With the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire at it’s conclusion, the 2003-04 NHL season was played under a cloud of uncertainty. Throughout the season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Bob Goodenow fought like cats in dogs in the media, much like Bettman and current NHLPA head Donald Fehr are doing right now.
For the most part, the CBA issues were the same as they are today with the players fighting for a bigger share of revenue, while the owners were hell bent on getting a salary cap.
With no agreement in place, the 2004-05 NHL season was cancelled while the two sides fought it out. In the end, the owners got their salary cap, which is now a point of regret for the current owners.
Historically the Draft order is determined by the final standings, with the exception of the Stanley Cup winner and finalist assuming the 30th and 29th picks, respectively.
While the NHL could have used the 2003-04 final standings as a template for the 2004-05 draft order, the NHL determined that a lottery was in order, resulting in an exciting hour of television for the fans and a dramatic roller coaster ride for the owners and general managers.
At stake was a shot at drafting super star Sidney Crosby, who had been lighting up the QMJHL with a 54-goal, 81-assist (135 point) effort with the Rimouski Oceanic in 2003-04, followed by a 66-goal, 102-assist (168 points) effort in 2004-05.
Few experts had anyone other than Crosby going first overall, and while the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was deep in talent, it was all about Crosby, and then everybody else.
In an effort to be unbiased, teams were assigned between one and three lottery balls based on their playoff appearances and first overall draft picks from the past three years. The draft order would be determined by the order the balls were picked, with the first ball picked determining the first overall pick, followed by second overall and so on.
Once the draft order was determined the teams would pick 1-30, followed by the draft order “snaking” back down in the opposite direction with the 30th ranked team starting the second round off with the 31st pick overall and back down to the winner of the draft selecting 60th overall.
In order to determine the draft order a total of 48 balls, numbered one through 48, were placed in a lottery machine. Each team was assigned a random number for each ball they had been awarded based on the criteria listed above. After the first selection was established, 29 more balls would be selected from the lottery machine one-by-one until each lottery position was established for the thirty teams.
Here is a look at how the balls were distributed:
Three balls were awarded to the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Two balls were awarded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (Now Anaheim Ducks), Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets), Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes.
One ball was awarded to the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals.
The Flames and Lightning faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Lightning emerging as the Stanley Cup Champions, defeating the Calgary Flames in seven games.
Based on the final standings and subsequent Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins would have emerged with the first overall selection, but they would have to wait to see how it all panned out in the Draft Lottery before they would know if they would retain the right to select first, which would allow them to select Crosby.
Here is a look at the final standings for the 2003-04 season:
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (would have selected 30th overall due to winning the Stanley Cup)
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Boston Bruins
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Ottawa Senators
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Philadelphia Flyers
9. New Jersey Devils
10. Colorado Avalanche
11. Dallas Stars
12. Calgary Flames (would have selected 29th overall due to their participation in the Stanley Cup Finals)
13. Montreal Canadiens
14. St. Louis Blues
15. New York Islanders
16. Nashville Predators
17. Edmonton Oilers
18. Buffalo Sabres
19. Minnesota Wild
20. Los Angeles Kings
21. Atlanta Thrashers
22. Anaheim Ducks
23. Carolina Hurricanes
24. New York Rangers
25. Florida Panthers
26. Phoenix Coyotes
27. Columbus Blue Jackets
28. Washington Capitals
29. Chicago Blackhawks
30. Pittsburgh Penguins
If the NHL took the historical route and determined the draft order based on the final standings the Penguins would have selected first overall, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks selecting second, the Washington Capitals selecting third, and so on.
With the fans unable to watch the actual picking of the balls rumors persisted that the “fix” was in, which had many suspecting that Pittsburgh (a team that was on the verge of folding and/or being relocated in the minds of many) would win the draft.
Of course, those rumors have never been substantiated, but they certainly made for some interesting debates and heated discussions back in the day.
The lottery was conducted at the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings in New York, while the actual Draft was held at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, on July 30, 2005. Both the lottery and the actual draft were not open to the public. The Draft saw only the top 20 prospects in attendance, which must have been a shallow feeling for the prospects involved.
As the winner of the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 the Tampa Bay Lightning would have selected 30th overall. As it turned out, Tampa Bay was the first franchise called at the draft, which earned them the 30th overall selection.
The next name to be called was the Florida Panthers who had traded their pick to the Philadelphia Flyers. The third ball to drop belonged to the Dallas Stars who had finished the season 11th overall, dropping them down a significant number of spots in the draft order to number 28.
Several other teams watched their draft position change drastically, with the Edmonton Oilers moving from the 17th overall selection down to 25th overall, while the Phoenix Coyotes went from a potential fifth overall pick down to the 17th pick overall. The Washington Capitals went from a potential third overall pick all the way down to the 14th overall pick, emerging as the biggest loser of the day.
As many suspected, and deservedly so, the Penguins emerged as the winner of the lottery, which gave them the right to select Sidney Crosby, which they later did.
Here is a look at how the Draft lottery turned out:
2004-05 Draft Order
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Carolina Hurricanes
4. Minnesota Wild
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Chicago Blackhawks
8. San Jose Sharks (from Atlanta)
9. Ottawa Senators
10. Vancouver Canucks
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. New York Rangers (from San Jose, via Atlanta)
13. Buffalo Sabres
14. Washington Capitals
15. New York Islanders
16. Atlanta Thrashers (from New York Rangers)
17. Phoenix Coyotes
18. Nashville Predators
19. Detroit Red Wings
20. Florida Panthers
21. Toronto Maple Leafs
22. Boston Bruins
23. New Jersey Devils
24. St. Louis Blues
25. Edmonton Oilers
26. Calgary Flames
27. Washington Capitals (from Colorado)
28. Dallas Stars
29. Philadelphia Flyers (from Florida)
30. Tampa Bay Lightning
Should this years NHL lockout persist and cost the fans another season, one wonders if the NHL will revert to the lottery or go with the final standings from the 2011-12 season.
An argument can be made for both scenario’s, but it is most likely that history, for better or worse, will repeat itself which will see the NHL implement another lottery rather than go with the 2011-12 final standings.
In the end the lottery is likely the best way to go. The lottery takes into account the past three seasons, which should serve to benefit the teams that have struggled the most over that time span.
If this is the case teams such as the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs should benefit most, as all four teams have been perennial bottom feeders over that time span.
Keep in mind, with Edmonton earning the first overall pick in each of the past three seasons selecting Taylor Hall first overall in 2010, followed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012 this would serve to hurt the Oilers if a lottery was used to determine the order for the 2013 NHL Draft.
When you consider the bumper crop of talent the Oilers have assembled over the past three years nobody will have any sympathy for them. Sorry Edmonton, there will not be a fourth straight first overall pick if a lottery is used to determine the order! Or maybe there will— it is, afterall, a “lottery”.
The team with the best shot would appear to be the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that is desperate for talent with super star forward Rick Nash being moved to the New York Rangers this summer.
Another team with a great shot at landing the first overall pick would be the New York Islanders, a team with financial issues and in need of more young talent.
Of course, when you consider where the Maple Leafs have finished (26th, 22nd, 29th), they would also be in a good position to land the top pick. Can you imagine Toronto with the first overall pick? The media and fans would have a field day if that came to fruition!
Here is a look at how the NHL standings finished in each of the past three seasons:
27. NY Islanders
23. New Jersey
25. Atlanta (Winnipeg)
27. NY Islanders
23. Atlanta (Winnipeg)
25. Tampa Bay
26. NY Islanders
One thing is for sure, no matter how the draft order is determined (using the 2011-12 standings, a lottery, or if we actually play a season in 2012-13 so we can use the final standings) the 2013 NHL Draft is said to be loaded with high-end talent, starting with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon (C), Seth Jones (D), Sean Monahan (C), Elias Lindholm (C) and Rasmus Ristolainen (D), all of whom were ranked 1 through 5 on Bob McKenzie’s September Top 2013 Draft Prospects list.
While we all hope to have hockey soon, it is nice to dream a little of what could be, isn’t it?