Let’s go back in time a minute here. Let’s go back to the weeks leading up to the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Leading up to that fateful day Daigle was considered a “Can’t miss” prospect. The kind of kid that you see come around once a generation. This kid was considered by almost everyone as an NHL superstar in the making. There were even some reports and accusations at the time of the 1992-1993 season that the Ottawa Senators were actually losing games on purpose, yes.. “tanking” to get the top pick to take his guy at 1st overall. This actually became such a concerning situation near the end of the season when people were accusing the team of losing on purpose that shortly after the NHL implemented a draft lottery to try and prevent a team from tanking in the future. We still share a version of to this lottery system today.As we all know the Ottawa Senators turned down any trade offers they received for the pick and they drafted Alexander Daigle with the first overall selection in the draft. They were so confident in this pick that they turned down some pretty massive rumored offers according to Alexander Daigles Wiki Page..
“As the draft approached, the Quebec Nordiques, who were hosting the event, were reportedly so eager to draft the next French-Canadian superstar that they were rumored to have offered star players such as Owen Nolan, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, and draft picks, but Ottawa management disregarded all offers. “
They selected him ahead of players who we know turned out to be superstars now. Players such as Chris Pronger who was taken second overall and Paul Kariya who was taken 4th overall.
Let’s take a look at how Daigle’s career panned out for the Senators.
- 1st overall selection in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft
- 1993-1994 Won NHL Rookie of the Month (October)
- 1994-1995 U20 WJC Gold Medal
- 1999-2000 AHL Player of the week (Oct. 17)
- 2002-2003 AHL Player of the week (Jan. 19)
- 2006-2007 NLA Champion (Davos)
- 2006-2007 NLA Media All-Star Team (Davos)
- 2006-2007 Spengler Cup Winner (Davos)
- 2008-2009 NLA Champion (Davos)
let’s take a look at the career of Chris Pronger.
- 5 Time NHL All-Star (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008)
- Hart Memorial Trophy winner 1999-2000 season
- James Norris Memorial Trophy 1999-2000 season
- NHL All-Rookie Team 1993-1994 Season
- NHL First All-Star Team Selection 1999-2000 Season
- 3 NHL Second All-Star Team Selections 1997-1998, 2003-2004, 2006-2007 seasons
- Stanley Cup Champion with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007
- 2 time Plus Minus leader in NHL in 1997-1998 season +47 and in 1999-2000 season +52
- 2 times lead in Defensive Point Shares in the 1997-1998 season with 7.1 and in 1999-2000 9.6
Let’s take a look at what may have happened had the Senators had the foresight to realize that Pronger may have been the better pick at 1st overall.
On June 26, 1993, first overall draft pick Alexandre Daigle uttered the infamous words “I’m glad I got drafted first because no one remembers number two.” Number 2 that year was future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, selected by the Hartford Whalers. Daigle would go on to five seasons of mixed success with the Ottawa Senators before being traded around the league, bouncing back and forth between the minors and comeback attempts in the NHL, and entering an unofficial retirement in 2010. Pronger himself would be traded to the St. Louis Blues, but established himself as one of the league’s elite defensive forces and played well into the post-lockout period, winning a Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Today we examine the question, what if the roles had been reversed? What if the Ottawa Senators had, for whatever reason, soured on the prospect of picking Alexandre Daigle ahead of draft day and instead selected Chris Pronger with the first overall pick. Here is one possible scenario as decided by the Puck Planet staff.
Implications for the Ottawa Senators
In spite of the auspicious implications of this pick, it likely wouldn’t have turned out much better for the Senators, at least not initially. In our original timeline, both Alexandre Daigle and Chris Pronger were plagued with off ice issues that called their maturity and professionalism into question. In Daigle’s case, the Senators held on to him and for some time before finally giving up in the 1997-98 season and trading him to Philadelphia for spare parts and a first round bust. The Whalers traded Pronger to the St. Louis Blues after two seasons for Brendan Shanahan, where St. Louis management was later credited with instilling Pronger with his professionalism.
In this new timeline, Shanahan goes to Ottawa in exchange for Pronger for the 1996-97 season. This forms a new top line in Ottawa of Shanahan, Yashin, and Alfredsson. This line instantly improves Ottawa’s on ice success, and Ottawa’s playoff runs start going deeper. A Cup probably still remains just out of reach for the Sens, but it’s enough that Ottawa starts to regard its core much differently. Purse strings loosen up with regards to Alexei Yashin, especially considering he’s no longer receiving second billing to Alexandre Daige, and on ice success changes the fans relationship with their top center. The result of this is that Yashin isn’t moved to the Islanders on draft day 2001.
Implications for the Hartford Whalers
Here’s where things start to get confusing. In this scenario, the Whalers actually don’t pick Alexandre Daigle. In our actual history, the San Jose Sharks held the second overall pick, and Hartford deliberately traded up to secure Chris Pronger. Hartford scouts had actually rated Pronger ahead of Daigle and engaged in a series of trades to pull off a draft day coup. The trades involved sending their first overall plus some players to San Jose in exchange for the second overall and sending Florida a second round pick to allow Viktor Kozlov to fall to the Sharks. Make a mental note of all this because we’ll be revisiting these trades later. The resulting draft picks saw Pronger headed to the Whalers, the Florida Panthers settling on Rob Niedermayer, and the San Jose Sharks taking Kozlov.
In our new scenario the San Jose Sharks take Daigle, the Florida Panthers take Viktor Kozlov, and Hartford takes Rob Niedermayer. Most important to our scenario is that Hartford doesn’t manage to trade for Brendan Shanahan. This means they never land Keith Primeau in a trade from the Red Wings, and in turn, don’t turn around and trade him to the Flyers three years later for Rod Brind’Amour. Without Brind’Amour’s leadership and offensive contributions the Carolina Hurricanes, the Whalers 2006 iteration, do not with the Stanley Cup. Instead, the 2006 Cup is won by an Edmonton Oilers team having acquired Chris Pronger prior to the season
Implications around the league
Remember the whole trade situation mentioned that caused Viktor Kozlov to fall to the San Jose Sharks? In our timeline, Kozlov would later be traded to the Florida Panthers for Florida’s first round pick in 1998. This pick, in turn, became part of a condition on a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning that allowed the Lightning to swap first round picks with the Sharks. Tampa would end up exercising their rights on the condition and using the pick to draft fist overall, selecting Vincent Lecavalier. In this new scenario, Florida simply drafts Kozlov in 1993, and there is no subsequent trade. The Sharks are largely unaffected in this new scenario. They still pick Marleau and later on trade for Thornton, forming the core the Sharks contend within our timeline.
The Florida Panthers, however, draft Vincent Lecavalier in 1998 and here and there start making playoff appearances. The team no longer appears to be the rudderless lost cause in Florida that we all know today, but instead is a team that remains part of the conversation more often than not in terms of the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, suffer in this new scenario. Instead of Vincent Lecavalier, they take David Legwand in the 1998 draft. The team is still very competitive, with Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis still on the roster, but without mid-prime Lecavalier, the team fails to make it over the hump in 2004.
Instead, the Calgary Flames win the 2004 Cup. For Jarome Iginla, this ends the period of his career where he desperately bounces from team to team seeking that Cup win before his retirement. Instead Martin St. Louis, likely finds himself in that role.
The New York Islanders also see their fortunes radically altered in this new scenario. In our timeline, the Senators traded Alexei Yashin to the Islanders for Zdeno Chara and the second overall pick, which the Senators used to pick Jason Spezza. In this new scenario, The Islanders keep Chara and take Spezza in the 2001 draft. The Islanders become a much more competitive team, though not a Cup winning one.
The big winner of this scenario, though, is the Colorado Avalanche. With Shanahan headed to Ottawa in this scenario, the Detroit Red Wings remain a very good team, but not the equal to the Avalanche that they are in our timeline. They remain that missing piece away from being a true contender. The Avalanche, meanwhile, win the 1996 and 2001 Cups, as in our timeline, and add the 1997 and 2002 Cups in our new scenario.
So there you have it. One draft day decision and its implications sending a ripple effect through the league. This, of course, is simply the conclusion of our staff. If you disagree feel free to share your own conclusions in the comments. And we’ll see you next month with a new installment of hockey’s what ifs.
Do you think that we missed something here? Please feel free to share in the comments what your thoughts are! We would love to continue the discussion with you in the comments! Thanks for reading and as always please keep on enjoying this great sport that we all love!
You can see our previous “What If” article here! Where we take a look at what might have been had the Atlanta Thrashers won the Sidney Crosby Draft Lotto.