The Last 7 Stanley Cup winners (stretching through to Carolina in 2005-06 when the league returned from the lost season with some new rules)show some interesting tendencies that we Panther fans can look at to possibly gain a rough idea of when we may expect a "return to respectability."
Starting with Los Angeles last season and looking at a prior 7-year sample of their drafting, the Kings
had nine 1st round draft picks in that 7 year time period, 3 of which were top 5 picks. Of those top-5 picks, they were drafted between 2 to 4 seasons before the Kings won their cup in 2011-12.
Boston won the cup in 2010-11. In the 7 prior drafts the Bruins
had 6 first round picks, 2 of which were top 5 picks. Of their top-5 picks, they were drafted between that season and 4 seasons before the Bruins won the cup.
Chicago won the cup in 2009-10. In the 7 prior draftsthe Hawks had 7 first round draft picks and 3 of those were top-5 picks. Of their top-5 picks, they were drafted between 2 to 5 seasons before the Hawks won their cup.
Pittsburgh won its most recent cup in 2008-09. In the seven prior seasons the Penguins
had 7 first round picks, a whopping 5 of which were top-5 picks. Of their top-5 picks, they were drafted between 2 to 6 seasons before they won their cup.
In 2007-08 Detroit won a cup with no top-5 picks and only two first round picks in their prior 7 drafts. Detroit blows up any kind of statititical analysis. We can see here how true it is that Detroit does things differently.
In 2006-07 Anaheim won its cup. They had 7 first round picks in the prior 7 seasons, 2 of which were top-5 picks, chosen between 1 and 5 seasons prior to winning.
Finally, the Carolina Hurricanes
of 2005-06, who had 6 first round picks in the prior 7 seasons, 2 of which were top-5 picks, taken 1-2 seaosons prior to their cup.
Without question, the draft is only one piece of the puzzle for successful teams. Boston and Detroit both built their teams through excellent free agent scouting, late round draft picks and trades. Yet, certain characteristics do appear for nearly every winner. Once Detroit is excluded, virtually every winner has held on to their first round pick. Excluding Detroit, each of the winners had a minimum of 6 first round picks in a 7 season period. Further, excluding Detroit once again-- and Carolina coming off of the lost season-- every winner garnered a minimum of two top-5 picks (including Carolina) in a window of no more than 5 years prior to winning their cup (excluding Carolina which had their top-5's in a 1-2 season period but there was no season for one of those years).
This brings us to the Panthers
. Prior to Tallon taking over for the 2010 draft, the Panthers had drafted 7 first round picks in a 7 season period (having two picks in 2003 and no pick in 2008). Of those picks, only one was a top-5 pick, Nathan Horton
in 2003. To be fair, the Panthers had top-5 picks in 2001 and 2002 as well, used on Weiss and JayBo. That means that if there is a maximum of a 6-season window following a team's first top-5 pick, the Panthers should have been hitting their comeptitive stride in roughly 2009. 2009-10 ended up being a disaster. One can see why with terrible free agent and trade acquisitions and some of the worst drafting in the league between 2003-2008.
This leads me to the current Panthers team. In 2010, Dale Tallon came aboard. In three drafts since that time, the Panthers have had a whopping 5 first round picks. Of those 5 first round picks, 2 have been top-5 picks, and those top-5 pics were taken 1-2 seasons ago. It looks likely that the Panthers could end up with another top-5 pick this season. If things stay as they are right now, the Panthers could expect a top-5 pick, bringing their total in the Tallon 4 drafts (at that point) up to 6 first round picks, 3 of which would be top-5's. What does this mean? Well, there are a lot of variables that are involved, but, at a simplistic level we likely have about 2-4 seasons before the Panthers will need to start making player moves via trade and free agent signings to fill out this roster and take its run in roughly 2015-16, when Gudbranson is 6 seasons in (post 2010 draft that is). Of course, the average number of seasons post draft from the first top-5 pick is actually more towards 4 seasons or so, meaning more along the lines of the 2014-15 season.
Success sometime around the 2014-15 season would follow the model established by the Kings, Bruins, Hawks, and Ducks
, and be one year faster than Penguins. What this tells us as fans is that we should hold off on requesting notable free agent signings or big trades for another season, but that we should expect just those things in the summer of 2014. And if you look at the capgeek numbers, we only have 9 players signed beyond the end of that summer. The names of those nine players include Flash, Versteeg, Huberdeau, Shore, Kopecky, Campbell, and Jovo (I think we can safely assume he will be gone by then taking that number down to 8 and possibly Upshall, taking that number down to 7). Further, Gudbranson and Kulikov will be RFA's heading into that summer season.
It would appear that the handwriting is on the wall that this team is in good hands with Tallon and Santos, and that they are following a well-established model for success. As painful as this season is, it should provide us a third top-5 pick within the time period prior champions have used to turn a team around in. So a little more patience, all the clues are there that 2014-15 and beyond will see the rise of the Panthers.