Blackhawks, Lightning demonstrate position where Flyers want to be

Regardless of who came away with the Stanley Cup, this year’s Final featured two teams that were built from the bottom up.

The Chicago Blackhawks, now a dynasty with three Stanley Cup wins in the last six years, are where the Flyers hope to be.

The Flyers and Blackhawks were in the same neighborhood when it came to draft picks in 2007. Both were in the same Stanley Cup Final in 2010. That's where the Chicago dynasty story begins.

Just as they won the lottery and the ability to draft Patrick Kane first overall, the Blackhawks won the series in six.

Kane, Jonathan Toews, former Flyer Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa were the nucleus of forwards. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nicklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya were the defensive catalysts.

Insert the role players: Andrew Shaw, Antoine Vermette, Teuvo Teravainen, Brandon Saad and Brad Richards.

And of course, the goalie Corey Crawford.

That is the construction of a consistent championship team – granted, one that is starting to lose steam as the core veterans get older.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the opposite. They are the young upstart team that will have many more runs to come.

Everyone knew the talent of Steven Stamkos. But who knew that so many low-round, or undrafted, prospects would go on to star in these playoffs.

Tyler Johnson was undrafted. Ondrej Palat was drafted 208th overall. Nikita Nesterov was taken 148th overall. Nikita Kucherov was taken 58th overall. Alex Killorn was drafted with the 77th overall pick. Even goalie Ben Bishop was the 85th overall pick in his draft year of 2005.

Only Stamkos (1st overall), Victor Hedman (2nd overall) and Braydon Coburn (8th overall) were selected in the Top 10 of their respective drafts.

This run is only further proof that a team full of stars doesn’t always win. It takes a little luck, due diligence and dedicated work to turn into a championship team.

So how did this group of misfits win the East and come within two games of the Stanley Cup? Chemistry and a defense-first mentality.

This is a team with a well-defined system that executes with great precision. It is what the Flyers hope will become of their young defensemen as they come into the NHL and grow at this level.

The Flyers, like the Blackhawks, seem to have the core forward group in place – Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds. They also seem to have the goalie in Steve Mason. But after that, do they have the right players, the ones that are the true catalysts that have made the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings perennial contenders.

That is Ron Hextall’s job, to build this team into the type of team that forms a dynasty. It may not amount to three championships in six seasons, but at the moment, one will suffice, especially after a 40-year drought.

What the Blackhawks have proved by winning and what teams like the Kings, Rangers, Bruins and Lightning have proved by getting there is that kind of team can be built.

The Flyers hope that future is only in its early stages. And they are putting faith in Hextall to make the rest fall into place.

After watching Chicago go from holding the first overall pick in 2007 to a modern-day NHL dynasty in 2015, the proof is there. It can be built with the right combination.

The Flyers have been searching for it and one of these years they will get it right. With Hextall at the helm, hope is present and the hope is that day will be sooner rather than later.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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