Monday, August 10, 2020

The draft lottery power rankings, Part 2

It’s draft lottery day in the NHL. Again.

We did this once already, back in June, and the results were … well, they were interesting. Having a placeholder team win the first overall pick created a bizarre scenario where the chance to pick left winger Alexis Lafreniere would be “won” by a qualifying round loser. We just didn’t know which one. Tonight, we find out.

It’s a crucially important moment because Lafreniere is an extraordinary prospect who should have an immediate impact on whichever team lands him. Now, instead of winding up on a truly needy franchise like the Red Wings or Senators, he’s going to go to a team that’s already good — and maybe very good.

That seems like something worth breaking out a ranking for. We already did this part too, back in June, when we were rooting for unintentional comedy and Team Chaos. We got our wish, but perspectives may have changed. So rather than make multiple lists, we’re just going to do one big one, covering all eight teams from a variety of angles to see if we can figure out who neutral hockey fans should be rooting for tonight.

We’re looking for five factors:

How much they need it

It’s of course true that every team in the league could use a star winger, especially one on an entry-level deal. But the whole idea behind basing draft order and lottery odds on the standings, I’m told, is that we’re supposed to want to help the very worst teams. That won’t happen this year – sorry Detroit – but we can still hope that Lafreniere doesn’t go to a team that’s already stacked, either now or in terms of their future.

How much they deserve it

A tricky category since nobody “deserves” to win a random drawing. But some teams warrant it more than others, especially the ones that haven’t had much lottery luck or don’t often pick high.

Outrage factor

It’s the nature of lotteries that whichever team wins will be happy and everyone else will be mad. But how mad? It goes without saying that the madder, the better.

League impact

Think big picture. Would this result be good news for an NHL that will have a new star to market and a revenue deficit to make up?

Alternate reality comedy potential

A unique category this year, thanks to the weird lottery setup. The league is basically drawing a series here, meaning that whichever team beat the lottery winner in the play-in round will have cost themselves Lafreniere. This will be funnier for some teams than others.

I also reserve the right to award or subtract bonus points if I see fit. Let’s see where this takes us.

8. Florida Panthers

How much they need it: 5/10. The Panthers have a ton of young talent, especially up front, led by Jonathan Huberdeau (who’s a left winger) and Aleksander Barkov. Based on their results over the years, though, there’s no question the Panthers could use some additional help.

How much they deserve it: 3/10. They’ve already won the first overall pick in the lottery three times, although they only used the pick once, trading it in 2002 and 2003. They still have Aaron Ekblad to show for their 2014 win but haven’t picked higher than tenth since then.

Outrage factor: 2/10. Minimal, even given their lottery history. There’d be the usual grumbling from hardcore Canadian traditionalists who are mad the Panthers even exist, but that’s about it.

League impact: 5/10. The Panthers are a small market, but they’re one the league would like to see on firmer ground.

Alternate reality comedy potential: 4/10. The Islanders could have used Lafreniere, and it would have been mildly amusing to watch Senators fans realize they just lost a protected first-round pick.

Bonus points: +1 for the Panthers being the only team with a history of trading the first overall pick, which would let us at least pretend there was a possibility of a draft floor blockbuster coming. But -1 for all the “Lafreniere will sell a lot of tickets when they move to Quebec” jokes.

Total: 19/50. With no high scores in any category, this would be a perfectly acceptable but not-especially-interesting result, which means nobody who isn’t a Panthers fan should be rooting for it.

7. Edmonton Oilers

How much they need it: 8/10. An elite winger to play with Connor McDavid? Yeah, I’d say they could use a guy like that.

How much they deserve it: -5/10. That’s right, minus-five. They’re already a reasonably good team, at least according to this year’s standings. Far more importantly, they’re basically the poster child for NHL lottery luck. They’ve had the first overall pick four times in the last decade, three of those thanks to lottery wins. And that includes by far the biggest lottery win of the cap era when they jumped past Buffalo and Arizona to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes in 2015.

That was the year I did my first ever lottery rankings. Here’s what I wrote then: “Look, I’m all for fairness and integrity, but if the Oilers win the lottery, then the league absolutely has to scrap the results and run it again. Don’t even delete the footage or try to cover it up — just have Bill Daly walk into the frame screaming, ‘Take two!’ while angrily stuffing ping-pong balls back into the machine.”

Then they won, McDavid stared into the abyss on live television, and five years later he’s won one playoff round. We can’t let this happen to Lafreniere. The league absolutely needs to “forget” to put the Oilers’ ball into the machine.

Outrage factor: 10/10. People will be beyond furious. It would be kind of amazing.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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  1. FYI, the link to the Athletic article is broken here and just goes back to this page.


  2. Be that as it may, the consequences of more established weeks aren't declared without hk