Original article at Lions in Winter
A win on the books has done little to turn minds away from tanking. Some analysts feel quite strongly about their ability to see the future months of 2010, so much so that the "towel", they insist, must still be thrown in.
I take issue with that argument for a few reasons. Some of which I elaborate on here.
The missing argument
When people advocate the tank, they always point to the Pittsburgh Penguins as the poster child. Pittsburgh drafted in the top five for five consecutive years on the backs of some horrible seasons. This landed them Staal, Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, and Whitney.
It seems a convincing argument, but how much more valid is it than saying a team should wear red to win, or a team should acquire Scott Niedermayer to win. It's not pure coincidence, we can see that. But while Pittsburgh turned their losing into winning, does that mean tanking is a reliable method?
The counter argument is often missed. That is, that teams that have been bottom of the league for nearly a generation have been enjoying near the same frequency of high draft picks as Pittsburgh, yet not turning that into results they can be proud of.
Take the Florida Panthers. You may remember them from lottery draws from nearly every year in living memory. Their most recent go-around in the land of top 5 picks was from 2001 to 2003.
In 2001, they selected Stephen Weiss fourth overall. In 2002, Bouwmeester first. Then in 2003, after winning the lottery they traded down to pick Nathan Horton at third. Their next season in the "build" phase, it was Rotislav Olesz at seventh.
So that's four years building through the draft with results many in Montreal would consider unacceptable. And where has it left them? Last time I checked they missed the playoffs in 2008-09 and are in the thick of the race to miss again.
Florida's not alone. Columbus clocked up Klesla and Zherdev in the top five to go with Nash in building their version of the playoff evaders. Atlanta, famous for never winning a playoff game in their history also show a disturbing trend, even selecting well in Heatley and Kovalchuk, can't build a winner (at least in part due to duds Lehtonen and Stefan as top five picks).
The San Jose Sharks may look like an example to follow now, but their success is mostly down to industry in trades and not due to selecting Andrei Zyuzin, Patrick Marleau, then Brad Stuart to affect their outcomes. I could go on (hello Winnipeg).
Tanking is no guarantee for success. the only thing tanking does guarantee is a high pick and lots of losses. After that, you need more on your side—either good scouting or luck.
For me, tanking is out. I'd much prefer the Molsons to sink whatever windfalls they get form the playoffs into more men like Guy Boucher and more and better amateur and pro scouts.
When it comes to games that remain—win them all if you can. Try to win them all, no question. More good will come of 25 games of a team gelling and pulling in one direction than a 34 percent chance at a great player.