If the NHL was a game of Monopoly, where would the Anaheim Ducks be sitting in terms of the game state?
I recently read a finance article that likened the accumulation of wealth to the famous wealth-building game Monopoly. The general context of the article was that to accrue wealth the aim should be to place as many assets on the board as soon as possible.
For the most part, the article focused on “compound interest,” or the concept that assets owned will increase in value over their lifespan. If not those particular assets long term, then using those assets as equity to acquire further assets, thus building an overall portfolio. In the game of Monopoly, as an addition to this idea of compounding asset value, the early accumulation of assets also serves to both starve the competition of quality pieces they may be looking to acquire.
Hockey and Monopoly
There are some of you getting to this stage and wondering what financial health and a board game has to do with hockey and the Anaheim Ducks? To my mind, it is that the building of a team is the accumulation of various assets over a period of time. Usually, in the eyes of the fan at least, in the shortest time possible.
For many rebuilding teams, this typically means the selling off of mature assets in order to collect numerous draft assets or young players. The primary goal behind this is rooted in the somewhat proven idea that most championship teams, across all sports, contain a critical mass of the player group of a similar age and in their prime years.
Within the hockey sphere, previous investigations have shown that age group to typically be within 20-29 years, with the sweet spot around 21-25 years of age. It should be noted here that the players are often tasked with different roles as they age, and that they can still provide relatively good value through to 29 years of age, although survivor bias tends to allow “superstar” players a longer shelf life.
As an example, the Detroit Red Wings were the worst team in the NHL last season and are clearly looking to rebuild. This past draft they took 4 selections in the first two rounds and six in the first 3 rounds – typically where the most value from the draft is found.
This comes on the back of five selections last season, and prior to their (current) six next season, in the same draft range. The Ottawa Senators, selected six times in the first 2 rounds this past draft, and currently have five selections planned for the 2021 entry draft.
Perhaps more pertinently, the Anaheim Ducks chief rival in this era are the LA Kings, who have embarked upon a rebuild in earnest these past few seasons. Boasting one of the top prospect pools in hockey prior to the draft, they added four more selections in the top 2 rounds this past year, including the 2nd overall selection which will now likely be the star of their pushback towards becoming cup contenders. Next season, they will have five selections in the top 3 rounds of the draft.
Prime Draft Real Estate
This accumulation of assets from rebuilding teams is somewhat akin to that first three laps around the monopoly board when players scramble to buy up property as quickly as they can. In some cases, the role of the dice goes the wrong way and teams slip down the draft board. This happened to the LA Kings last season, where they slipped back a little and ended up selecting 5th overall (Alex Turcotte) instead of much higher.
They overcame this “bad luck” by having more rolls of the dice, and put together a strong prospect group on the backs of a shrewd draft decision to select the troubled Arthur Kaliyev in the second round. The next lap of the board was much kinder to them, and they landed on Mayfair, snavelling up one of the prime pieces of draft real estate in Quinton Byfield. With that commanding presence on the board, the Kings merely have to develop their properties, hoping that at least half of that list will end up as hotels.
The Anaheim Ducks have embarked upon a far softer rebuild in recent times, not necessarily electing to trade their mature assets for more rolls of the dice. Comparatively, the Ducks selected three times in the top 3 rounds last season, four times in the most recent draft, and have three scheduled in the same range for next year’s draft. Raw counting stats for the number of draft selections in the top 3 rounds between the 2019-2021 draft, based on the bottom eight teams during the 2019-2020 season results are as follows:
- Detroit Red Wings: 17
- Ottawa Senators: 15
- San Jose Sharks: 7
- LA Kings: 14
- Anaheim Ducks: 10
- New Jersey Devils: 13
- Buffalo Sabres: 7
- Montreal Canadiens: 13
For the most part, the teams that have accrued draft picks in excess of 13 selections are the ones that are at least considered to have the potential for future cup contention. The Red Wings are miles away from having only just commenced their rebuild, but the Senators and Kings are both considered to have extremely bright futures. The San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres are both, more or less, not recognized as relevant teams in the playoff picture.
"“We’re a better team. We’ve got a lot of good teams out West, so we got to get going here. I think it’s time and I think you’re going to see improvement with some of our young guys. And if we get improvement in some of the young guys, which it’s time for, and you get a little bit more consistency from the middle-age guys, I think we can be right there fighting for a playoff spot. There’s no reason we can’t be.” –Bob Murray"
The Luck of the Dice
So where does that leave the Anaheim Ducks? Certainly, they haven’t amassed a commanding board presence that would enable them to wipe out other teams in the future. In many ways, their future may play out with the luck of the dice.
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Bob Murray suggests that the Ducks are finished with their rebuild (seven selections in the top 3 rounds over the past two seasons) and have amassed enough new assets to go with their matured assets, to enable them to make some noise in a playoff race. Others, have wondered by the Ducks haven’t begun a rebuild in earnest given that their mature assets are more akin to “Old Kent Road” than “Park Lane.”
There are maybe some concerns that the Anaheim Ducks current “youth movement” is perhaps more like the railroads of Monopoly than strong foundation pieces like “Piccadilly.” They nearly all took a step back last season under Dallas Eakins, who perhaps surprised his pundits by being a strong veteran players coach than the developer of youth that he was brought in to be.
In some way’s that youth must have some growth left to them, yet as they near historical age-related scoring peaks, one has to wonder how much their value will mature. Are they likely to improve enough to be the fancy hotel that crushes the soul of the opposition players as they round the board, or will they be the sweet relief of landing on free parking in an otherwise dangerous board state?
Only the roll of the dice will tell us. However, as things stand, Murray has positioned the Anaheim Ducks to be a mid-game player. They have the assets to hang around longer than easy beats lacking in assets, yet likely do not have the equity to push towards an end game board state and challenge for the King of Monopoly crown.
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