The problem we have here is similar to the bills, we’re never awful enough to get a top 5 pick and have to build with lesser touted draft picks. It takes a ton of scouting prowess and good luck to win this way, which we haven’t had. To compound that, the 1st round picks we do have rarely play to their expectations.
A wet dream for this model being the Detroit Red Wings. They haven’t picked higher than 19th in the last 20 years yet have 4 cups and another appearance to show for it. Their Top 3 skaters – Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Lidstrom were picked in the 7th, 6th, and 3rd rounds respectively. It's a rare sight but it's working for them.
Conversely, if you take a look at a list of the top playoff scorers this year they're mostly top round talent playing for the team that drafted them (or were drafted by the wings!!). You NEED elite talent to succeed in the playoffs, aside from Washington (still in shock here) all their teams have advanced.
- Crosby - PIT -1st overall
- Samuelsson - VAN - 5th round (ironically by the wings!)
- Zetterberg - DET - 7th Round (see above)
- Sedin - VAN - 2nd overall
- Ovechkin - WAS -1st overall
- Cammalleri - MON - 2nd round (by LA)
- Backstrom - WAS - 4th overall
- Datsyuk - DET - 5th Round (see above)
- Pavelski - SJ - 7th round (outlier)
- Giroux - PHI -1st round
- Malkin - PIT - 2nd overall
- Toews - CHI - 3rd overall
- Richards - PHI - 1st round
Our highest pick this decade was Vanek at #5 and he developed into a legitimate star player on the top line. Granted he plays better when not being the focal point, but you can argue he's in the elite class. Where I think the downfall lies is that Darcy has missed horribly on almost all of other 1st rounders and the remaining don’t look that hopeful.
- Heisten #20 - out of NHL
- Kryukov #15 – out of NHL
- Novotny #22 – out of NHL
- Ballard #11 - Traded, top 4 D in FLA
- Paille #20 - Traded, role playing 3rd liner
- Zagrapan #13 – out of NHL
- Stafford #13 – no comment needed
- Persson #24 - TBD - outlook not good
- Brennan #31 - TBD
- Myers #12 – HOMERUN!!!
- Ennis #26 - AHL ROY and 13 points in 16 games is a start
- Kassian #13 – brings the physicality we lack, but can he score in the NHL?
The crux of this fan post is not to pin the blame on our current guys completely. Yes they came up extremely short, an understatement no doubt. I just think they're being asked to do too much whether it's fair or not. Roy was a 2nd round pick, Connolly was brought in via trade (5th pick though) after the islanders gave up on him, and Pominville 55th overall was actually waived at one point. These aren't the traditional places you'd expect your franchise building blocks to come from.
The fact of the matter is they are very skilled players that fit in well in support roles on the 2nd or possibly 3rd line. Remember '06 and '07? As we've seen since that time, they've been moved to the top. Now when they do get the ice time of a top line in the regular season (especially on the power play) of course they put up decent #‘s and subsequently are looked to for consistent production. It’s an unrealistic expectation and has created the illusion of icing a contender this year.
The revelation is that our team building philosophy is legitimate. We’ve generally done well in later rounds and found good supporting talent.on the market, but there are too many holes at the top that should have been filled by first round picks. Nonetheless the responsibility to fill them lied with Darcy and he’s fallen short. A logical fact is that when those picks are generally in the 15-30 range it makes it that much more difficult to succeed. The reason I can't stand Pittsburgh is they got handed a free lunch with 4 top 2 picks in a row and now are riding the Crosby-Malkin-Fluery-Staal wave to glory. Hang ten...
In a perfect world Zagrapan would be centering a dangerous scoring line between Vanek and Stafford. Alas reality is harsh. I can't fault Lindy for failing to advance a rag tag bunch of underachieving 1st round forwards that rely on overachieving later rounders to carry them. That formula doesn't work. It's a credit to him that we've been top 10 in scoring the last 5 years.
Finally - It's my hope that the Myers and Ennis picks mark the start of a run of quality late first round selections, the kind that are glaringly missing from our team yet are essential to success in a Darcystyle GM world.