When Anaheim won the Cup in 2007, all those who had been convinced for so long that big and nasty equated with unbeatable were vindicated.
Then last year, Detroit won. So everyone was re-educated to realise that puck possession with a perfect specimen anchoring the D was the way to go.
Now this. Pittsburgh (or should I say Pittsburg Magnitogorsk) have proven the real way to win is different.
First you have to commit to 5 years of absolute futility. That will get you the 5 top 3 draft picks you need to build a team. Obviously, you need to be careful to time this so you don't get Kovalchuk and Stefan, but Malkin and Crosby. More helpful would be if you timed a lockout. That way, one season of losing gets you two top picks.
The next thing you have to do is fire the coach that got you to the final the year before and hire someone with no NHL experience. Not too early though. Probably February to be safe.
Next, name one of your first overall draft picks the captain the minute he steps onto the ice. If he's 18, all the better.
Make sure you scout Russians well -- they are the key You'll need a dominant one to be the best forward over the season and the playoffs. You could probably use one to be your best offensive defenceman and a feisty playoff winger that scores timely goals would be nice too (for flex we'll let you get away with former Soviet for now). This strategy is key, because when you're down, you'll find out how Russians can lift your team of indifferent Canadians with their long thirst for a sip from Stanley's mug.
For the rest of your team, don't fret too much. It doesn't matter. You can make trades for any Islander, because you have centres who've learned from the master at how to make anyone (Rob Brown) score. Depth is overrated, so you can make all the silly trades you want (provided you keep those 5 top picks). Just fill the holes with names.
Also, don't worry about losing too much as the draft picks start to come through. Don't get edgy when your fans stop coming and the team might fold. This is all part of the recipe. If you need money, get that player who you never paid his full salary the last time you were bankrupt and get him to chip in.
There you go, Cup in ten years time guaranteed.
What about Detroit?
Clearly made too many mistakes. Sticking with that discipline and patient system was a mistake. Can you believe they didn't fire their coach with all the signs they had (i.e., January turning into February)? And can you believe they signed the second leading playoff point-getter and goalscorer from the year prior (a known choker)? No one else was so stupid to offer him a contract.
All this franchise has done is shown us now how to be the #1 loser. How to be the ones crying on the ice when the Russian overlords parade the trophies. A smart team has been honing their golf together after their players return from playing for Denmark and Switzerland in the Worlds.
Quick, someone tell Brian Lawton before he trades that pick.
Mocking aside, congratulations to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh fans (Darren). This makes the league more interesting - and more excruciating for a team trying to come out of the East.