Oh how things can change in a matter of 48 hours.
A couple of days ago, I argued the Edmonton Oilers were getting shafted based on the proposed format of the 24-team play-in format that would see the NHL finalize the 16 teams able to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. The idea that Edmonton had earned their spot in the official playoff picture based on their consistent success over the course of an almost-completed NHL season, but were potentially going to have to play a team like the Chicago Blackhawks… it simply wasn’t fair. Sure, there was a silver lining in that the Oilers could roll over a lower-seeded team and come into the postseason hot, but that was still a pretty big if against a team that has won multiple trophies and, at one time, was considered a dynasty.
Said proposed play-in format was made official on Tuesday when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement the regular season was now over. He went on to talk about the Draft, the Lottery and the other things the NHL was still considering.
With the rumored information now all-but confirmed and after a few unknowns were answered, are the Oilers still getting shafted?
What the Announcement Means For the Oilers
In a manner of speaking, the Oilers not getting a first-round bye is a tough pill to swallow. They were the second-best team in the Pacific Division and if the playoffs were structured along divisional lines, the Oilers would have a bye.
As Jonathan Willis of The Athletic points out:
The conference format is arguably better than the NHL’s standard divisional approach, but no team is hurt more by the abrupt midseason decision to abandon divisions than the Oilers are. Much has been made of the fact that the Penguins will have to compete in a play-in round, but they’re the third-best team in their division and would have had to do so even in playoffs structured along divisional lines.
Edmonton is the only team that will now have to play an extra play-in round because of the change.source – ‘Oilers return to play guide: How the NHL’s 24-team format impacts Edmonton’ – Jonathan Willis – The Athletic – 05/26/2020
That said, the silver lining (or “sliver” based on a silly typo) we mentioned in our previous article just got a lot thicker.
Not only are the Oilers playing the twelve seed in Chicago, but the official rules of the NHL Draft Lottery were laid out in that same call by Bettman and the Oilers potentially have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick — even if highly unlikely.
Call it a consolation prize for having to compete in the play-in games, but the Oilers have essentially been told, ‘Hey, if you don’t win your series against the Blackhawks, the good news is, you could enter the draft lottery.’
How the Lottery Could Affect the Oilers
For the official NHL Draft Lottery format to really pay off for the Oilers, two things need to happen.
First, one the seven teams that aren’t included in the play-in format need to not win the Phase 1 Draft Lottery that will take place on June 26. Those seven teams still have the best odds (as they should). Technically, the Oilers can pick No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 overall if none of the seven teams claim those respective spots. If so, a Phase 2 lottery would be required.
Second, for any of this to matter, the Oilers would need to lose to Chicago. Should that happen, amazingly, the Oilers — a clear playoff team based on the regular season results — would then have the same odds as any of the other eight eliminated teams to win the top pick.
Again, all this is unlikely, but unlikely also means possible. As Lloyd Christmas said in ‘Dumb and Dumber‘, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance. Yeah!”
The Oilers Plan Hasn’t Changed
In the end, the idea for the Oilers is to defeat the Blackhawks now that they officially know they’ll have to play them. From there, get hot and win the whole thing.
Here’s to hoping that if and when the playoffs kick in, teams are given a bit of a “preseason” to warm up after months away. The Oilers never quite got the chance to solidify their team chemistry after some acquisitions at the deadline and with a healthy lineup, those questions won’t disappear.
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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