NHL Conference Finals Filled With Champions
No matter who wins between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Redwings and the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks there will be at least three previous Stanley Cup Winners in both the Nation Hockey League Eastern and Western Conference Finals. However, if the Los Angeles Kings win, that means all four teams that will appear in the NHL Conference Finals will be recent Stanley Cup Winners.
To be honest I cannot even remember something like this ever happening. It could have happened in the early days of the NHL since there were so few teams.
However, there are 30 teams in the NHL and with a salary cap being in place usually there are usually two teams that haven’t won a Stanley cup that were in the mix.
There is a message in there though and that is no team will win a Stanley Cup by building through NHL Free Agency. Each and every team in the Conference Finals built their teams primarily through the NHL Draft. They then added complementary pieces through trades and the occasional free agent.
Take for instance the Bruins. The top five point leaders in the regular season this past year was left winger Brad Marchand, center David Krejci, center Tyler Seguin, center Patrice Bergeron and left winger Milan Lucic. All five of these players were drafted by the Bruins.
The other team that is built the same way as the Bruins is the Detroit Redwings. The Redwings for years have built their teams through the draft, so it’s not a surprise that their top five point leaders are their own draft picks.
Typically, the way teams do it is like the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins first built their team around the draft picks of center Evgeni Malkin, center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang. Both players proved to be franchise centers in their rookie season of 2005-2006 as both scored over 30 goals.
From there they added some pieces by trade in wingers Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupis and James Neal. These three along with Malkin, Crosby and Letang comprise the Penguins top six points leaders.
The Kings, Sharks and the Blackhawks are built like the Penguins. Both team’s core is built around draft picks with complementary parts acquired through trade
A good example of what not to do is the New York Rangers who for years have been signing free agents to build teams and have gotten nowhere. Their latest example is center Brad Richards. Richards signed as a free agent with the Ranges prior to the 2011-2012 regular season. In the last two playoff games for the Rangers this year he was a healthy scratch.
Another example is the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres prior to the 2011-2012 regular season traded for defenseman Robyn Regehr, trade for the rights of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and signed him to a contract and signed forward Ville Leino. Even though Regehr and Ehrhoff proved to be solid complimentary parts, the Sabres didn’t make the playoffs last year or this year due to the fact that the core of the hockey team was just bad.
So, it looks like this year and the next couple of years are going to have the NHL Conference Finals filled with champions.
By: Paul Kasprzak