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 over 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 perfect at the draft table. 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 trade 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. Dale has done a pretty good job with his selections.
Replaces Anthony Stewart as the 25th overall selection in 2003
This would be nice. Can you imagine a first line of Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci centering James Neal and Corey Perry? It would easily become one of the best first lines in the league. What other team could match that type of offensive firepower?
Replaces Zach Bearson as the 224th overall selection in 2005
The team's second line is good, but definitely not as good as the first line. There's a big talent drop off from Neal and Perry to Patric Hornqvist and Michael Frolik (or Alexander Semin). Still, all seven players mentioned (Bergeron, Krejci, Neal, Perry, Frolik, Semin, Hornqvist) can handle a top six role, and the team definitely won't be hurting at the forward position.
Replaces Josh Birkholz as the 67th overall selection in 2009
So, in a weird twist of fate, brand new Panther Reilly Smith makes this fictional version of the Panthers and becomes a second or third line winger that benefits from playing with a strong center down the middle. In this fictional situation, Smith most likely ends up on a line with Alexander Semin and Tomas Plekanec, which isn't all that bad.
Replaces Evgeny Dadonov as the 71st overall selection in 2007
Alex Killorn is one of those interesting players who can play on a team's first line, or on a team's fourth line, and be equally successful on both. Obviously he would put up more points on the first line, but when it comes to getting his team a favorable percentage of the goals scored, his performance on the fourth line would likely be just as good as his performance on the first.
What we learned
Man, wingers were sooooooooooo hard to find in this little excersise that I did. Killorn is technically considered a center, but he's played wing before in Tampa and would have no problem fitting in on the fourth line of this fictional team.
Stay tuned for the rest of the "Hindsight is 20/20" team, as LBC will be rolling out the defensemen and goaltenders that the Florida Panthers could have had, if the scouting staff was perfect and could predict the future.