People talk all the time about what if. They talk about what if a certain relationship had worked out, what if they had chosen a different career, what if they hadn’t slept in the day the tube in London got bombed (my sister slept in and missed one of the trains involved that day)?
In hockey there are also many what ifs; What if so-and-so had passed the puck instead of shooting, what if the coach had pulled the goalie earlier, what if such and such a trade never happened, what if we had drafted Zach Parise instead of Marc-Antoine Pouliot? People could also ask what if Henrik Zetterberg was drafted earlier than the 7th round by a team other than the Red Wings, or what if someone else had drafted Mark Messier before the Oilers had a chance to select him 48th overall. Derek Zona recently wrote an interesting article over at Copper and Blue (what-if-the-oilers-drafted-the-other-guy) that breaks things down in a different and interesting way, and also provided a follow-up article (depth-chart-comparison-edmonton-oilers-versus-alternate-reality) which is equally interesting. While I find these articles interesting and worth the read, my opinion is a little different.
In my ‘humble’ opinion no one can really say what if anything.
Yes it is possible that had my sister caught the train she usually took that day she could have been seriously hurt or even killed, but then again, maybe not. Maybe things would have turned out better for her (I’m not sure how, but you never know). Many talk about the butterfly effect, how one little seemingly inconsequential event can have drastic effects somewhere else. If a seemingly inconsequential event can have massive consequences, then big events should be able to change things even more.
What team a player gets drafted by is far from inconsequential. Everyone is different and players will respond differently to different training staff, coaches, etc. While some players flourish in certain environments, others falter in the same environment. For example I would say that Jordan Eberle is a player that has flourished in the Oilers system, and he isn’t the only one. Of course there are also many that haven’t. Those players may have done much better if drafted by other teams, or they may have done worse. My point is that we don’t know. Yes it is possible, likely even, that Zach Parise would still be a star if the Oilers had drafted him instead of Pouliot, but do we know that for sure? No, we don’t. And then there are the questions as to how that would have affected everything else. Would we have been able to draft Eberle, Paajarvi, or Hall? How would that selection have affected the cup run of ‘06? We will never know, and so I say, it doesn’t matter.
What ifs are basically the same as worrying. The only difference is time frame; worrying is just asking what if about the present or future. An old friend of mine once said that worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. What ifs are the same, they can contribute an interesting story, but they really don’t provide anything except for maybe some entertainment. I would even say that what ifs are worse than worrying, because there is absolutely nothing we can do about the past, but worrying can (although it rarely does) lead us to plan for the future, so that our worries don’t come to pass.
We can still have regrets (The Oilers should regret signing Khabibulin), but speculating about how things would be now (i.e. asking what if?) is just that, speculation. In one way or another everything that has ever happened has led to where we are now. If even one little thing had been different there is no way we could say how things would be today. Everything might be similar, but things could also be completely different. They might be better, but at the same time they could be much worse. While we can speculate what if, in reality there is no way that we can really know what if, so I say “What if… Nothing!”