Tanking Will Not Help the Florida Panthers

Yesterday, George Richards, who cover the Panthers for the Miami Herald asked the question quite a few teams seem to be asking themselves this time of year: Should Florida tank to move up in the draft?

It’s a valid question. If you’re not going to the playoffs, why not put yourself in better draft position? The Penguins allegedly tanked to grab Mario Lemieux (#1 in 1984) and that worked out for them.

But let’s not forget the Senators allegedly tanked to grab Alexandre Daigle (#1 in 1993) and that didn’t work out quite as well.

And that’s the thing about draft picks. Or the two things really. Number one, their performance isn’t guaranteed and number two, even a great pick won’t necessarily save a franchise.

Look at Steve Stamkos (#1 in 2008) in Tampa. He’s having an amazing second season, playing fantastic hockey, and it just isn’t enough to help the Lightning.

And as great a player as Rick Nash (#1 in 2002) is, he’s never been enough to turn things around in Columbus. Not alone, anyway.

Obviously, smart successful draft picks help franchises, but if there’s no infrastructure within an organization to support the pick, it really doesn’t do much good. One great player can’t turn around a franchise.

Sidney Crosby (#1 in 2005) had a huge impact in Pittsburgh because of his enormous talent and because of his strong supporting cast. I don’t think he could have won a Stanley Cup with a team like Atlanta. Or Florida, for that reason.

In general, people like the idea of draft picks because the picks are mysterious. You don’t know how well a high pick will do, but you dream they’ll be incredible. In the absence of evidence, your mind assumes greatness.

And sometimes the picks are great, but without a support system within a team, even great picks aren’t going to be able to turn around the failures of a dysfunctional franchise.

The Panthers have not only created a culture of losing, they seem to somehow actively encourage it. There’s no NHL stat tracking apathetic play, but you’d have to put Florida in the mix for the top ranking, if the statistic existed.

I’m sure some people within the Panthers organization might relish the idea of tanking, as it officially makes losing a good thing, rather than a bad thing. There’s certainly scientific interest in seeing just how numb an NHL franchise can become, but barring that exciting knowledge, I’m not sure tanking for a pick will really help the Panthers fortunes in future seasons.