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. Mr. Tallon has done a pretty good job with his selections.
Replaces Kendall McArdle as the 20th overall selection in 2005
The defense consisted of Erik Karlsson, Ryan McDonagh, P.K. Subban, and Roman Josi. Putting Tuukka Rask in goal just isn't fair, and it's possible that this fictional team would lead the league in goals against by a considerable margin.
Panthers never trade 1st round draft pick in 2003, make Marc-Andre Fleury 1st overall selection
So, not only will the goaltending be Vezina-caliber, both goaltenders will be incredibly well-rested, and might even split duties when the team reaches the playoffs. Though this team may not have an All Star-caliber forward unit, the incredible talent located on the defensive side of the puck should be more than enough to win the Stanley Cup.
This is what the 20-man roster looks like. Stanley Cup winning team? I think so.
TIdbits and humor
- I could have taken Adam Henrique instead of Adam Comrie at one point. That point is essentially moot, since he wouldn't have made the roster anyways, but I just wanted everyone to know that I have a strong dislike for Henrique.
- This is quite possibly the biggest whiff of all time for a later round of the draft. Seriously, look at the four players taken immediately after Matt Duffy. That's an average of 418 games played and 150 points total, and the careers of Yandle and Hjalmarsson are still going strong. Duffy has a grand total of zero NHL games played and just 22 in the AHL..
- As good as this team is, there is literally no way that they would be together for the 2015-2016 season. With a cap hit of $102.6 million, the Cats would be $31.2 million over the salary cap.
What we learned
It is really easy to put together an amazing hockey team when you have the power of hindsight to work with. Like, comically easy.