NHL Entry Draft: Why Reward Failure?
With the 2016 NHL Entry Draft just a few weeks away, many fans and NHL executives have been dreading the possibility of the Edmonton Oilers landing the first overall pick for the third time in six years.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly recently stated that there will be more discussions within the NHL offices with regards to making additional changes to be implemented should Edmonton land the coveted first overall pick.
While many fans will applaud the Leagues efforts to review the Draft process, it would seem to me that, unless the NHL is willing to make significant changes to the Draft, we run the risk of finding ourselves in the same situation sooner rather than later.
In a recent episode of Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid show, Daly went on the record about Edmonton winning the lottery. “I think there’s a certain amount of chatter among the managers with respect to how this has played out. We want people to be patient. We have made changes. Let’s see how these changes work before we react to them. But will there be more discussion if Edmonton were to win the lottery? Of course there will be more discussion,” Daly said.
Now, I hate to attack Mr. Daly, but “talking” about Edmonton winning the lottery and actually doing something about it are two completely different things.
Yes, the NHL made strides last summer when they completely overhauled the NHL Draft Lottery odds. That said, the worst team still has the best chance of landing the top pick, which means, in the event an NHL team feels they are in need of a rebuild, there will always be the risk of said team “tanking.” In fact, it’s all but inevitable that this/these team/s will attempt to tank.
So, what’s the issue with “tanking”? First and foremost, the act of tanking can leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans, especially season tickets holders that can spend literally tens of thousands of dollars on tickets. It also sends a terrible message to the roster players, who may feel a sense of angst should they win instead of losing as is preferred by management and fans. Remember when the Buffalo Sabre fans booed their team when they won on home ice? How embarrassing was that for the team? For the players? And for the NHL?
How can the NHL fix this mess?
One idea is to try something unorthodox. Why not, instead of rewarding the bottom feeders, try rewarding the teams that come closest to making the playoffs but fall just short?
Now, stick with me here. We would still have a lottery and all of the non-playoff teams would be included in the lottery, but the team that finishes dead last would have the worst odds of landing the first overall pick. Why? Because they didn’t earn it!
In this scenario, the team that finished 17th overall would be given the best odds of landing the number one pick overall, followed by the 18th place team and so on.
This would ensure that the team that is trying it’s hardest to make the playoffs would be rewarded for their efforts. Suddenly every game matters, even for the lesser teams. Suddenly every team is constantly trying to improve their rosters via trades, free agency, prudent management and coaching hiring’s and through the draft. Suddenly we have a much more competitive League where no team is sabotaging their rosters in order to garner the best shot of landing the first overall pick.
Currently the draft shakes out like this:
Team: Chance of Landing First Overall Pick:
- Toronto 20%
- Edmonton 13.5%
- Vancouver 11.5%
- Columbus 9.5%
- Calgary 8.5%
- Winnipeg 7.5%
- Arizona 6.5%
- Buffalo 6.0%
- Montreal 5%
- Colorado 3.5%
- New Jersey 3%
- Ottawa 2.5%
- Carolina 2%
- Boston 1%
Vs. the potential new system:
Team Chance of Landing First Overall Pick:
- Boston 20%
- Carolina 13.5%
- Ottawa 11.5%
- New Jersey 9.5%
- Colorado 8.5%
- Montreal 7.5%
- Buffalo 6.5%
- Arizona 6.0%
- Winnipeg 5%
- Calgary 3.5%
- Columbus 3%
- Vancouver 2.5%
- Edmonton 2%
- Toronto 1%
Acceptance of this format will likely differ depending on where your current team sits in the Draft versus where they would end up in the proposed format. Toronto fans will likely have a fit as they would go from having the best chance to get the first overall pick to having only a one percent (1%) chance of winning the NHL Entry Draft.
But consider this, after the Maple Leafs cleaned house at/before the trade deadline and called up their prospects, Toronto showed an amazing compete level and were able to rack up the points. If the Maple Leafs needed to make the playoffs instead of tanking, an argument could be made that the team would have tackled this season very differently by calling up their players sooner and/or making more player acquisitions via trades or free agent signings.
It all comes down to strategy, just as it does when your team is attempting to tank.
Of course, this proposed format is not without its faults, but that is inevitable, isn’t it?
What say you, would you like to keep the system the way it is and continue to reward teams that tank, or is it time for something extreme like the system I have proposed?