Somewhere in Prague this weekend, Connor McDavid and his Edmonton Oilers teammates Taylor Hall and Cam Talbot will take a break from their IIHF world championships preparation to follow the NHL Draft Lottery.
One year ago, it was McDavid that went first overall to the Oilers. Six years ago, it was Hall. In between, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov were taken first overall by the Oilers, too.
And Brian Burke thinks this is nauseating.
“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” said the Calgary Flames team president, via their website. “You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”
Burke’s Flames have an 8.5 percent chance of winning the first overall pick in Saturday's lottery. The Oilers have a 13.5 percent chance, while Burke’s former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have the best odds at 20 percent.
“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system,” said Burke of the Oilers.
“This is saying, okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, ‘how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”
There was plenty of discussion at the GM meetings, but ultimately no formal policy established, on creating limits for the draft lottery.
“Just the theory that you can get lucky in winning the lottery once but that’s it. If you earn the first overall pick by being the worst team in hockey, I think you should get that right,” said St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong. “We set it up that way on purpose, especially in a lottery system where teams can move up. But I don’t think we should be rewarded based on luck more than once every five years.”
Burke’s in favor of those “anti-tanking” measures, and overhauling a system that he said benefits teams that might not deserve the help. “In this system, you could have the team with the three highest point totals pick one, two, three, of the non-playoff teams,” he said.
“No one ever wanted that; no one ever imaged that.”
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