Home improvement shows are all the rage these days. So why not take the same approach with a hockey team? In Part I of this rebuild-a-thon, we take a look at the steps the Tampa Bay Lightning could take from a scouting and development perpsective to bring the team back into Cup contention. Some of these same principles can be used to help you rebuild your keeper league team.
The Toronto Raptors have undergone an incredible rebuild in a very, very short period of time. Thanks to some innovative work by wunder GM Bryan Colangelo, talent has been culled from every nook and cranny of the basketball world. The results have been obvious. Once the laughing stock of the NBA, Canada's only pro basketball team sits second overall in the Atlantic Division and is among the Eastern Conference's top four teams.
While not every GM can be 'BC', some valuable lessons- and practices- can be culled from the team's incredible transformation.
The four major keys to Toronto's turn-around have been:
-Hiring respected figures
-Putting an emphasis on character
-A 'Look Everywhere, Anywhere' philosophy
-Exploiting geographical weaknesses
1. Hire Respected Figures
This is hardly a ground-breaking idea, but it's so simple that it's so amazing how often it's screwed up. There are certain men in hockey you never hear a bad word about- St. Louis' Jarmo Kekalainen, Detroit's Jim Nill, and Anaheim's David McNab come to mind. Having had the great fortune to meet with two of the three, I can tell you they come by it honestly.
Teams too often try to massage their fanbase by hiring hockey names. That's not the point. You want administrators who work behind the scenes to power their teams and their success. Columbus did this with former Edmonton Assistant GM Scott Howson. Having spoken with him also, I'd say he perfectly fits the mold.
Tampa needs to overpay to acquire someone like this.
2. Put an Emphasis On Character
St. Louis is one of the best teams in the NHL at this facet of scouting. Their front office staff exudes a joy for the game, a willingness to work hard, and a great, great attitude. I'd kill to work for that group. They're going to build something great.
This attitude is required if you're going to wear a note. Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak, Steve Wagner, Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk and draft choices like David Perron, T.J. Oshie and Ian Cole are all successful because they love to show up at the rink.
This is not to say that the Lightning don't have such players. But if you're going to win on a consistent basis, that needs to be the culture. Look at the Wings- it's the worst city in the USA but yet players kill to play there.
3. Look Everywhere, Anywhere
Bryan Colangelo single-handidly revolutionized the NBA by using every single pro-calibre league at his disposal to find gems. The Spanish and Italian leagues, the Harlem Globetrotters and D-League teams have all yielded contributors.
It may not seem like it, but the world of hockey is expanding all the time. Kazakhstan, Great Britain, Denmark and Slovenia are the next hotbeds. China, J