Why Punish the NHL Cellar Dwellers More?


There is a movement going on by many people around the game of hockey that want to see at least one more significant change to the new NHL lottery system. That change is to have the lottery based on the standings in the league at the trade deadline and not the final standings at the end of the regular season. So we want to punish the NHL cellar dwellers more? Really? This position is off-base in terms of making life more difficult for the bottom teams in the league.

The Lottery Odds Aren’t Good for Anyone

There is no team in the NHL that feels good about their odds heading into the lottery.  I am not just talking about the #1 overall pick in the draft but also landing a top three selection. Consider the odds for the worst team in the league. That franchise only has a 20% chance to land the #1 overall pick and has slightly less than a 50% chance to land a top three selection. Those are the odds for the worst team in the league, for everyone else the percentages are worse. Do these odds sound good to anyone?

The new system is setup so it’s truly a lottery in every sense of the word. The odds are better than going to your local newsstand and buying a Powerball ticket, however the percentages are poor for every non-playoff team.

Keep in mind there is a 56% chance that the franchise that lands the #1 overall pick is a team that did not finish as one of the bottom three teams. The odds are greater that a team in the bottom five of the league will slide backwards and not forwards in the draft. Does this sound like a system that promotes tanking?

Bottom Teams Not Trying to Win – Wrong!

Many hockey organizations, insiders and fans feel the bottom teams are just dumping the last third of the season for a top draft pick. If we look at the results for March (not counting games on March 31st) the data shows the opposite.

In the month of March the Toronto Maple Leafs have won seven games in fifteen contests. In their eight losses half of them have been one goal games. The Edmonton Oilers have similar numbers to Toronto (seven wins in fifteen games and three losses by one goal). The Winnipeg Jets have five wins and eleven losses in March. However, eight of their eleven losses have been one goal contests.

Though the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and the Columbus Blue Jackets do not have good records in March, on most nights they have been very competitive. These bottom six teams are trying to win but quite frankly they have poor records because of the issues on their rosters.

Why Punish Teams for Building Through the Draft?

Why should teams be punished for building their team through the draft? If an organization reaches a time and place where their NHL roster is not very good and they do not have a solid prospect pool, isn’t the wise move to build that franchise through the draft? In most cases don’t organizations find their foundation and building block players through the draft?

Finally let’s keep in mind because very few teams in the NHL have salary cap flexibility, there are hardly any significant trades in the league anymore on a yearly basis. So are we telling these bottom teams that they need to build their team through free agency, where players are grossly overpaid? For the most part the players who become unrestricted free agents are second tier players and not first line players, be it forwards, defenseman or goalies.

No organization wants to rebuild but sometimes there comes a point when that is the right move for that franchise. Let’s not punish them for it.

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