The 2016 NHL Entry Draft will have a
slightly different look to it this June as the league will be introducing a
lottery system for the top three picks rather than just the number-one
selection. The idea is to stop teams from tanking and finishing as low as
possible to receive better odds at the top pick. But while the chances of
gaining that first pick have been reduced from last year, the fact remains that
the last-place team in the league still has the best odds in the lottery.
Therefore, several clubs are still hoping to end the season in 30th
place in the 30-team league rather than 29th or 28th etc.
It appears the only way to stop the tanking
will be to ensure that all non-playoff teams are given the same odds at winning
the lottery. This year’s system means the last-place team may draft as low as
fourth whereas they were guaranteed a top-two pick last year. In fact, the
last-place team this season may have better odds at getting the fourth pick
instead of first, but the club still has the best shot at number one. This
still gives NHL franchises an incentive to finish as low as possible in the
standings once they realize they’re not going to the postseason. This puts
general managers in a conflicting position since their job is to improve the
team through the draft and the best way to achieve that goal is to lose games.
Once the season heads into the final
stretch teams could see their lottery chances take a hit if they win a few
games and climb the standings. Some fans feel they’re actually being punished
by racking up points. Perhaps the NHL should freeze the draft lottery standings
earlier in the season when most teams are still trying their best to reach the playoffs
instead of purposely trying to finish as low as possible. One suggestion has
been for the league to rank the teams and announce the lottery winner at the
trade deadline. This year’s lottery winner for the top pick won’t be announced
until April 30th, a few weeks after the 2015/16 campaign has ended.
Once the lottery winners have been
announced there will be no reason for clubs to ice weakened teams and attempt
to slide down the standings. There will be no incentive or reward for this and
fans may see weaker teams suddenly give it their all in a late push for a
playoff spot. The NHL could also even the playing field somewhat by altering
the rules of the draft lottery. For example, the current system allows the same
team to win the lottery year after year. This makes it hard for fans to believe
the lottery is purely random when the same club has been fortunate enough to
win it several times.
The Edmonton Oilers have selected first
overall four times in the last six years and could make it five for seven this
summer. Many fans would like to see rules introduced which would exclude a lottery
winner from taking part in the process for a period of three to five years. For
instance, if the Maple Leafs should happen to choose first overall in 2016 they
wouldn’t get another shot at it again until 2020. The current system enables
the same club to continue to stock up on star prospects while the rest of the
league sits idly by.
If this continues, fans in the majority of
cities may never see their team land a bright young franchise player. This is
especially disappointing for clubs that could use a high-profile draft pick
such as Conor McGregor or Auston Matthews to help their sagging attendance
base. The draft should still help teams which finish near the bottom of the
league, but these clubs should be given only so many chances to improve their
rosters. It’s obvious the Oilers haven’t gotten any better with so many top
draft choices so perhaps it’s time the league gives somebody else the
opportunity to improve their squad with the top pick.
Labels: Ian Palmer