“Hurricanes Giving Red Wings Blueprint to Success”
If you were to look at the Carolina Hurricanes roster right now there’s one name that sticks out as a for sure hall of famer. The other 19 guys either aren’t close or have some work to do.
The Hurricanes aren’t a superstar laden team. They don’t have Connor McDavid or Nathan McKinnon. They don’t have a team stacked with Auston Mathews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares.
Yet their team is still playing and all five of those guys are at home. Why? Because the Hurricanes have a more complete team.
Hockey is different from basketball and football. Giannis Antetokounmpo could sign with the Charlotte Hornets tomorrow and they would be an instant playoff team.
If you replaced Kirk Cousins with Josh Allen the Vikings would be NFC contenders. But simply dropping McDavid on the Red Wings wouldn’t make them a threat in their conference.
Hockey requires more depth on the roster than most other sports. And that means Detroit doesn’t need to get lucky in the lottery in order to become Stanley Cup contenders.
Carolina’s Lack of High Draft Picks
The Hurricanes do have a couple players who were picked in the top-five of the NHL draft. But they aren’t exactly household names.
Jordan Staal was picked second in the 2006 draft. But he’s past his prime and not a superstar. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was picked third in 2018, by a different team. Carolina signed him as a restricted free agent two seasons ago.
Teams don’t generally let top picks walk out the door unless they aren’t living up to their draft pick. Kotkaniemi played in all 82 games this season and scored 43 points. That’s 36 less than Dylan Larkin. Not exactly superstar level play.
Then that leaves us to Andrei Svechnikov. He is a superstar who was picked second by the Hurricanes. Right before Kotkaniemi even. But he’s not even playing because he’s out with a torn ACL which happened over a month ago.
And yet the Hurricanes are still in the conference finals without their best player. That’s not because of luck or a hot goalie. It’s because they’re a deep, well-coached team.
Roster Build is in Progress
Steve Yzerman got more aggressive last off-season and signed a handful of free agents. Many of them made positive contributions to the team. But the team still missed the playoffs by a decent margin.
A lot of chatter after the season ended was how Detroit needs a legitimate scorer, which I completely agree with. But they also need to build better depth behind their top line.
The Red Wings didn’t win in the past just because of guys like Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Nick Lidstrom. They won because of guys like Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, and Slava Fetisov. Really good depth guys who might be considered ‘role players’ but excelled at their role.
The Red Wings brought in defenseman Olli Maatta last year and signed him to an extension during the season. He is a perfect example of a middle of the lineup player who can help tilt this team closer to being playoff caliber.
David Perron is another key part as he brings the experience of winning a Stanley Cup. You need veteran leaders like him who know the kind of work it takes to become champions.
Carolina brought a guy similar to Perron in this season with Paul Statsny. He is another veteran who has been the finals before. Players like Statsny and Perron are vital this time of year especially with the younger players as the pressure of the playoffs amplifies.
Yzerman won’t be able to bring in key free agents each off season. Due to both cap reasons or getting outbid by other teams.
But he has a good track record with the draft. And if prospects like Carter Mazur, Red Savage and Albert Johansson fill those middle of the lineup slots. That will be just as important to the team success as free agency.
The Red Wings have already begun the ascent from the bottom of the league. The odds of them landing a top pick are now extremely low.
But there is proof in the playoffs this year that having a top pick isn’t required to be contenders. It does make things a little harder yes, but it’s not a requirement.
The rebuild might take a little longer without a McDavid or McKinnon. But as long as the Yzerplan brings us a Stanley Cup. I’m willing to wait a few extra years.
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