Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Tank Index: Which bad teams are best positioned to boost their lottery odds?

It’s the second half of the season. Do you know where your draft pick will be?

You don’t, of course, because even if your team is absolutely terrible, we still have a draft lottery that prevents us from knowing anything other than that the Red Wings will move down. Apart from that, the ping pong balls will keep us guessing.

But while you may not know exactly where your team is picking, you might have already shifted gears to hoping the pick is as high as possible. That’s the reality of the NHL season – at some point you have to throw in the towel and start thinking about the future. And when that happens, it means it’s time to start hoping for losses.

It’s not easy for fans. But it can be even tougher on GMs, who may not want to admit defeat. Other times, it feels like a team is more than happy to embrace those losses, and might even be willing to nudge the process along. Most of us call that tanking, although Gary Bettman says that doesn’t exist and the media made it all up. He’s lying, so let’s check in on the tank index and see which teams are best positioned to make a dedicated push for Macklin Celebrini.

As always, we’ll be looking at four key factors.

Season so far: This one’s pretty simple. How bad are you? It’s all well and good to activate tank mode now, but if you’ve spent the first half racking up unexpected wins then you may have too much ground to make up.

Seller potential: With the deadline approaching, there’s no better way to tank than to trade a bunch of useful veterans. Your team gets worse, you gather future assets, and nobody can accuse you of anything shady. The problem, for some of these teams: Do they have anyone on the roster that anyone else wants?

Goaltending problems: You want to be bad everywhere on the roster, but this is by far the most important position, because nothing ruins a well-planned tank quite like a hot goalie.

Motivation: Maybe the most crucial factor of them all, this one looks at whether a team will have the stomach for an all-out tank job. Is the owner on board? Will the fans accept it? And does the GM feel like he has enough job security to reap the rewards, or is he going to hesitate to pull the trigger on a plan that will only benefit his replacement.

We add it all up, and let the math tell us who wins and who loses, and who might not stop losing. By my count, there are 11 teams that look like potential tankers. (For the record, I considered the Capitals, Islanders, Predators and Penguins but figured they were are all too close to the playoffs with veteran rosters to be worth including right now, and that’s pretty much where I drew the line.)

Let’s run the numbers and see who’s in the best shape to be in the worst shape.

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