The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a tough season. A season full of pain that everyone was expecting. However, in the past month or so, the Maple Leafs have played pretty well. There is a direct correlation with the Leafs calling up more than a few of their top prospects. This has led the Leafs to nearly climb out of last place in the NHL.
The Leafs are currently tied with the Edmonton Oilers with 67 points. Since the Oilers have three games to play and the Leafs only two, the Oilers are considered the last place team and currently have the best chance to win the draft lottery. Apparently Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Connor McDavid aren’t enough. They need Auston Matthews too.
But do the Leafs deserve the pick based on what what happened last season with the Oilers?
Last season, it didn’t look like the Oilers were actively tanking, at least when compared to the Buffalo Sabres. While they still only had a 17-25-9 record after the firing of Dallas Eakins, they showed some signs of improvement under Todd Nelson. When you look at the record, they recorded at least a point in 26 of 51 games after the Eakins firing. Again, while not an amazing stat, when you compare it to other years, it looks pretty good for an Oilers team that has been struggling for years.
So when the draft lottery came along and the Oilers won it, it didn’t look so bad. Of course, it was the Oilers winning again, but at least this time it didn’t reek of tanking.
Pointless Late Season Surges
So here we are. The Leafs have three games left in the season. Since the trade deadline and the first wave of call-ups, the Leafs are 6-11-1. While it took a bit, the Leafs youngsters eventually led the Leafs to being one of their better teams in the month of March. The six wins came in an eight-game span from March 9-24.
Now, no one truly deserves to win the lottery based on how they play down the stretch. With the NHL trying it’s best to prevent tanking, it would be nice to see another team that is not trying to be garbage down the stretch. While the Oilers actually have a better record since the deadline, we all know what will happen if the Oilers win the lottery once again. Even more changes will be made to the lottery system and I don’t think anyone wants that.
The Maple Leafs have a history of playing well after they have been after they have been eliminated from playoff contention. While some may have thought that there would be hope for the next year, it never worked out like that. It just usually pushed the Leafs out of the top five out of the draft. In 2008, instead of Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty, the Leafs drafted Luke Schenn. In 2009, instead of John Tavares or Victor Hedman, it was Nazem Kadri.
Will the Leafs finish in last place? Will they win the lottery, regardless of the place they finish? We won’t know the answer to the second question until April 30th. It would be nice for the Leafs to actually get the blue-chip prospect out of the draft for once after all the times late-season surges ruined the Leafs chances at superstars like Tavares and Stamkos.