Friday, May 27, 2011
On the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Power of the Draft
Following a successful 2006-2007 season, which ended with a loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Final, the Lightning had a miserable showing in the 2007-2008 regular season finishing in last place. However they ended up with the NHL's consolation prize when they won the draft lottery and the first overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft. That selection was of course Steven Stamkos. Despite the addition, the Lightning failed to improve the following season and selected 2nd overall at the 2009 draft taking Victor Hedman. Selecting high in the NHL Entry Draft in consecutive years has proved to be a significant step in the Lightning's return to the playoffs. Stamkos has become an impact player and Hedman has become a dependable guard on the blueline in the short time they have been in the league, which is a testament to the quality of player teams can acquire with lottery selections. During these years, the Lightning have gone from finishing the regular season with 71 points, 66 points, and 80 points, to 103 points this season. The development of their prospects alongside the play of their veterans certainly contributed to the significant jump in the standings this year. Three short years after finishing dead last, the Lightning are back to being Stanley Cup Contenders and are proof of how quickly franchises can turn around.
And if you think that the Lightning are the exception, the Chicago Blackhawks selected 3rd overall in 2006 and 1st overall in 2007 and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane proved to be significant additions to the roster that went to the Western Final in 2008-2009 and won it all in 2009-2010.
Next month the Edmonton Oilers will select 1st overall at the NHL Entry Draft for the second consecutive year and will add another significant propect to a growing pool of young talent. While it only took 3 years for the Lightning to get back to the dance, it took the Blackhawks 5 years, and the Oilers will look to avoid making it 6 in 2011-2012. Unlike the Blackhawks and the Lightning however, the OIL are still looking for the right mix of verteran experience and depth to help develop their young roster. This is something that Tambellini and his pro scouting staff will need to address in the coming months. While the Oilers may still be on the outside looking in come this time next year, recent history suggests that success is not too far off. In the meantime I will be cheering for the Lightning to continue the trend.