SIMMONS: You need a top draft pick to win Stanley Cup
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins hoists the Stanley Cup during the Victory Parade and Rally on June 14, 2017 in Pittsburgh. (Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Ever wonder the tangible value of picking first or second in the NHL Draft?
The truth is, you don’t often win Stanley Cups without a first or second overall pick on your roster — yours or somebody else's.
The last two Cup champions had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury on the Pittsburgh list. All three were top-two picks, Crosby and Fleury were first overall.
Chicago won with first overall pick Patrick Kane.
Los Angeles won with second overall pick Drew Doughty.
The only team post-lockout to win a Cup without a first or second pick was Mike Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings, led by Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, both late picks who would have been first or second had there been do-overs for their draft years.
The non-winner closest to winning in the NHL may be Tampa Bay Lightning, with Steven Stamkos as a first pick overall and defenceman Victor Hedman a second pick. In that same conversation is the Edmonton Oilers who have had four first overall picks in recent years, but two are no longer with them and only one, Connor McDavid, has proven to be a superstar. They will win a Cup within the next five years, just as I suspect the Maple Leafs will with Auston Matthews.
WIGGINS LEAVES YOU WANTING MORE
I watch Andrew Wiggins and I always find myself expecting more.
Like something’s missing. Something not easily explained.
Maybe it was the original sell. He was going to be a franchise maker. He was going to change teams. Maybe it was all the talk of who and what he was going to be.
But more often, both in college at Kansas and in the NBA at Minnesota, I find him good but not great, statistically fine but not overwhelming in any way.
And in the NBA these days, you can be less than many expected and still make enormous sums of money.
Wiggins is sitting on a five-year $148 million US offer from the Timberwolves — that’s more than $29 million a season more than DeMar DeRozan is paid in Toronto — that he will certainly sign for now and for his future.
The money is amazing. The player hasn’t got there just yet. “The sky is the limit for Andrew,” says his coach, Tom Thibodeau. We have heard that for a very long time. He averaged 23.6 points per game, and that’s impressive and he is remarkably durable, but the wow factor? That’s still missing and all the money in the world won’t change that.
BEST COACH RARELY WINS JACK ADAMS AWARD
They call it the Coach of the Year award in the NHL but the truth is, the best coaches rarely win the Jack Adams Award.
Mike Sullivan hasn’t won. Joel Quenneville won it once, but not in Chicago, where he has won three Stanley Cups. He won when he was coaching in St. Louis. Mike Babcock hasn’t won, neither has Peter Laviolette. Alain Vigneault, Claude Julien and Ken Hitchcock each won the award once, but not with the teams that currently employ them.
For my money, those are the top seven coaches in the NHL, and not necessarily in any order.
Even the great Scotty Bowman, with a record that will never be matched again in any sport, only won the Jack Adams twice. Hell, considering Bowman’s unprecedented career, not only should he have won the award more often, it should probably be named for him. But that’s another argument for another day.
Harry Neale once put the award in the kind of perspective maybe it needed from a grinding coach: “I don’t want to be coach of the year,” Neale once said. “I want to be coach for the year.”