After going through the Detroit Model and the Pittsburgh Model, Oiler management and fans have settled upon the Chicago Model as the right comparison for the current version of the Edmonton rebuild. I've talked before about admiring the Nashville Model, which stresses efficiencies and superior management, but let's not put the cart before the horse. Management is happy to point to Chicago as the guiding light for a rebuild, and happy to wait for it to come to them. To paraphrase Steve Tambellini during an interview with the Columbus broadcast team, the season ticket holders did not want this fixed quickly; they want to wait for a rebuild.
Finish in the lottery a few times, get some big names, play them immediately, and voila! Winning a Stanley Cup is simply a matter of being terrible for long enough. Draft them, and you will win. There's a major flaw in this comparison though, and after the jump, we'll explore that flaw and this comparison.
Kane and Toews broke into the league in 2007-2008, and it's that team fans are pointing towards as the first step towards a Cup. Below is a comparison of the depth chart of that Blackhawks team with the current Oilers.
|Chicago 07-08||Oilers 09-10|
|Patrick Sharp||C||Sam Gagner|
|Jonathan Toews||C||Shawn Horcoff|
|Robert Lang||C||Andrew Cogliano|
|Yanic Perreault||C||Colin Fraser|
|Rene Bourque||L||Taylor Hall|
|Craig Adams||L||Magnus Paajarvi|
|Ben Eager||L||Ryan Jones|
|Patrick Kane||R||Jordan Eberle|
|Martin Lapointe||R||Gilbert Brule|
|Adam Burish||R||Zack Stortini|
|Duncan Keith||D||Ryan Whitney|
|Brent Seabrook||D||Kurtis Foster|
|Brent Sopel||D||Tom Gilbert|
|Cam Barker||D||Ladislav Smid|
|James Wisniewski||D||Theo Peckham|
|Dustin Byfuglien||D||Jim Vandermeer|
|Nikolai Khabibulin||G||Nikolai Khabibulin|
|Patrick Lalime||G||Devan Dubnyk|
This Blackhawks team went 40-34-8 for 88 points. Their overall goal differential was +4 and their even strength goal differential was also +4. Chicago surrounded their young players like Kane and Toews with veterans up and down the lineup. Lang, Perreault, Adams, Williams, Lapointe and the injured Martin Havlat all took on significant roles on that Hawks team. Ruutu was later traded for the solid two-way forward, Andrew Ladd. The defense was young but solid, and the goaltending was a problem, especially on the penalty kill. Dale Tallon would overpay Cristobal Huet to try to fix this. Even so, the 07-08 Blackhawks were significantly better than the Oilers are today. There was a real team there, not a bus full of apprentices.
The Edmonton Oilers will not finish with 88 points this season. The Oilers will not have a goal differential of +4 and won't be +4 at even strength, either. If the measuring stick is that 07-08 Chicago team, the Oilers' stick is much shorter.
Two seasons later, the core of that Blackhawks team won the Stanley Cup. The cup-winning lineup is in a table below, alongside the Oilers projected lineup at that time. I've attempted to match the projected Oilers to the Blackhawk that might be the best comparison, regardless of position.
|Chicago 09-10||Oilers Projected '13
|Jonathan Toews||C||Taylor Hall|
|Patrick Sharp||C||Sam Gagner|
|Dave Bolland||C||Shawn Horcoff|
|Kris Versteeg||L||Jordan Eberle|
|Patrick Kane||R||Magnus Paajarvi|
|Brent Seabrook||D||Tom Gilbert|
|Brian Campbell||D||Ryan Whitney|
|Niklas Hjalmarsson||D||Ladislav Smid|
|Cristobal Huet||G||Nikolai Khabibulin|
|Antti Niemi||G||Devan Dubnyk|
Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner, the two forwards who can play this game, aren't likely to re-sign. So all the Oilers need to find between now and the 2013 playoffs are players approximating one of the best two-way forwards in the game in Hossa, a two-way killer in Ladd, a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman in Duncan Keith plus two more goal-scoring wingers like Brouwer and Byfuglien. They've also got to add another top four defenseman. That's all.
Remember, if the three-year window on Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle's entry-level contracts closes without a Cup, winning becomes even more difficult when those three command second-contract money. Managers with young core players leaving their ELCs must be ever more efficient and creative to put teams together. Team-building isn't about consistently drafting in the lottery and selling mini-packs based on those picks. If that were the case, the Thrashers would be the modern-day Canadiens.