The Florida Panthers have probably been the NHL's most incompetent franchise over the past 15 seasons, even more so than the Edmonton Oilers, who at least made a Stanley Cup run back in 2006. A large part of that incompetence stems from the team's draft history from 2000-2009, before current general manager Dale Tallon took the reins in May of 2010.
With that in mind, I went back and tried to determine just how good our teams could have been if they would have been better at the draft tables. I did set up some rules before doing this, however.
- I could only change selections if the desired player was taken 1-10 spots behind the player the team actually took. That way, we keep the draft rankings at least slightly intact, as there is usually a good reason why certain players are taken in the first round, and others are taken in the seventh.
- If the team traded their first round selection that year, I undid the trade and treated that pick as if the Panthers had been the team making the selection. This only happened twice; in 2003, when they essentially swapped Marc-Andre Fleury for Nathan Horton, and in 2008, when the team traded for Tomas Vokoun.
- I aimed to build the best possible team for the 2015-2016 season, not the best team for any previous seasons. I tried to keep it salary cap compliant, but that made it no fun, so don't worry about the cap hits. I've included the player's statistics from 2014-2015 for reference.
- I only looked at drafts from 2000-2009. Tallon has done a pretty good job with his selections
Here's the team's new centers:
Replaces Kamil Kreps as the 38th overall selection in 2003
The team's new first line center is one of the best puck possession players in the business. The three-time Selke winner makes almost everyone he plays with better, and though he won't have the amazing and underrated Brad Marchand lining up on his wing, I think it's safe to say he'll still be one of the best two-way forwards in the league.
Replaces David Booth as the 53rd overall selection in 2004
One man's trash is another man's treasure, right? In back-to-back years, the Boston Bruins found a one-two punch down the middle with their second round picks, while the Panthers (who had two higher selections...) drafted a guy who wouldn't stick in the league, and a depth forward (Booth is that depth forward, but he actually had a very promising career derailed by concussions. Puck you, Mike Richards.)
The team's new second line center will get the benefit of playing behind Bergeron and could be relied upon to produce offensively.
Replaces Grant McNeil as the 68th overall selection in 2001
Tomas Plekanec is arguably the best center on the Montreal Canadiens right now, but would most likely play on the third line of this imaginary Panthers team. That would give the team one of the best third lines in the NHL, as the 32-year-old can either be relied upon to shut down the opposition or to create offense.
Replaces Colby Robak as the 46th overall selection in 2008
If you figure that Patrice Bergeron and Tomas Plekanec can assume most of the team's defensive responsibility, that leaves Derek Stepan to run wild in a sheltered role on the team's fourth line. The 25-year-old center doesn't get tons of ice time, but still gets enough to produce a solid amount of points.
What we learned
That it's really easy to go back to previous NHL drafts, pick players that did well, and go "Oh wow, we could have had that player on our team! Our scouts were so bad!".
Stay tuned for the rest of the "Hindsight is 20/20" team, as LBC will be rolling out the wingers, defenseman, and goaltenders that the Cats could have had, if the scouting staff was perfect and could predict the future.