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Rebuild Lessons Chicago and Tampa Bay Can Teach The Red Wings

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Boston Hockey Now is reporting the Bruins will aggressively pursue Tampa Bay free agent Barclay Goodrow.

It’s been up and down for the Detroit Red Wings this season, leading to debate within analysts and the fanbase as to where they truly are in the rebuild timeline.

Should they be further ahead? Will losing out and trying to get one more shot at the lottery help put them over the top? Should Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman and the front office still be trying to to acquire draft capital?

In the first editionDetroit Hockey Now looked at how the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres approach through a rebuild could offer some lessons. In this edition, we’ll look at the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay.

Chicago Blackhawks – Draft and Developing Works Wonders

It’s ironic how the Blackhawks were often compared to their bitter rivals when it came to becoming the model organization. Chicago went through some brutal seasons in the late 90’s, and it took a decade for Chicago to be relevant again. Once they hit, though, they hit big.

The Blackhawks drafted much of their core that would key them onto three Stanley Cups. Of the core, Patrick Kane (first overall in 2007) and Jonathan Toews (third overall in 2006) were top three picks. Duncan Keith (2002 second round), Brent Seabrook (2003 14th overall), and Corey Crawford (2002 second round) were outside the top 10. Patrick Sharp (trade), and Marian Hossa (free agency) were key pieces brought into the fold.

Chicago made their share of mistakes, but they certainly hit on a lot, too. The draft and develop model that Detroit employed is what Chicago emulated. Mixed in with some big free agency moves, it would make Chicago one of the most dominant teams for the first half of the 2010’s.

What Lesson Can The Red Wings Learn From Chicago?

Beware of nostalgia. Then general manager Stan Bowman made some real head scratchers when it came to trades. His sin? Reacquiring former Blackhawks long after their best-by date. The latter half of the 2010’s were a bitter disappointment for Chicago and its fans, never seeing the Blackhawks enjoying the success they experienced in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Bowman bungled several deals and once he fired Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks hopes for a dynasty were all but dashed. The final gasp was an upset win in the bubble over Edmonton back in 2020, but the Chicago that once dominated the league was becoming a distant memory.

General manager Steve Yzerman has been successful when it comes to trades, but Bowman’s deals are a cautionary tale. Consider the package he sent to New York to acquire an aging Andrew Ladd in 2016.

What about his hockey deal for Brandon Saad that resulted in Artemi Panarin going to Columbus? Saad was certainly a part of Chicago’s successful past. But it never lived up, despite Panarin likely leavingvia free agency, to what Bowman hoped.

Bowman serves as a reminder that sometimes nostalgia isn’t the best motivator to reclaim former glory.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Patience Pays Off

The Lightning will be one team that Detroit fans won’t need much of a history lesson on. Yzerman cut his teeth as an executive in Tampa, and his tenure was marked by strong drafts, epic trades, and steadfast patience. Following a 2011 Eastern Conference Final appearance that fell a game short of the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 2015. There they would make a Stanley Cup appearance, falling to Chicago in six games.

Whether it was disgruntled players, star players going to the wire before being inked to a new contract, or refusing to blow things up after devastating losses, Yzerman (and current general manager Julien Brisebois) refused to make any knee jerk reactions. In the three seasons after a stunning 2019 sweep to Columbus, Tampa would go onto win back-to-back Cups and fall two games short of a third.

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What Lesson Can the Red Wings Learn from Tampa Bay?

Maybe it’s one more for Detroit fans than the team as Yzerman is following the blueprint he started back in 2010. Detroit fans have had whiplash this season, watching the team ebb and flow between wins and losses. But Yzerman has shown the knack to make the most of what he does have and then turn it into more.

True, he started out with a bit more in the cupboard when he took the job in Tampa. There’s certainly more work ahead, especially with the NHL trade deadline inching closer.

It stands to reason he’ll continue the course. With a fan base sometimes concerned by the back and forth, this could serve as a reminder that the same patience was rewarded in Yzerman’s previous stop.

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