Rich NHL clubs don’t necessarily draft better, according to a study published by Simon Fraser University.
SFU business professor Peter Tingling, co-author of “Feast or Famine: Does Wealth Help or Hinder Innovation in Sport?” used the NHL draft to test the theory that wealthier NHL clubs are able to be more innovative.
The conclusions of Tingling and co-researcher Kamal Masri aren’t going to make NHL scouts happy. They conclude being able to spend a lot of money on scouting doesn’t make a team more successful at the draft.
“We looked at how much money the teams are worth, the quality of their decisions and we could basically find basically no relationship whatsoever,” Tingling said Thursday from Burnaby, B.C.
“Our research shows there’s no relationship between having more money and making better decisions.”
Dividing the 30 NHL clubs into five categories ranging from “filthy rich” to “fiscally challenged”, Tingling analyzed the draft decisions of teams from 1997 to 2004 and measured how many of those players actually made it into the NHL.
“Beyond Round 3, it’s all guessing which is absolutely ridiculous when you think about it,” he said. “There’s this perception if you are taken in Round 3, it’s better than being in Round 4. We can actually tell you there’s no difference.
“The league and teams are spending $100 million and they can’t figure out who the better players are? It’s ridiculous.”
Tingling says the NHL supported his study and that he interviewed team general managers as part of his research.
Teams that have a lot of money become complacent in decision-making, but poor teams are so desperate to make payroll, they aren’t able to take risks, he said.
“You’ve got to have the right amount of money, which is not too much that you are rich, not to little that your poor and you’ve also got to have really innovative management,” Tingling said.
“As a researcher, I’m always a bit disappointed when I end up telling people it’s Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold. To a certain degree, that’s what it comes down to.”
By that rationale, the salary cap introduced in 2005, which sets both a floor and ceiling for team payrolls, makes sense.
“The salary cap certainly makes the general manager’s job more difficult,” Tingling acknowledged. “Most of them are highly intelligent. I would say salary cap all and all is a good thing for the league.”
Tingling intends to continue studying his findings at the 2010 NHL entry draft June 25-26 in Los Angeles. The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the clubs in the “filthy rich” category, upped its scouting staff last year to 20 people—well above the league average of 13.