The last time the Los Angeles Kings played at the Air Canada Centre was December 6, 2005. By comparison, since that time the Sabres have played seventeen regular season games in Toronto.
Only two Kings and three Leafs remain from that game, a 2-1 Kings win - Brown, Frolov, Kaberle, Ponikarovsky and Stajan. Both franchises have undergone significant changes but neither has made the playoffs since the lockout. LA has failed to qualify for the post-season in six consecutive years and Toronto is well on their fifth straight early April tee-time.
Post-lockout the Leafs have a total of 389 points, 21 ahead of the Kings. But although these organizations are similar in that they have been two of the least successful in recent years, they couldn't be more different when it comes to draft philosophy. Over that time, the Kings have drafted twice as many players in the first three rounds of the draft than Toronto.
In fact if you go back to 2003 which was the draft that helped shape the direction of many current franchises and move ahead through 2011, the Kings have selected eleven players in the first round and still hold their 2010 and 2011 selections while the Leafs have drafted four and traded their next two first rounders:
2005 - No. 21 Tuukka Rask
2006 - No. 13 Jiri Tlusty
2008 - No. 5 Luke Schenn
2009 - No. 7 Nazem Kadri
vs. Los Angeles:
2003 - No. 13 Dustin Brown
2003 - No. 26 Brian Boyle
2003 - No. 27 Jeff Tambellini
2004 - No. 11 Lauri Tukonen
2005 - No. 11 Anze Kopitar
2006 - No. 11 Jonathan Bernier
2006 - No. 17 Trevor Lewis
2007 - No. 4 Thomas Hickey
2008 - No. 2 Drew Doughty
2008 - No. 13 Colten Teubert
2009 - No. 5 Brayden Schenn
2010 - No. 1 To Come/Trade
2011 - No. 1 To Come/Trade
This overwhelming discrepancy carries over into the second and third rounds too.
The Leafs have selected: John Doherty, Martin Sagat, Justin Pogge, Phil Oreskovic, Nikolai Kulemin, Dale Mitchell, Jimmy Hayes, Kenny Ryan, Jesse Blacker and Jamie Devane,
Los Angeles has drafted twenty prospects in the round two and three: Konstantin Pushkarev, Ryan Munce, Paul Baier, Dany Roussin, T.J. Fast, Jonathan Quick, Joey Ryan, Jeff Zatkoff, Bud Holloway, Oscar Moller, Wayne Simmonds, Bryan Cameron, Vyacheslav Voynov, Robert Czarnik, Andrew Campbell, Geordie Wudrick, Kyle Clifford and Nicolas Deslauriers.
And that gap is going to spread even further with LA holding two second-round picks and three third-round picks in 2010 and one each in 2011, while the Leafs have but one third-rounder in 2010 and one second-rounder in 2011.
Draft Picks (Selected and Scheduled), 2003 to 2011
History has shown that it's often difficult to rebuild properly without an accumulation of draft picks but the Leafs chose to trade a total of ten draft picks for Phil Kessel, Luke Schenn, Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell. To acquire those four players they dealt:
4 x 1st Rounders (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011)
3 x 2nd Rounders (2007, 2009, 2011)
2 x 3rd Rounders (2008, 2011)
1 x 4th Rounder (2007)
Not all teams are built with high draft picks though, as there are as many opinions amongst GMs on the right way to build an organization, as there are teams. For example, Detroit has thrived largely due to stellar late round drafting. And of course there are teams that have drafted or developed their prospects poorly and haven't been able to progress despite a multitude of picks.
Here's a look at where teams have drafted from 2003 to 2009 – I assigned the following point system to compare both quality and quantity of draft slot (not the actual player selection):
No. 1 to No. 5 overall – 9 pts
No. 6 to No. 9 overall – 7 pts
No. 11 to No. 20 overall – 5 pts
No. 21 to No. 30 overall – 3 pts
No. 31 to No. 60 overall – 1 pt
For the most part the teams that appear at the bottom are teams that have been on top of the league, so they end up drafting low and trading picks to acquire help for the playoffs.
Time will tell whether the Kings' rebuild will eventually payoff but you have to think that the future looks bright with a good young team and high level prospects like Bernier, Hickey and Schenn on the horizon. They're currently sitting in a playoff spot, their AHL team is third overall, they placed four players on Canada's World Junior squad and they currently hold six top 90 picks in the 2010 draft. Dean Lombardi has been patient and the franchise is poised for success moving forward.
At the other end of the spectrum lies the Leafs. They're in 28th overall, their AHL affiliate is 27th overall and they aren't set to draft until the third round this summer. They have a few nice building blocks but the climb to become a contender will be a difficult one without recent draftees and future picks to fill the pipeline and to deal. July 1st will continue to be the most important day of the calendar year for the Leafs, a day where impact players rarely hit the market, competition for talent is fierce and prices are typically sky high.
It's a tough challenge but Brian Burke knows what he's up against so it will be fascinating to see his plan unfold and to see what the Leafs and Kings will look like the next time they meet in Toronto two seasons from now.
Contact Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, questions or ideas for future columns. You can also follow him on Twitter @dtolensky.
Daniel Tolensky is a part-time hockey analyst and full-time CFO at an advertising agency in Toronto. He's a rare double-threat - Certified Management Accountant and a member of the Pro Hockey Writer's Association. Since he began writing he has been mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada and was published in The Hockey News. He was also referenced in the Montreal Gazette and National Post and he appeared on multiple radio shows.
Tolensky's 'Beyond the Scoresheet' column will be found on TSN.ca all season long. He will also be contributing to FromTheRink.com and can be heard weekly on XM 204's 'Business of Hockey' show.