Kyle Dubas had the following quote in Elliotte Friedman’s great 30 thoughts columns this week:
“Here’s the way I look at it,” he said. “Right now, we aren’t good enough to be picky about smaller players. We need as many elite players as we can. If we get into playoffs and are too small, or overwhelmed, it’s easier to trade small for size than draft for size and trade for skill.” (bolding my own)
The quote struck me as interesting because it takes a fundamentally different angle on the size debate than the one I personally ascribe to, and I wonder whether it is simply a matter of semantics, or whether there is actually more to this.
My sense was always that size is not easier to trade for than skill – assuming we mean top 6 size and not grinder size – but that the reason you want to draft for skill was simply that skill players have a higher success rate than big players who don’t score as much. You prefer guys who can score over guys with size because once you accumulate enough of them, you can overpay for the big players that have succeeded, and not bear the risk that they may be busts.
For example, over give years you could ascribe to plan A or plan B.
Plan A is that you draft ten players over five first/second rounds who you hope will be the next Milan Lucic. Let’s say two of them work out, you then trade one of them (plus prospects) for a smaller skilled player, say a Tyler Seguin-type.
Plan B is that you draft ten players over five first rounds who you hope will be the next Claude Giroux. Let’s say five of them work out (note these probabilities aren’t based on much, but bear with me, maybe they’re not all Claude Giroux but five of them are top 6 scorers). You can then trade two of them for a Lucic, or better, a Nash, and suddenly you have more pieces than you had in Plan A.
In essence, trading for size was actually harder than trading for scoring, but you ended up better off drafting for skill because those players tend to become stars far more often.