On the importance of ‘support from the bottom’ (see: Toffoli, Krug, Saad, etc.)

7 Comments

Tyler Toffoli: 22 years old, drafted 47th overall by the Kings in 2010. Five points in the playoffs.

Torey Krug: 23 years old, undrafted, signed as a free agent by the Bruins in 2012. Six points in the playoffs.

Brandon Saad: 21 years old, drafted 43rd overall by the Blackhawks in 2011. Four points in the playoffs.

Andrew Shaw: 22 years old, drafted 139th overall by the Blackhawks in 2011. Four points in the playoffs.

Brendan Gallagher: 21 years old, drafted 147th overall by the Canadiens in 2010. Five points in the playoffs.

Erik Haula: 23 years old, drafted 182nd overall by the Wild in 2009. Two points in the playoffs, key defensive forward.

And those are just the young guys — none of them first-rounders, you’ll notice — on teams still alive in the postseason. Let’s not forget about the diamonds in the rough that were eliminated in the first round, like San Jose’s Matt Nieto (47th overall in 2011, five points) and Columbus’ Boone Jenner (37th overall in 2011, five points).

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, here’s what president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said about a Canucks team that’s gone from elite to missing the playoffs in practically a blink of an eye:

“When I see playoff teams that are successful, I see teams that have some depth, teams that can roll four lines out. I like the people we have in [our] core positions, but they need support from the bottom. There’s a gap between the core players and what’s coming from below them. There hasn’t been a real push from the bottom and that’s created issues.”

Consider: Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen are the last Canuck draft picks still with the team that have made a considerable impact at the NHL level, and they were chosen a decade ago. OK, fine, d-man Chris Tanev, 24, has turned out to be a savvy college free-agent signing, but Vancouver is still a prime example of the importance of drafting and developing, even for teams that can afford to spend to the cap and go after unrestricted free agents.

And it absolutely has to go beyond first-rounders. Edler was a third-rounder; Hansen was taken 287th overall! Back when those two were playing on cheap contracts, they were a huge source of value for the Canucks. Ditto for undrafted Alex Burrows and the since-departed Mason Raymond, a second-rounder in 2005.

John Tortorella wasn’t the right coach for the Canucks, but he was right when he said Vancouver “needs youth.”

Because every team needs that.

Constantly.