The Columbus Blue Jackets could have had Anze Kopitar and passed on the talented Slovenian partly due to his training regimen.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch revisited the 2005 NHL Draft, writing that the Blue Jackets had a real chance at landing Kopitar. He was ranked 3rd on the team draft board, compared to Vancouver Giants star Gilbert Brule who was in the 6-8 range. General manager Doug MacLean passed on Kopitar with the 6th overall pick as the move, according to him, was unconventional.
“I’m not drafting a kid who pushes rocks up a mountain and jumps over milk crates and calls it training,” he once bellowed.
MacLean passed on Kopitar, who ranked higher on the Jackets draft board than Jackets sixth pick Brule, because of his workout regimen? That’s asinine.
Passing on Kopitar proved to be a massive mistake for MacLean. Brule was rushed into the league and never fully found his footing. He currently plays in the KHL. Kopitar, meanwhile, is among the game’s best forwards who has developed into a true two-way star, winning multiple Stanley Cups with Los Angeles, who took him 11th overall.
There’s no way MacLean could have known the current fate of each player, but the move comes across especially shortsighted since the Blue Jackets had Kopitar higher on their draft board. He was theirs for the taking. Instead, they opted for a safe choice based on training regimens which yielded little return on their high draft pick. Passing on Kopitar is the ultimate what-if in Blue Jackets lore.