Football Outsiders' Mike Tanier wrote an excellent article on drafting vs. player development (scroll down past the mock draft satirizing to get to the real meat of the post). He echoes my thoughts on the topic by pointing out that there are many post-draft variables that sculpt a player's future career success.
If that's true for 22 year old men with college degrees, then it is pretty likely to be even more true for 18 year old high school kids aspiring to play pro hockey.
And while we are comparing football to hockey, I thought of an interesting comparison: Brett Favre and Martin Brodeur. If career wins and shutouts trump all in the greatest of all-time debate, then doesn't holding the career wins and passing yards records make Brett Favre the greatest QB of all time?
Favre and Brodeur have more in common than holding their respective sports' career wins record. Both are distinguised first and foremost by durability, and have reputations for consistency. Neither has had any individual seasons that rank among the few greatest seasons ever - according to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, Favre doesn't have a single season in the top 50 QB seasons ever, and he has just one in the top 80. Brodeur also has only a couple of seasons that rank among the best in save percentage compared to league average.
Despite this both of them have won some major awards, with 3 MVPs for Favre and 4 Vezinas for Brodeur. They also have experienced team success, with 3 Stanley Cup rings and 1 Super Bowl ring between them.
As the groundswell of support for Brodeur as a best-ever candidate continues to grow, it might be wise to keep in mind how Brett Favre is ranked. A collaborative ESPN effort to rank the all-time top 10 QBs from a year ago ranked Favre 8th, and even after his retirement there is still debate about whether Favre is a top-5 guy.
It should be said that your individual evaluative criteria come into play when evaluating athletes who were distinguished more by durability and longevity than by peak play, like Brodeur and Favre were. However, it's just something to think about before automatically declaring the goalie with the most wins and shutouts to be the greatest ever.