Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The 2021 draft lottery power rankings

I’ve been doing my annual draft lottery power rankings for years now, and it’s usually one of my favorite columns to write. But I’ll admit that I toyed with the idea of skipping it this year. After all, what weird scenario could I possibly come up with that would even come close to last year’s real results? We had a lottery, then a team that was still playing won the top pick, but we didn’t know which team, and so we had a second lottery weeks later. It was awful, and also brilliant, the new gold standard by which all other lottery chaos will be measured.

This year is back to normal… kind of. There’s no risk of a playoff team winning or a sequel in a few weeks. But the league did decide to switch up the rules on us, so let’s do a quick refresher on how this works now.

The big change for this year is that we’re only drawing two teams now instead of the usual three. Two more changes – reducing how many spots a winning team can move up, and preventing teams from winning twice in a five-year period – don’t kick in until next season. As an added twist, don’t forget that Seattle has joined the fray. Oh, and for the first time since 2017, there’s some genuine intrigue around who’ll end up going number one.

You know what? We can work with this. If you want actual useful information, you can find the odds for each team here. If you want to get weird, keep reading.

The “Maximum Chaos” Ranking

Let’s lead off with one of my favorite categories. Team Chaos fans, unite.

Not ranked: Anaheim Ducks – They have the second-best odds, they’re legitimately bad, they’re pretty much committed to a rebuild… honestly, your friend would ask you who won a day later and you wouldn’t remember.

5. Buffalo Sabres – Most years, the team with the best lottery odds lands in the “not ranked” space. After all, what’s chaotic about the most likely outcome? But this year, after everything the Sabres have been through, you can’t help but wonder what might happen if they get the top pick. Would they forget to use it? Go back to what worked in the past and take Gilbert Perreault? Give it to the Bills, since they might actually get some use out of it? The mind boggles.

4. Vancouver, or one of the teams right around them – Longtime readers know I love to point out single games that changed the lottery results, and that last week of Canucks games that were played despite the playoffs already starting would be fertile ground for an “if only” scenario one way or another.

3. Any of the bottom five teams – Any of Chicago, Calgary, Philadelphia, Dallas or New York winning the draw for the top pick would be fun, because everyone will go “Ah, they can’t move up all the way to number one because of the new rules”, then realize that part doesn’t kick in until next year.

2. New Jersey Devils – Similar to the last entry, imagine having a team that’s already won two first overall picks in recent years win again, only to have everyone realize that the “you can’t win too often” rule also doesn’t start this year.

(By the way, shout out to the NHL for convincing itself it had specific problems, coming up with solutions to address those problems, and then intentionally delaying those fixes for a year. You can’t say this league isn’t on brand.)

1. Arizona Coyotes – They don’t have a first-round pick, as part of their punishment for breaking combine testing rules. But they’re still in the lottery, for reasons nobody seems quite clear on, which means that if they win, there’s a redraw.

Seriously, why are they in the drawing at all? Just take them out and adjust everyone else’s odds. The only explanation I can come up with is that the league wants there to be some small chance of the team knowing it cost itself the first pick, which is super mean and more than a little petty. I’m kind of here for it.

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