by PuckStopsHere on 01/22/14 at 10:00 PM ET
It is many people's conventional wisdom that a poor team's best chance to rebuild is to become as poor a team as possible and try to build through top draft picks. This is the path the Edmonton Oilers have followed. They have picked first overall in the NHL draft three years in a row netting them Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. They have picked up other young talented players in Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Sam Gagner. This rebuild has netted them a team in last place in the West Conference. In fact, that same conventional wisdom that lead to the first rebuild would suggest now is the time to trash the team again and rebuild in exactly the same way that has failed them so far.
While it is true that none of the young players the Edmonton Oilers have picked up are on Hall of Fame tracks. They haven't "hit a home run" with any of their first overall picks - at least not yet. It is still quite possible that one or more of them does project to a Hall of Famer in the future. It is also clear that this route to building a winning team has no guarantees. In fact it appears to be no better than any other method - and possible worse than them.
What is the way to build a winning team today? The top teams today have had to acquire their core at early ages in their career. Most often this occurs through the draft, although good players can come from anywhere. For example, first place Anaheim's top goalie Jonas Hiller was a free agent signee from Europe. There is no excuse to give away talent. There is no excuse to stop looking and tank a team. You need a scouting staff that is good enough to find these players. That is the problem in Edmonton. There isn't any player currently on their roster who makes a significant contribution to their core who was drafted in a later round in the draft. Had Edmonton been able to find players like Brandon Saad and Corey Crawford in Chicago or TJ Oshie in St Louis or countless other players on top teams.
The secret to rebuilding a team is not to tank the team and get top draft picks. It is to rebuild your scouting system and continue to find core players both with your early draft picks and also by finding players elsewhere (such as later in the draft, undrafted free agents etc.). The Edmonton Oiler method of rebuilding their team hasn't worked. They may have been a better team before the process began than they are now six or seven or possibly even eight years into the process.
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