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Colour Commentary: Why do fans put so much stock into prospects?

by Matthew Ohayon November 12, 2019
Colour Commentary: Why do fans put so much stock into prospects?

If you’ve been reading my columns, I think I have made it pretty clear that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. Like most fans, I love trade rumours – they create fun discussions and make imaginations run wild.

Amid the New Jersey Devils’ horrendous start to the NHL season, Taylor Hall’s name has started to surface in trade rumours. The 28-year-old winger will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and will presumably not be resigning in New Jersey.

I think it is objectively fair to say the Canadiens have one of the top five best prospect pools in the NHL. Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov; the list goes on and on.

Here’s where the two connect: the idea of Taylor Hall being traded to the Habs has caught fire in the Habs-Twitter world. Naturally, when the idea of Suzuki, a first round pick, and another player was thrown around as a hypothetical trade, fans were split in saying either yes or no to that idea.

I understand that Suzuki and the others are exciting prospects. In Suzuki’s case, he has the potential to be a top six centre in the NHL. The operative word in that sentence is potential. If he were to reach that ceiling, it would be amazing. On the other hand, he can very well fall flat and become a 40-point-player.

Hall doesn’t have the potential to be an elite scorer. The former Hart Trophy winner has already proven to be one while playing for two pitiful teams. He is an instant game-changer that is worth taking a one year gamble on.

The fact is, a marquee free agent has never signed with the Canadiens. There are too many factors working against the organization. They need to be creative in how they acquire elite talent.

Potential is nice. But it is just that: potential. Nothing more.

Some fans, and this is not exclusive to Canadiens fans, fall into a trap of overvaluing potential and would not give it up for a tangible asset.

You may have noticed that I excluded Cole Caufield from the list above. That’s where I draw the line. Caufield is considered by many analysts as a “can’t miss” prospect. Other than him, when it comes to acquiring elite talent, potential should not be the determining factor on a possible trade that pushes the needle of a team from being a bubble playoff team to an instant contender.

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