One of the running themes of the season has been the eventual destination of Connor McDavid. As the first sure-thing franchise player the league has welcomed since Sidney Crosby, McDavid has earned plenty of attention toward the bottom of the standings, and that will only intensify as the season goes on.
But today, let’s forget about who will get McDavid, since we won’t actually know that for several months. Let’s talk about who should get him. After all, we can fight about that right now!
All 14 non-playoff teams will have a shot at the first overall pick in a lottery that’s heavily weighted toward the worst teams, with the odds starting at 20 percent for the last-place team and dropping to as low as 1 percent. Every team that misses the postseason has at least a shot at the top pick, and since it’s far too early for anyone to have clinched a playoff spot, that means every team in the league technically still has a shot at winning the McDavid lottery.
So whose number should we want to see come up? And maybe more importantly, who should we be collectively rooting against?
Here are the factors we’ll be weighing:
Current team quality: This works in a couple of ways. Obviously, the league’s better teams should expect to make the playoffs and skip the lottery, so there’s not much point getting our hopes up for McDavid landing on a team that’s sitting in first place. Besides, McDavid should quickly emerge as an MVP candidate — if he goes to a team that’s already stacked, the rest of the league would be screwed. On the other hand, we also don’t want him going to a total disaster; he’s going to be a fun player to watch, and it would be nice for him to have at least a little bit of talent to play with early on.
Market: The league would certainly like to see McDavid go to a big market where he’ll get more attention. But we won’t overdo it here — the league did just fine in the 1980s with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux playing in smaller markets, and there’s something to be said for giving relatively new markets a boost.
Fan base: A player like McDavid would be a blessing for a long-suffering fan base desperate for something to cheer about. The last thing we should want is to see him go to some city that’s still cleaning up from a Cup parade. And of course, when in doubt, ask yourself the key question: How intolerable would this fan base become the second they knew they were getting McDavid?
Karma: There’s only so much good fortune to go around, so if a team has a history of winning the draft lottery or otherwise lucking out in important ways, we’ll happily hold that against it.
Other stuff: In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m pretty much making this up as I go along.
Make sense? Good. On to the countdown …
30. Pittsburgh Penguins
We can all agree on this one, right? Not only did they win a leaguewide lottery for Sidney Crosby in 2005, but they blatantly tanked to get Mario Lemieux in 1984. Two all-time legends drafted with shady first overall picks are quite enough for one franchise, thanks.
Luckily, they’re a good team in a bad division, so their odds of falling into the lottery are basically zero. But if it somehow happened and the Penguins lucked into McDavid, let’s all just agree to fold the NHL and start a new league without them.