Not All is Lost
Some hockey wonks have the opinion that in today’s NHL a team needs to be bad for a few years in a row in order to get better. To sit at the bottom of the standings, accumulate top draft picks and then make a run. This is how the Pittsburgh Penguins (Fleury, Staal, Malkin and Crosby), Chicago Blackhawks (Kane, Toews and Barker) and some others have been built. Sure, this works, but I don’t really think this is the only way.
Those who think this way tend to believe that the Minnesota Wild need to gut the franchise, sit in the NHL’s basement for 2-3 years and then get better. Yes, this would work, but why throw away those seasons? Why subject their fans to multiple years of piss-poor hockey?
Smart general managers can make it work without the benefits of consecutive Top 3 picks in the entry draft. Examples? Take a look at the Philadelphia Flyers. Their only Top 10 pick since 2003 was James van Riemsdyk at #2 overall and he’s not even among their best 10 players. They’ve built their team through free agency, trades and low draft choices. Are they the exception? How about the Dallas Stars, currently first in the West? The Stars haven’t had a Top 10 pick since 1996 besides Scott Glennie (who?) at #8 overall in 2009. Yet another? I give you the Colorado Avalanche with one Top 10 pick since 1993, Matt Duchene.
These teams became very good teams by other means than sucking for many years and this gives the Wild hope. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher can build a good team without being really, really bad for the foreseeable future. And I for one believe he is on the way. Sure, he blew the Leddy for Barker trade, but the team’s future is getting brighter thanks to top prospects like Marco Scandella, Jason Zucker and Michael Granlund.