Last year, all NHL fans saw a dramatic change in the lottery process. For 2016, the draft lottery will now expand to the second and third overall picks, as well as for the first pick in the draft. The last few years, non-playoff teams have dropped a spot in the draft depending upon who won the lottery that year. For instance, the Arizona Coyotes fell back a spot in last year’s draft from the second selection in the first round to the third pick because the Edmonton Oilers won the lottery.
Now, it’s possible a non-playoff team can fall back as many as three selections in the first round. Imagine having the worst record in the league by a country mile and picking fourth overall. The reason behind the new changes in the lottery system stem from the league being afraid of teams dumping a season for the top pick in the draft. This is such flawed thinking.
Changes Make No Sense
First off, by changing the lottery percentages as much as the league did for the 2015 draft, no team, even the Buffalo Sabres who had the worst record, felt good about winning the lottery and landing the No. 1 overall pick. The Sabres had the best chance at winning the lottery at 20 percent. You don’t have to be Einstein to realize that means the worst team in the league has an 80 percent chance of not landing the No. 1 overall pick. Isn’t that enough of an incentive for teams not to be in a dumping mode?
How many draft picks were worth dumping a season for in the loaded 2015 draft? After the big two in McDavid and Eichel, was there a huge difference in talent between picks 3-7? In the 2015 model, only the team that had the worst record could guarantee themselves one of these future franchise players. There are usually five really bad teams in a given year. Do you know how bad of a roster a franchise would have to put together to guarantee themselves the worst record? Even with last year’s rules, it was only a 20 percent chance that team would then win the lottery. Does anybody believe by doing so this would be a healthy thing for a NHL franchise?
ICYMI: NHL draft lottery changes reduce incentive to tank for supreme talent. Even less incentive starting in 2016. http://t.co/JvEa6BEbCP
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) August 21, 2014
Let’s Not Forget the Cap
In today’s salary cap NHL, where it’s so difficult to make trades, it is nonsensical to have the new lottery system starting in 2016. How many trades that have a big impact occur in the NHL anymore, be it during the season or the offseason? It’s not like the teams that have done poorly these last few years have turned down countless trade opportunities to get better.
Then, we get to free agency, where in recent years we have seen gross over-payments to players, in terms of both dollars and years. So does the league want the bottom teams to get out of the cellar by overpaying decent to good players in free agency? The recent rise of above-average player salaries ($4-$5 million in many cases) is one of the biggest reasons why player salaries overall have risen so much in recent years, and put teams in a cap crunch. Is this what the league wants?
Final point, the teams that just missed the playoffs in recent times have been really good teams. Take last year as an example as the Bruins finished with 96 points and the Kings winded up with 95 points. Under the rules of the new lottery system starting in 2016, teams like last year’s Bruins and Kings will get three bites out of the apple to land a windfall top-three draft pick. Why do we want to give teams like last year’s Bruins or Kings multiple chances to land a top-three draft pick?
I understand, with all due respect to the Edmonton franchise and fan base, everyone else in the hockey world is tired of the Oilers having the No. 1 overall pick. There are better options out there to implement than the 2016 lottery system. Why not keep the 2015 lottery rules with the caveat no team can pick first overall in back-to-back seasons? For instance, if the Oilers win the lottery in 2016 because they won the lottery last year, they would then slide back to the No. 2 overall slot in the draft. Wouldn’t lottery rules as I just detailed make the idea of a team dumping for high draft picks very unattractive?
Rebuilding is a painful process for everyone in an NHL organization, as well as their fans. No team wants to rebuild unless there are no other options, based on the current state of their franchise. Punishing teams for doing what they have to do for the long-term health of the franchise is illogical. I don’t know how to justify these rule changes the NHL has undertaken.