Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Penguinis and Red Wings

So we have the Stanley Cup final that I was hoping for: Red Wings vs. Penguins. I was a little nervous about the Wings after the two losses to Dallas, but they came out flying in game 6 and I keep reminding myself that they finished this series without Franzen, who should be back for the Finals. I'm pulling for the Wings, but honestly the Penguins are just so fun to watch that I won't be sad if this thing goes 7 games. I'd love to see a back and forth series - something to rival the fantastic 1994 Vancouver/New York contest. That remains to this day the best hockey I've ever watched.

What is really scary about the Penguini's is how dominant they could be for a long time. Everyone knows about the core of stars they have. But you have to be shocked that they all worked out so well. For four straight years, they hit home runs in the first round of the NHL entry draft:
2003 - Marc Andre-Fluery
2004 - Evgeni Malkin
2005 - Sidney Crosby
2006 - Jordan Staal

This is remarkable considering that the NHL draft is a lot more like the baseball draft than the NFL or NBA drafts. That is, you are generally selecting 17-19 year olds whom you hope will make it eventually. To actually hit on four straight - and hit BIG with first line type guys that make major contributions - is amazing. Is there any other team (in any sport), that got it this right, this often, in this short a time?

The Nordiques in 1989-1991 went Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros - but honestly, Lindros is overrated and that's only 3 in a row. You'd think the Red Wings would have some good run of 1st rounders, but all their talent comes from late picks - their #1's are good (Hudler, Franzen, Kronwall) rather than great.

New Jersey got Shanahan in 1987, then went Guerin, Brodeur, and Niedermayer in 89-91 (they also got Brian Rolston in the 1st round in 1991). That would be pretty impressive if they hadn't traded half of them. The Rangers got Dave Gagner, Terry Carkner, Ulf Dahlen, and Brian Leetch in 83-86, but honestly, does that lineup scare you like Andre-Fleury/Malkin/Crosby/Staal? No, I didn't think so.

The only team close is Edmonton. In 1979-1981 the Oilers went Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey, and Grant Fuhr in the first round (also picking up Messier and Glenn Anderson in 79, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog, and Walt Podubny in 80, and Steve Smith in 81). This has to be as close as it gets to todays Penguins. (Gretzky wasn't drafted - he signed with Indy of the WHL as a 17 year old, and then got sold/traded to Edmonton before they joined the NHL).

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