Things are all unicorns and butterflies up the road now in the Edmonton at the moment about their future, while some Flames fans hang their heads about the future. We will see how that turns out for Edmonton Oiler fans, they might want to get on the phone to Islanders, Thrashers or Panthers fans to see how they feel about their rebuilds - 10 years later all those fans are still waiting...
Now I'm not trying to pick on Mitch here, because he's not the only one I've heard this line of thought from before. He just happened to provide the most recent example.
As soon as someone mentions the word "rebuild" for any middling franchise, fans and non-fans alike start bringing out the examples of rebuilds gone wrong. For the fans it's a horrified reaction, for the non-fans, a way to laugh at the franchise.
The fact is though, these teams are hardly indicative of what a rebuild truly is and truly means.
The Case of the Panthers:
Until recently, (and even not know, according to the team president) the Panthers were never a rebuilding team.
In fact, until recently, they weren't even a bad team. They were a thoroughly mediocre team. They were never last, or even second to last in the conference. In fact, since they lockout they've only picked in the top 3 once- just last year. They continually played to sneak into the playoffs, just hoping for a #8 seed, even when it meant watching prized UFA to be Jay Bouwmeester getting his rights traded for much less than what he could've brought at the Trade Deadline in 2009.
The Panthers rarely signed quality depth players, or in fact, quality top end players to complement the very good players they had drafted and developed in Stephen Weiss, David Booth, and Nathan Horton. The team was consistently on the bubble, and generally just missing out. It wasn't until GM Dale Tallon was hired that they went into full on rebuild mode.
The Case of the Thrashers:
It would be incredibly easy to just say See: Section on Panthers, but the story differs a bit.
Most of the themes remain the same: mediocre team that was never bad and never good. They rarely had enough good players, and when they did, they failed to fill out the bottom of the depth chart with quality defensemen and defensive forwards.
Add in a dash of poor coaching, a splash of awful trades (see: Marian Hossa Trade) and Dany Heatly being a horrible human being, and you get a team that never actually rebuilt, and is really on it's way up anyways.
The Case of the Islanders:
Books could be written about the Islanders of the past decade. From the complete mismanagement of Mike Milbury to the poor handling of writer Chris Botta, the organization as a whole has been a trainwreck. Let's not forget the awful arena, the Lighthouse Project that has yet to materialize, and the much more attractive location of the nearby Rangers.
This is also a team that made the playoffs within the past few years, losing 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 06-07 season playoffs.
I'll spill some more ink on the subject of a rebuild in the next couple weeks, and how to go about it, but my point is, oftentimes the examples most frequently used are the worst examples to use. Just because a team is bad doesn't mean they're rebuilding or have tried to rebuild. Generally, they've just been poorly managed.
And for those arguing against a rebuild, I suggest you look at what happened to the Florida Panthers as what will likely happen to the Flames shortly. They spent so much time as a mediocre team, and held on to several players too long that they just slipped from mediocrity to awfulness with little to show for it.