Tuesday, September 23, 2008

History not on Bogosian's side

My post on Zach Bogosian not being ready to make the Thrashers didn't exactly win me a lot of friends in Atlanta on the weekend:
Mirtle wonders whether eighteen-year-old Zacho Bogosian is old enough to "make an immediate impact" in the National Hockey League. Actually, he doesn't wonder; he's certain ...

To which I would answer: How does he know? What "facts" tell him this? PERHAPS Bogosian isn't NHL-ready, but perhaps he is. We don't know yet. That's what training camp is for.
Well, let's put it this way: If he makes the team and plays a full season on the Thrashers blueline, he's certainly in some pretty rarified company.

First a bit of clarification: Of possible comparables Rob Blake and Chris Pronger, blogger Mortimer Peacock says "both of them entered the league at age 18 and put up some impressive numbers."

A veteran of three NCAA seasons, Blake was actually 20 before he stepped foot on an NHL ice surface and was 21 two months into his first full season. So he doesn't count.

Pronger, meanwhile, did step in immediately after being drafted, but turned 19 that fall in early October. A future Hart and Norris winner, he was decent on an awful Whalers team that first season — but there are certainly those out there who will tell you he was rushed into the league far too soon. (He also got into all sorts of off-ice trouble playing at that age.)

In terms of birthdates, Bogosian's is quite late, and he was the second youngest player taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. He won't be 19 until next July, and at that age, finding players who have succeeded on the blueline recently is very tough.

Only three defencemen in the last 20 years have played 50-plus games exclusively as an 18-year-old: Aki Berg and Kyle McLaren in 1995-96, and Roman Hamrlik in 1992-93.

Hamrlik turned 19 in April that year (and went minus-21 that season) while the other two have June birthdates.

Maybe those nine months difference between someone like Bogosian and a player like Pronger don't matter, but if that's the case, you wonder why so few of these "younger" defencemen play in the league. Very few have even had tryouts recently: Brent Burns played 36 games four years ago, mainly as a forward; Lukas Krajicek and Rostislav Klesla also had cups of coffee.

That's it.

Even if you expand the definition to players that played as 19 year olds, there aren't a lot of success stories recently. Erik Johnson did it last season and Marc-Edouard Vlasic a year earlier, but other than that?

Jay Bouwmeester might be the best cautionary tale, if only because of how recently he made the jump. Bouwmeester played all 82 games at age 19 in 2002-03, but he had only 16 points and was minus-29 while playing 20 minutes a night on a team that finished 27th in the league.

Fast forward five years: Bouwmeester turns 25 on Saturday and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. Barring a minor miracle that sees the Panthers rise up the standings in the early going, he'll be dealt off in midseason to the highest bidder.

It doesn't take a genius to see the parallels there, and wonder if it's really worth the trade off.

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At 1:51 a.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous Jealous Broadcaster said...

They're a bit testy in the ATL!

'How dare you form an educated argument and make an informed observation...


At 7:40 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Whale4ever said...

Awesome link to the Pronger/SI article, James.

Ah, those were the good old days...

At 7:54 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Brooklyn Hockey Boy said...

"Blake doesn't count anyways."

It always cracks me up when people use examples just because the name is famous, when really they're way off.

At 8:12 a.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could somebody explain why that guy calls his blog "The South Ossetia of the hockey blogosphere"? He's protected by the Russian Army? He's in Georgia (the US state) but wants to breakaway? The UN refuses to recognize the existence of his blog?

I've come to believe that everything and anything having to do with the Thrashers will be decided by ownership's bottom line. Several top-level management jobs in ASG were vacated and left unfilled this summer: ownership is "taking a more active role." They are battening down the hatches for a tough season financially: I can just imagine the reaction of those semi-rich wannabees when Waddell (supposedly) went on a conference call early last week to discuss picking up Schneider's $5.5 million dollar contract, just as the financial markets were collapsing.

At 8:14 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger C. said...

You're referring to only defencemen, right?

Otherwise, I could point out that there is another Atlanta Thrashers player who started at 18.

Ilya Kovalchuk.

At 8:38 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) C; We are fairly sure james was referring to 18 year old defensemen as there are lots of examples of 18 yr old forwards who have contributed quite a bit recently. ; )
2) The biggest question to ask Waddell, is why rush the kid? As was pointed out it will burn a year from his 7 until UFA for what? A chance to lose 40+ games and be a -30 in the process?

At 9:51 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger wade little said...

Why is this even being argued?

Whaler fans will tell you their patience ran thin quite fast. A brawl here, a DUI there, and out the window was the management's trust for Pronger.

Not to mention, it took a Keenan and a MacInnis to put the guy back on track. You can't tell me they have ANYONE of that calibre in Atlanta to help the kid. He's not being surrounded by anything comfortable, with no true oppurtunities to succeed.

Send him back to Peterborough, allow him to get some of that leadership a defenseman of his style/skill needs in the NHL. He's a big kid and he's only going to get bigger and better.

But lets not depend on Atlanta making the right decision. Waddell's guillotine is being sharpened as we speak - he's the kind of GM who would rely on a sinking brick to save his ass.

With that said, I think Bogosian will know if he's ready or not. And if he's smart enough, he'll pull a Jack Johnson and want out of that terrible market (I don't condone it, but it would be smart).

At 9:55 a.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous exwhaler said...

>>>"You're referring to only defencemen, right?"<<<

I think that's obvious, especially considering that defensemen historically have a much longer developmental curve than forwards. You can't compare the two.

At 9:57 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger FrenchCatalogues said...

Good post, I obviously enjoyed being a member of the blog in reference. Down here (in Atlanta) we are looking for somebody to help us, and we will go so far and hope that this young Bogosian will make a difference soon. Most of us don't think he is going to make some immediate impact and be this savior to the team. We aren't fools. But, we need something to be excited about. It can be hard being a fan of this team.

At 10:16 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Big Shooter said...

I also am a member of The Blueland Chronicle. We are excited about Bogo because our team sucked last year. We gave away Coburn, and we see Bogo as his replacement. I don't expect him to have a huge year, but do expect him to make the team. It will be a few years before his impact is really felt.

Ah, Mortimer Peacock got caught not checking all the details as far as Blake and Pronger's age... I LOVE IT!!!!! :)

At 10:35 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Chemmy said...

"Otherwise, I could point out that there is another Atlanta Thrashers player who started at 18."

And how have the Thrashers done with Kovalchuk? How will the Thrashers look when Kovalchuk gets traded at the deadline of the 09-10 season?

Everyone wants to see their high draft picks show up and contribute, but this is the salary cap era. In Toronto, prior to the current CBA there'd be no problem bringing up a guy like Luke Schenn. Who cares if he's a UFA one year earlier, you can pay him.

You can't do that any more. There's no sense wasting a year of a promising player's RFA status if you're not going to even sniff the playoffs, especially if that player is good enough to take you out of the draft lottery.

At 10:46 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Mortimer Peacock said...

Oh, 20 is close enough!

Anyway, when I was referring to the "facts" that tell you Bogosian won't make an immediate impact, I didn't mean necessarily facts about 18 year old defensemen in the NHL in general; I meant to make you consider which facts about Bogosian as an individual player told you he wouldn't make an impact.

The point of the post wasn't to say that I'm dead certain he'll make an immediate impact; the point was that we simply don't know that much about Bogosian as a specific player. I SUPPOSE it makes statistical sense to think of him as just another representative of a general category called 18 Year Old Defensemen, but surely ignores specifics about him and him only.

Does that make any sense?

On the other hand, I DO take your point about Bouwmeester. Cautionary tale indeed.

About South Ossetia: the clues here are the US state of Georgia and the existence of Ilya Kovalchuk. Figure from there.

At 12:48 p.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Scott said...

I think that the Thrashers need Bogosian('s bonuses) on the team in order to make the salary floor. Unless that changes, he's certainly going to make the team.

At 1:25 p.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Chemmy said...

Scott: unless the Thrashers are run by complete morons, they won't bring up Bogosian to hit the salary floor.

There are plenty of washed up veterans with bad contracts Atlanta could pick up, and they'd probably get draft picks in addition.

At 1:36 p.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The point of the post wasn't to say that I'm dead certain he'll make an immediate impact; the point was that we simply don't know that much about Bogosian as a specific player.

But that's nonsense. I live just over an hour from Peterborough and their games are on television all the time here. Bogosian's good but he wasn't on the world junior team and he plays a style that's going to make it more difficult for him to succeed as a young player.

He's not Bobby Orr and he's not going to win the Calder Trophy. He won't be the difference between Atlanta making the playoffs and not.

What he is is good enough to get into the Thrashers' top six, but I don't know that that should be the mark he has to hit.

At 2:30 p.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Mortimer Peacock said...


I didn't say that he'll be the difference between the Thrashers making the playoffs or not, and I certainly didn't say he's going to win the Calder. I'm not sure where you got the impression that I think he's Bobby Orr.

All I said is that I'm not sure his development into a top four defenseman would be hampered by one year spent on the Thrashers' third pairing. I DO think Bogosian will eventually become an elite defenseman, but I'm certainly not expecting anything beyond competence on the third pairing this season.

OF COURSE the Thrashers won't get into the playoffs because of Bogosian. They'll get into playoffs because management came to its senses and traded Garnet Exelby for Kyle McLaren and Ken Klee for Mathieu Schneider. :)

At 3:25 p.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how have the Thrashers done with Kovalchuk? How will the Thrashers look when Kovalchuk gets traded at the deadline of the 09-10 season?

Will he be traded ... or will they hold onto him for dear life in a desperate attempt to make the playoffs and then lose him for nothing because he's sick and tired of losing every single year?

At 5:47 p.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous Aaron said...

I don't know how close of a comparison you can draw between Pronger and Bogo when comes to their off-ice demeanor. One of Bogosian's highly-touted upsides is his unusual maturity. Even at his current age, Pronger's maturity has been called into question. Bogo's maturity may very well be the thing that gets him through the first season without catching "rushed-rookie" syndrome.

At 8:02 p.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous MikeP said...

Thik of it this way: he'd have to be very unusually mature indeed to somehow surpass virtually every other defenceman in the recent history of the league.

Yes, he could be the next Chris Pronger. But players like Chris Pronger come along once every generation. Players like Nick Stajduhar and Brad Brown come along almost every year.


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