Canucks fans have come to dread the draft-lottery. Despite finishing far outside of the playoffs for the past 2 seasons, lottery-fortune continues to elude the organization to the extent of being deemed by many as a curse.
In the past few years the Canucks have, against the odds, missed out on the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisatl, Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine, Nico Hischer, and Nolan Patrick. Any one of the aforementioned (most notably: Matthews or Laine) would undeniably have had a lasting and significant impact on a rebuilding Vancouver squad; however, is having a generational player necessary to be a cup contender? Will the draft lottery be the downfall of the Canucks rebuild?
No. C’mon… No.
While it’s easy to point to the Pittsburgh Penguins back-to-back cups and the undeniable contributions of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as examples of generational players winning championships, it is not always the case that one or several bonafide studs are a requirement.
Case in point: The New Jersey Devils between 1995 and 2003 could arguably be considered a “dynasty”. The Devils won 3 cups between 1995-2003 and they epitomized a defense-first mentality. While those lineups, in hindsight, had a few players that reached legendary status (see Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Patrick Elias and Martin Brodeur), they primarily earned their reputations by performing in the post-season and were not necessarily heralded as “greats” until the first cup ring was on their fingers.
“Suuuuure, buddy, point to the dead-puck, pre-cap era, how is that relevant today?”
Great question, guy in my imagination. Let’s pull from a more recent example in The Los Angeles Kings. Sure, the team boasts some great players like Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter – but would any of those be considered a “Sidney Crosby level” generational talent? Doughty might come close, but that’s still a bit of a stretch. The Kings brought a physical team-game to the table and stumbled across a somewhat late-blooming Jonathan Quick at the right time who backstopped a tough team to two cups in 3 years. They’re not looking too shabby this season either.
Finally, much to the chagrin of my inherent bias and unforgiving nature, the Boston Bruins of 2011.
The Bruins built a physical squad out of utility players without a reliance on star-power. Go ahead, try and name the best forward in that line-up. David Krejci? Mark Recchi? a young Brad Marchand? – Seriously, despite a lack of high-profile offensive threats, they had a team that could compete with the best of them thanks to their aggressive style of play and timely Goaltending.
Putting together a Stanley Cup Contender is far more complicated than simply drafting Connor McDavid. Cups are won on the backs of hot goaltending, savvy coaching and unsung heroes. Understated players like John Madden, Rod Brind’amour, Claude Lemieux and Justin Williams win cups.
All I’m saying is this: Just because the Canucks missed out on a handful of young superstars who are now taking the NHL by storm, does not necessarily mean we’re doom and gloom for the foreseeable future. Guys like Brock Boeser (26th overall), Bo Horvat (9th overall), Thatcher Demko (36th overall) and Elias Pettersen (5th overall) could develop into superstars despite not being selected in those coveted top 3 positions.
Only father time can tell which young players will emerge as difference makers. Until then, let’s not throw the towel in on this rebuild or prematurely toss our GM out into the cold until this squad and our budding stars rebuild this team’s identity.
All that being said, if we bottom out again this season and miss out on another top pick, I can confirm that myself and the legions of Canuck fans will collectively lose our shit.