It’s not the only way to build a team in the post-lockout era, but it seems obvious that getting a lucky break with the NHL Draft is becoming the Express Lane to respectability. Of course, you need the lottery balls to bounce your way – and really, it doesn’t hurt if you get a high pick in the right year. After all, three out of the four Stanley Cup finalists (only Detroit got there by clever management alone) in the last two years were less than five seasons removed from being cellar dwellers.
Just three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers had the top two picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Oddly enough, Patrick Kane was just that close to being a member of the Flyers. Kinda mind blowing to think about that situation, right?
Instead, the Hawks drafted Kane with the top pick and the still-developing James van Riemsdyk went No. 2 with Philadelphia. NHL.com shares their productivity and career paths since that draft.
Kane turned pro immediately and blossomed alongside Toews as the poster boys for the Blackhawks’ inspiring resurgence. Kane has scored 76 goals and 154 assists in 244 regular-season games, and has playoff totals of 16 goals and 18 assists in 34 postseason games.
Van Riemsdyk took the college route at New Hampshire and completed his rookie season with 15 goals and 20 assists in the regular season and an additional 2 goals and 2 assists in 18 playoff games.
Drafting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin helped turn around the Pittsburgh Penguins while landing Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom achieved similar results for the Washington Capitals. Obviously, every draft can’t land you a superstar, but the Edmonton Oilers can look to these scenarios for positivity. Could Taylor Hall pave the way for the team to become a contender for the first time since the early-90s? It must be a tasty thought for the long-suffering fans.
It brings up the double-edged sword of “tanking” as well. Just look at the situations that teams such as the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers find themselves in. They might have nice prospects here or there, but ultimately, the teams lack the high-end talent to make up for their limited resources. (Or, in the case of the Wild, the fact that they don’t need to spend up to the cap to fill their building.)
So, on one hand, it’s stunning that the two franchises rebounded dramatically, especially with the Blackhawks. Yet it’s becoming a trend. Should other NHL teams at least ponder pulling the very taboo act of losing on purpose? Hate to open Pandora’s Box there on you, but it must be said.
Forget “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” … for some franchises, they might want to think about a little losing.