The 2006 NHL Entry Draft was the first held following the sweeping changes to the game brought on by the Lockout To End All Lockouts, which turned out to be merely the one before this last one, but that’s another story.
When we were about to come out of that lost season, labor lockout of 2004-05 a sharp general manager I chummed with told me that the belief among managers was that under the new “cost certainty” (capped) system, teams would be riding the swells of being no more than three years away from challenging for the Cup nor three years from picking in the top five, depending on how you managed your affairs.
Yes, champagne in one hand, Gravol in the other.
So lets look back at 2006, the year Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status.
The 2005-06 season prompts some fairly heady memories of Dallas Stars might. That year they won 53 games, were 12-1 in the league’s newfangled tie-breaker – the Shootout, amassed 112 points, went 28-11-2 at American Airlines Center, captured another Pacific Division title, and finished 3rd overall in the NHL.
The Stars were “The Stars”.
The other end of the standings housed some teams that are currently of the juggernaut variety. The Draft order in Vancouver that summer of 2006 went like this: 1 St Louis, 2 Pittsburgh, 3 Chicago, 4 Washington, 5 Boston. Yes, the Pens, Hawks and Bruins sucked.
True, not all the picks in the top five that year have turned out to be “franchise” guys, but it’s still Xenon-bright enlightening when you look back.
The Blues had new ownership and spokesman Dave Checketts stepped to the stage at what was then known as GM Place, to announce the selection of defenseman Eric Johnson. Doug Armstrong later turned that less than stellar selection into power forward Chris Stewart and top four defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
A month after being hired, Pittsburgh G.M. Ray Shero took a Staal brother. Big, two-way center Jordan.
The Blackhawks grabbed future “Captain Serious”, center, Jonathan Toews.
Washington took talented center Nik Backstrom
And the Bs grabbed sniping winger Phil Kessel who was flipped to Toronto three years later in a trade for draft picks that has been hot debate fodder ever since. Those Leaf picks turned into Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Anyway, the moral of this stick and puck Stanley Kubrick story/title rip-off is this: Three years after drafting Staal 2nd overall the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. Four years after taking Toews 3rd the Hawks won the Cup. And only five years went by from the time the Bruins selected Kessel and they sipped from Stanley’s Cup.
Yes I know other transactions and maneuvering transpired to aid those clubs en route to their championships but they don’t fit my thesis here, so screw em’.
The big question now is will the Stars be picking in the top five come June in Newark? Possibly.
If they do, the 2006 Draft leaves clues that a return to the Dallas Stars circa 2006 (or 99’) might be closer than some think.