AB: The Sabres Model
Since WGR is being slow as hell approving my comment, probably because they’re blown away by its awesomeness, here it is in full. This is a direct response to this piece by Jeremy White.
The Pens have numerous flaws, which aren’t as simple as not having enough picks (or not having picks). No one is disputing the talent of Crosby or Malkin, but they each count 1.4 times as much against the cap ($8.7M) as Jonathan Toews ($6.3M). Are they 1.4 times as good as Toews on the ice? Probably not.
It’s also worth noting that one of those top picks, Marc-Andre Fleury, is one of their problems, and another, Ryan Whitney, did not win a cup with them (although he did bring back Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi). Having a bunch of top picks doesn’t matter if your GM doesn’t place his faith in the right guys. (Hello Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, if you want to go there.)
Would you rather have Malkin and Crosby (17.4M), or Kane, Toews, and Hossa (17.8M), or Bergeron, Krejci, and Chara (17.2M), or Kopitar, Brown, and Justin Williams (16.3M)? And yes, I understand that most of those players are top picks, but they’re also top picks signed to affordable deals. There is a draft AND a GM component.
On Pittsburgh’s failures…their bottom six forwards have routinely been among their worst players, if not literally their worst players. Having more high picks MIGHT help that, but it doesn’t necessarily. The article mentions Beau Bennett, he was their 11th and 9th best forward these past two playoff runs. It mentions Phillip Samuelsson…having that high pick didn’t help there, did it?
It’s funny that the franchise and its fans have swung so heavily in favor of the draft, lest we forget that some of the franchise’s best players (Hasek, Drury, Briere, Robert, Lafontaine) were acquired through savvy moves made by the GM, and others (Mogilny, Miller) were not top picks. That’s a tip of the hat to the GM and scouting, not an endorsement of sucking for success.
There have been 51 teams since 1979-80 that have drafted in the top five in consecutive years and only 13 of them have made the Stanley Cup within ten years. Only 24 of the 102 draftees made those Stanley Cups with the teams that drafted them. Several of those teams, Quebec, Hartford, Atlanta, never recovered from being terrible. Many others, Ottawa, early 80s Washington, San Jose, the late 90s Islanders, haven’t come anywhere near winning a Cup.