Brian Burke has joined the growing group of people who have decided to take shots at the Penguins in order to deflect attention from their own failures.
Via Puck Daddy:
"What's the Pittsburgh model?"
Brian Burke snapped that question back to the media during a postseason press conference on Tuesday, examining the carcass of the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs' season.
The initial question had been about preaching patience to the fan base and a form of long-term rebuilding that's been foreign to the Leafs: Collecting high draft choices through years of unsuccessful hockey, only to have a franchise resurrected as a Stanley Cup contender.
"They got a lottery. They won a god damn lottery and they got the best player in the game. Is that available to me? Should we do that? Should we ask the League to have a lottery this year, and maybe we pick first?" he said.
"The Pittsburgh model? My ass."
Burke continued: "They got the best player in the game in a lottery. Ray Shero's done a good job. He's an excellent GM and he's a friend of mine. But I love when people talk about the Pittsburgh model. The simple fact is that they got the best player … we came in second that year in Anaheim. We got Bobby Ryan. Impact player, good player. They got Sidney Crosby in the lottery."
It's really a shame that the Ducks weren't able to have any success at all after losing out on that lottery pick.
Somehow 15 teams managed to make the playoffs this year without Sidney Crosby…
Of course, Burke does have a point. Struggling for years and stockpiling draft picks doesn't always lead to success (see the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers for more information.) Depending on the draft year you could end up with an impact player in the top five, or you could end up with a serviceable but not franchise-saving player. You could find yourself with a team filled with young, talented players and no direction. You could continue to struggle. There's no guaranteed way to build success in the NHL. If there was, everyone would do it.
What worked for the Penguins worked for the Penguins in that particular time with those particular players.
Things could have turned out much differently. For example, in most years there isn't an Evgeni Malkin available with the second pick. Losing the Ovechkin lottery could have seriously hurt the Penguins if Malkin wasn't in that particular draft. The Pens would have had to select someone who wasn't going to win Art Ross Trophies and lead the team in Crosby's absence. Just that one detail would have changed everything about the current Penguins and they likely wouldn't have won the Cup in 2009. A team is a sum of its parts and the Penguins managed to draft some pretty good parts. Other teams don't have that luxury even if they get high draft picks for years. It just depends on the year and who is available.
So it's incorrect to say that the Penguins know how to build a team "the right way" and that everyone else is wrong. Teams are built in a number of different ways and teams struggle in a number of different ways. There will be a time when the Pittsburgh Penguins will struggle, so there's no point in bragging now about how everything the team does is awesome and how they did things "correctly." Things don't work out sometimes. That's true across the board.
However, Burke did miss the point as well. First of all, the league IS having a lottery this year and Burke DOES have a chance to pick first. Someone should really tell him that.
Second of all, long term vision is incredibly important to having success as a hockey team. Burke seemed to deflect the question into a "there's no Sidney Crosby in this draft" question when it really was a "shouldn't you focus on building your team through young talent and draft picks rather than trying to make blockbuster trades all the time" question.
"I'm not a patient person. I was born impatient, I'm going to die impatient," he said. "I don't like what's happened here. I don't like our lack of progress. I thought we'd be farther ahead than we are right now."
That's the problem. The Leafs aren't a Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel trade away from being a contender. Burke should stop looking for a quick fix and build his team over time. If "the Pittsburgh model" exists, that's what it is. The Penguins didn't trade their draft picks until 2008 when they were already a strong contender. The Leafs traded them when they were struggling. The Leafs have alternated between acquiring young talent and picks and trading young talent and picks for proven players and its that lack of consistency and long-term direction that has hurt them.
Of course, deep down, Burke knows that in retrospect. That's why it's easier to spout off about a lottery and Sidney Crosby than it is to recognize your own shortcomings.
We await the inevitable $20,000 fine for Brian Burke.