SUN Hockey Pool

Wings should be model for Oilers

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

Daryl Katz will officially become the new owner of the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

If Katz is looking for an owner and an organization after which to model the Oilers, he should look no further than Mike Ilitch and the Detroit Red Wings.

With their fourth Stanley Cup victory in the last 11 seasons to complement seven straight seasons with 48+ wins, it goes without saying that the Red Wings are far and away the best organization in the NHL.

Prior to the 2004-05 lock-out, the naysayers would suggest the Red Wings bought their success.

Of course, that didn't exactly work for the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Rangers.

Coming out of the lockout, Edmonton's upset of Detroit in 2005-06 and Anaheim's manhandling of the Wings in the '07 playoffs allowed for the critics to imply that Detroit had too many Europeans and lacked jam.

You can now throw that theory out the window.

WELL POSITIONED

Detroit is back on top, and well positioned from a salary-cap perspective to continue to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for years to come.

It hasn't always been like this for Ilitch, who purchased the Wings in June of 1982 at a time when Detroit was pretty much the laughing stock of the NHL.

One of his first moves was to hire Jimmy Devellano as general manager.

Devellano preached patience and building through the draft and made Steve Yzerman his first ever draft pick.

The Wings hit home runs drafting Russian players in the 1990s and have seemingly owned the Swedish player pipeline in recent years.

To this day, Devellano remains with Ilitch in senior management roles with both the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers.

Ilitch has built a management team that includes Devellano, GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, Yzerman as a vice-president in training, and consultant Scotty Bowman.

This gives Ilitch a management team with lots of experience and, perhaps more importantly, differing views.

The Red Wings coaching staff that won the Cup was guided by Mike Babcock and the new head coach of the San Jose Sharks, Todd McLellan.

Both Babcock and McLellan worked their way up through the ranks.

The other assistant on the staff, ex-NHLer Paul MacLean, spent years in the IHL and UHL before joining the Wings organization.

Clearly, the Red Wings believe that coaching is an important facet to an organization's success and not place to appoint people with little or no experience.

You also don't see a lot of ex-Red Wing players other than Hall of Famer Yzerman being fast-tracked into management or coaching positions.

FISHING GUIDE

Scouts like Hakan Andersson, who was a fishing guide and taxi driver before the Red Wings hired him, have found numerous skilled diamonds in the Swedish rough, including Nicklas Lidstrom (53rd overall in 1989), Henrik Zetterberg (210th overall 1999), and Johan Franzen (97th overall in 2004).

As a result, players continue to improve - kind of like how 25 years ago Wayne Gretzky helped Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson become far better than most scouts ever expected.

This was illustrated again in the playoffs with the emergence of Franzen, Valtteri Filpulla and Nicklas Kronwall.

The end result is that Detroit has a model that produces wins, and winning creates a very happy environment for players.

That's a major reason why Detroit gets hometown discounts when their players re-sign.

Katz is taking over an Oilers organization that has been mediocre at best for the last 15 seasons.

Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish have had some good moments, like the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, but they've struggled as well.

If Katz and the Oilers are serious about becoming a truly elite organization, part of the answer can be found in the Detroit model: Strong diverse mangement, experienced coaching, and building through the draft with an emphasis on skill.

Bob Stauffer is the afternoon host on Team 1260.


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