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The winning culture theory

… as long as “winning” is defined as taking enough regular-season games to make the playoffs and to put a sellout amount of butts in the seats, there will be no change.

It could be worse. But those of us who remember the sting of being out of the playoffs for five straight years can see how much better it was and could be, if only the braintrust would accept powering down in the short term in order to build a team with enough picks in the long term which can get that Silver Chalice. -Flyers Faithful

Well that sounds like a straightforward solution: just power down for a bit and do badly enough to get some good draft picks so you can build a really good team. How’s that worked out for the Sens or the Maple Leafs?  It might be working for the Oilers, only I don’t think any of those teams really planned to tank the way they did to get to where they are.

The above quote also reminds me of things some have said about the Sharks, aside from the streak of terrible being so recent.  Also, some give Wilson credit for using middling picks pretty well.  Not all, some say he’s as bad as any.  But really, when you have only middling picks it is a lot to expect to turn even half of them into something better than middling.

The Red Wings seem to do okay.  When did they last power down and rebuild?  Is that really the way to go?

I don’t think so.  Building a winning culture into your team doesn’t only take good draft picks.  It also takes a history of winning.  When I say “history” I really mean present, because when it comes to entertainment, most people have a pretty short memory.

As much as fans and other observers might think it is selfish and greedy to worry about filling seats and having a regular season just good enough to make it into the playoffs… it isn’t that simple.  It may not be a proven formula for winning a Stanley Cup, but I don’t think that has been found yet.

On the one hand, those things really are important to the franchise.  You don’t want to end up having a low internal salary cap caused by financial shortcomings.

Also, you need a hopeful fanbase to give the club a winning attitude, the appearance of winners.  To look good is to feel good.  It’s an over played joke but it is also true.

Finally, it is hard to convince your new young players that they are on a winning team if they aren’t.  They can have all kinds of optimism and hope when they arrive but how long can they keep that up?  How long will a player like Tavares want to hang around if his team keeps struggling year after year?  It’s pretty clear that Shea Weber isn’t willing to wait around long, and his team isn’t even at the bottom of the pile.

So yes, it seems like a plan, to chase picks instead of present profit and “short term” (if that’s what you can call a regular season good enough to make it to the playoffs) success.  But it isn’t that simple really.  You need some of both, present  returns and future prospects.

That doesn’t only mean good ticket sales and agility with the salary cap. It also means stocking your farm team with coaches and good prospects and maybe even some solid vets who can help the kids out with getting ready for the big club.  It means scouting absolutely everywhere, not only in your favorite hunting grounds, to find the players hiding under rocks in far flung locations.  It means finding and identifying players like Bobrovsky when no one else noticed him, because the chances are someone else will notice him when he starts to turn into something hot, and then you’ll have to pay him more and not be able to bring him up properly in your very good AHL system.

Some GMs like certain college programs over others.  That makes sense because those schools have proven programs that include all that good stuff like coaching and top players.  But that isn’t enough.  You can’t leave scouting at the mercy of a child’s life choices.  You need to look harder. When your options are limited by the fact that your team is already doing pretty well, you can’t rely on easy pickings.  If you want it all you need to work harder than the other guys.

When it comes to developing a winning culture in your NHL franchise, letting the team tank so you get good draft picks is comparatively easy.  That tactic has gone the way of the one great goalie strategy and the Dodo.


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