NHL Draft and the general managers' war on lottery luck

NHL Draft and the general managers' war on lottery luck

The best thing about the Edmonton Oilers winning the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery was that it forever banished the notion that the League can fix the results for its betterment (although the institutional coordination and levels of secrecy required to do so was probably already out of its reach).

The worst thing was, well, Connor McDavid ending up with the Oilers, following Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov in the parade of stellar young talent marching into oblivion.

When the NHL isn’t debating the ethics of “tanking,” it’s debating the proper way to ensure that the top pick in the draft ends up in the hands of the most “deserving” team – and the Buffalo Sabres were the most deserving two-years running, but lost the lottery to the Oilers and the Florida Panthers, who snagged franchise defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

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So with the Edmonton Oilers looking at a potential fifth No. 1 pick in seven seasons this year, it appears the League’s general managers have decided that lottery luck can in fact run out – or at least it can be legislated out.

At the NHL GM meetings this week, there will be a discussion about a de facto “Oilers Rule” that will prohibit teams that don’t have the NHL’s worst record from winning the lottery twice in a five-year span. They can, however, earn a No. 1 overall pick the old fashioned way, which is through sucking beyond belief.

"Could we be in position that we make certain rules that a team cannot repeat as a No. 1 team or in the top five? I'm open for those type of discussions,” said Nashville Predators GM David Poile, expanding the scope to the top five picks.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong tells the Toronto Sun that he supports the restriction:

“The theory is that if you finish last you always have a chance to win the lottery,” Armstrong said. “So, if you finish last three years in a row, you can win the lottery three years in a row. But if you didn’t finish last and win the lottery, you can’t do it again for another five years. If you are like Edmonton last year and finished 28th and won the lottery, you couldn’t win it again this year if you didn’t finish last. 

“As for the five years, I’d be moderately flexible on the number of years. But here’s my point — 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. 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.”

Interesting to see the two leading voices for this rule are general managers with teams that have made the playoffs in eight of 11 years (Poile) and four straight years (Armstrong) ...

We understand that this issue isn’t exactly common in the NHL Draft. Usually teams draft high for a few seasons and then, you know, get better. But the idea that we can have any mechanism to protect the NHL from another run of picks disappearing in the quicksand of a mismanaged organization is a good one.

Although it is interesting that at a time when “tanking” is openly derided and the NHL Draft Lottery has punished the worst teams to the point where they can draft fourth overall, this rule would seemingly better protect a team that’s successfully tanked to No. 30 from getting leap-frogged by other frequent guests of the basement.

Which, we imagine, is a rule change a guy like Tim Murray can get behind.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.