other way around.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20 and this was a gamble that didn't hit and it will cost the team and the franchise. Getting Mathew Barzal is gigantic for the franchise but somewhere down the road they're probably going to wish they had the #6 overall pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft playing alongside him.


Anonymous said...

Not saying this was their plan all along, but the T-birds trade of Noebels to Portland for two #1 picks, sorta softens the blow of missing out on Gropp (at least for now). The T-birds have two players, Kolesar & Elder, they would not have had without that deal and both are younger and should be here longer then Gropp would have been. Of course it would be nice to have them AND Gropp, but they took a gamble on a supposed uber-talented player and lost. Everett did the same thing with Seth Jones a few years earlier. They could have drafted Hunter Shinkaruk instead. In fact Everett had two #1 picks that draft (Nick Walters)and have since traded both away.

Unknown said...

Well good luck to Gropp in the NCAA.

The front office can't reach with a #6 overall pick for a guy who is 50-50 to come to the league. You reach for those guys in the 3rd or 4th round and effectively give yourself two first round picks. I do agree with the anon above that having the extra two first round picks the last two years are going to help mitigate this mistake. Though you are left with a big hole in that age group for forwards unless Holub really blossoms.

Mr Tell13 said...

I thinck it is too easy to blame the organisation on the pick. Like Tyler mentionned, nobody really knows what was going on at the draft.
So lets say that the tbirds are deciding to pick him later, maybe he is not available "later". So it is a risk, either way.

And I really don't blame the player to go the NCAA route if that is what they feel is best. I really make my BS meter go off when I hear people say that such and such player are taking the "educational" route when you see a guy like Danny Kristo graduate in "tourism and recreational travel" studies.
We are a long way from Joe Juneau getting a engineering degree (in 3 years)at RPI.

Unknown said...

Basically the T-birds didn't have a first round pick for that draft now. I think it would be better to take some one else and come back to the riskier player and oh well if another team has taken that risk before you have your chance. You then explain it to your fans by saying you didn't think the player was committed to the WHL route and didn't want to risk a pick that should be a cornerstone player. You have the #6 picks, you only have to get a feel on 6 guys, can the GMs and scouts now talk to the players prior to the draft and see which way they are leaning or if they are totally up in the air?

The players should always do what they feel is best for them. It would be really nice if the NCAA would allow players that commit to the CHL retain their eligibility. Heck players would then be able to go to the WHL for two years and if they decided it wasn't for them they could then go to the NCAA and be the right age for incoming freshmen.

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