After enough consecutive top five picks, the Edmonton Oilers are hoping they can take this core group of players that they’ve drafted over the last several years and turn it into something that resembles a successful franchise. They haven’t reached that point quite yet.
If they’d like to see how that should be done, they can look no further than the Chicago Blackhawks, who are currently representing the Western Conference in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. The Hawks actually resemble a model that the Oilers would like to follow on a couple of different levels.
The first is obviously taking that young talent acquired after consecutive years at the front of the draft and turning it into a championship caliber core. The Blackhawks did it with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, as well as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. All players that were drafted and developed by the Hawks.
Edmonton has taken steps in the right direction with some of their recent draft picks. Taylor Hall is a future superstar. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has the upside of being a two-way player of Toews’ caliber. Justin Schultz, while not drafted by the Oilers, can be an All Star defenseman in the very near future.
If you want to look deeper, the way this Hawks team has won a Stanley Cup and appeared in another final in the last four years is actually something that bodes particularly well for the Oilers. Each Finals appearance came with an established core, surrounded by role players. It wasn’t necessarily a star-studded roster like the Pittsburgh Penguins tried to pull off this year, only to fail in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Oilers have that core in place. Hall, RNH, Schultz, Jordan Eberle, and even Sam Gagner (if he’s re-signed) make up one of the better young groups on the league. The Oilers simply didn’t have the correct role players around them to put them in a position to succeed. The Hawks largely replaced their entire supporting cast after the first Cup win, only to return barely three years later.
Even in goal, it’s hard to look at Devan Dubnyk and say that he’s not a goaltender capable of winning a Stanley Cup. His numbers are right on par with what Corey Crawford has done in his career. Yet, should the Hawks pull off another Cup win, Crawford is looking at a Conn Smythe after a brilliant postseason.
What the Blackhawks have done in the last few years represents an incredibly successful blueprint for the Oilers to follow. And might indicate that they’re not actually as far off as we might want to believe. They have a young core in place, now it becomes a matter of setting them up with the right supporting cast. Of course, that’s the hard part.