This column was written back in May of 2014. The Pittsburgh Penguins fired their GM and Coach after it was written. The Sabres are now in the market for a coach and Bylsma might be the man they pick.
What might be different for Bylsma this time around? This piece gives a good look.
With the NHL Entry Draft a little more than a month away, the Buffalo Sabres are set to enter Phase Two of the franchise rebuild. We often hear of the Pittsburgh model with high draft picks, but the Sabres should want to be better. They’re lining up to do just that.
This is what the Buffalo Sabres sent out to season ticket holders a few weeks ago. It’s a nice touch to show your fans what it is you plan to do with the worst team in the NHL.
If you listen to me and my endless ranting, you’ll know that for me it’s all about the high picks. The Sabres have one coming, and hopefully with another terrible season next year, they can lock in another Top 2 pick.
This is usually where I’ll get a "what about Edmonton" or something along those lines. Let’s take a look at Pittsburgh instead, and how the Sabres will hope to be better than the Penguins in the long run.
The Penguins already have one Stanley Cup with this group but they’re largely considered to be a huge disappointment, and with good reason.*
*Pittsburgh still can and likely will win another Stanley Cup or three if they make the right moves. They’re by no means a broken franchise. They have Crosby and Malkin and that’s enough to make them good for ten more years which is why you should want to pick at the top. They’ll need a new goalie, likely a new coach, and possibly a new GM. Elite players win, and Pittsburgh will win a lot more. That said…here’s how the Sabres will be different.
Seventeen first and second round picks in a four year stretch is stupid. It’s unbelievable. The Sabres will have a few high picks (at least one this year, and next year's first and the Islanders scenario could each play out quite favorably), but they’ll also have the ability to fill in behind those players like no other team has before. They have FIVE more than the next closest team.
Stockpiling picks….hoarding picks…should create one of the deepest franchises in all of hockey. Be on the lookout for Ken Campbell of the Hockey News. He has a piece in the upcoming draft preview where he lays out how the Sabres should be a dominant franchise in 2020. Does it have to take that long? Absolutely not.
Look carefully at this chart the Sabres included as part of the plan. The blue represents the number of 30 goal scorers in the league post-lockout (of 2004-05). What you see is that the league is moving toward an era where young players contribute greatly. 18 and 19 year-old players are putting up big numbers. We watched Nathan MacKinnon tear up the first round of the playoffs and we should expect more and more of that. The Sabres will be "dominant" in the eyes of Ken Campbell by 2020...but they might be a ton of fun by 2015, or 2017. This team should be stocked with elite talent.
It’s no secret how the Penguins got to be a “model franchise” in the NHL. So why do they continue to underachieve? Consider the haul the Sabres will have to support their early picks, and then consider what Pittsburgh has done in the last 7 years of the draft.
Since drafting Jordan Staal in the 2006 Entry Draft the Penguins have been a bit of a mess in the draft.
2007 - 1st and 2nd round picks fail to ever make the NHL
2008 - No picks in rounds 1, 2, or 3
2009 - First round pick Simon Despres (likely should be with team, rather than NHL)
- Second round pick Phillip Samuelsson has played 5 NHL Games to this point
2010 - Beau Bennett looks like a good young player
- No 2nd round pick
2011 - 1st and 2nd round pick yet to see NHL action (Young players, nothing on them, just on team contribution to this point)
2012 - They had 2 1sts (both these players obv very young and Olli Maata looks very good)
2013 - No 1st round pick.
The Sabres will have SEVENTEEN first and second round picks to supplement their roster in just a four year stretch. The Pittsburgh Penguins in a seven year stretch had just eleven.
This Sabres rebuild stretch of four drafts, will feature eight first round picks. The Penguins had a four year stretch from 2007-2011 with a total of FIVE firsts and seconds combined.
I know…their picks have been lower (that’s why it’s great the Sabres have high picks)
I know…they’ve traded away picks for players like Iginla, etc (high price rental costs have to be paid eventually)
Don’t let anyone convince you that Malkin and Crosby aren’t great. Crosby is the league’s best player and it’s still not close. He could use a bit of help. The Penguins franchise has not done enough with the world’s best player, and another that’s in the top 10 (or 5 depending what day it is or who you ask).
Pittsburgh is in great shape because in half of their horrible seasons they came away with great players. Crosby and Malkin get them a lot of wins. There are plenty of you that tell me that it takes more than just great players to build a true dynasty.
I’m still not so sure I believe that, but we can agree that it takes more than what the Penguins have done…and I’d say there’s a good indication the Sabres think so too.