Saturday, June 27, 2020

The winners and losers from the NHL Draft lottery

The NHL held its annual draft lottery Friday night. Well, one of them. We’re going to need another one to figure it all out.

Did I mention this gets weird? It gets weird.

Here’s the short version: We don’t know who’ll have the first overall pick in this year’s draft because it was won by one of the placeholder teams. We’ll have to wait for the play-in round to be over, at which point the eight teams that lose will go into a second drawing. One of those teams will get the top pick and presumably use it to draft blue-chip prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

This is, it should go without saying, not how things normally work. You probably have strong thoughts about whether this is how it should work, and those views are probably heavily influenced by which team you cheer for. And that’s fair because while we still don’t know who won the first overall pick, it’s fair to say that Friday night worked out better for some than for others. So let’s try to sort it all out, as we break down the winners and losers from the strangest draft lottery in NHL history.

Loser: Detroit Red Wings

It’s a winner/loser format, and tradition says we should start with the winners and alternate from there. But since we don’t know who the winners are yet, let’s go right to the one part we can all agree on.

Detroit… ouch, man.

Look, Red Wing fans knew the odds. There was a roughly 50 percent chance this could happen. That’s the way it’s worked since 2016, and we’ve seen the last place overall team drop all the way to number four on multiple occasions, including a Colorado team in 2017 that might have been even worse than this year’s Wings. If you’re a Detroit fan and you were blindsided by what happened on Friday, you weren’t paying attention.

But that doesn’t make it any easier. This team was awful, not just losing but getting their doors blown off with regularity. They desperately need a stud prospect to build around. They need some hope. The draft lottery was all they had from about November on. And then Bill Daly flips over that card at number four, and… gut punch.

So yeah, it sucks, and there’s no way to sugar coat it. You can point out that those 2017 Avs ended up with a pretty decent kid named Cale Makar with the fourth overall pick, but that doesn’t really soften the blow.

Red Wings fans are mad, and they should be mad. They get to be unbearable for the next few days. Save them your lectures about lucking into Pavel Datsyuk or getting to watch Nicklas Lidstrom. They don’t want to hear it right now, and that’s the way it should be. This hurts, a lot.

Winner: Team Chaos

We asked for chaos. We got it.

OK, we didn’t quite get the ultimate chaos scenarios, like having all three lottery spots taken by play-in teams. But Friday’s result was a decent substitute, one that adds a new dynamic to an already unprecedented play-in round. How will it all play out? Nobody knows because none of us could have even conceived of this set of circumstances just a few months ago.

Of course, not everyone will appreciate that. Plenty of fans are shaking their heads today, wondering why the NHL couldn’t have figured out a way to just do all of this in a normal way like a normal league. We’ll get to that in a bit. But at some point, maybe you just have to accept that there’s nothing normal about 2020 and steer into the skid. The NHL held a lottery and the winning team was TBD. Be careful what you wish for.

Still, the reaction on Twitter when Bill Daly flipped that card on Friday night was glorious. And in a way, it felt like the old days. How long has it been since your timeline turned into a steady stream of people going “WHAT?” and “WOW!” and “NOOO!” over something sports-related? Too long. It was nice to see a team get to celebrate a big win again. Even if it was Team Chaos.

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  1. yes, as soon as Toronto wins, we can change the rules

  2. wings fan here. i have long thought that the #1 pick should go to the team that just misses the playoffs. no more tanking. (i don't think the wings tanked) hell, you could have a 17-18-19-20 lottery for the #1-#4 pick. then slide down the scale to last 21-31, then first out of playoff up to winner16-1. this will surely bring intrigue to the last days of regular season. if you finish last...pick in the top 20. too bad. build a better scouting team. the higher up you get, (from the cellar) the better your pick. its worth it to fight to the end instead of mailing in the last 20 games.