Follow the leader: learning from Chicago

Hawks

How did the Hawks do it? Pic c/o Chicago Now

In the days that have passed since the Chicago Blackhawks epic Game six win in the Stanley Cup Final, the game of copycat has already begun. The questions around the league are as prevalent as the celebrations in the Windy City. How did they do it? What made the Blackhawks better than the rest this year? How where they so damn successful this season?

One thing everyone seems to agree on is the importance of patience while the losses pile up during down years. The general sentiment is that losing is important because it gives you top-end talent to rebuild around through the draft. When you look at the faces of this Midwest franchise, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane do nothing to dispel this notion having been drafted third and first overall, respectively. Though patience is important, it is the losing that causes this theory to lose steam for me.

Most of the Hawks roster isn’t made up of guys picked near the top of the draft. For comparison sake, the Flyers actually boast more top picks in their top six forwards than Chicago. With Claude Giroux (22nd), Jake Voracek (sixth), Scott Hartnell (sixth), Brayden Schenn (fifth), Wayne Simmonds (61st), and Sean Couturier (eighth), the Flyers have four former top-ten picks. They also had second overall pick James van Reimsdyk, but we know how that story goes. Meanwhile, while the Hawks have Kane and Toews, besides Marian Hossa (who went 12th overall) and Michael Frolik (tenth), the rest of their forwards were drafted in the second round or later.

Schenn Bros

Two former first round picks.. pic c/o Bauer

On the back end, the trend continues. The Flyers boast three former first round picks, while the Hawks only have two. Duncan Keith was taken in the second round, later than Luke Schenn, Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Coburn combined. Two-time Cup champion Niklas Hjalmarsson was a fourth rounder.

Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are the icing on the cake. Crawford, the team’s playoff ace in the crease, was drafted in the second round in 2003. He is 28 with only three NHL seasons under his belt and a career goals-against average of 2.4. Ray Emery is Ray Emery. Manning the crease for the Flyers is a one-time goalie of the future and Calder Trophy winner in Steve Mason, and a partner that has yet to be determined.

So what does it all mean? Well, the Hawks aren’t winning because of a plethora of top-end talent that they’ve accumulated early on in the draft; they are winning because of a plethora of top end talent they are accumulating throughout the draft, with a particular emphasis on the second round. Then, they let this homegrown talent develop in their own system, so the players can hit the ground running right out of the gate.

You don’t need the first overall pick to do this, you just need draft picks in general and patience to let the picks develop. The Detroit Red Wings are another perfect example of this. Both teams pick players with a purpose, then develop them as such and tweak when necessary. The Flyers have plenty of guys that are supposed to be oozing with high-end talent, but many of their respective development paths have been all over the map in their short careers due to the team’s inability to maintain long-term individual plans for their own players.

With the draft coming up this weekend and three picks in the top 75, now is a good time for the Flyers to start following the leader.

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