NHL changes draft lottery rules, punishes worst teams

 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Tim Murray isn’t going to like this.

The Buffalo Sabres general manager already registered his dissatisfaction with the NHL’s changes to its draft lottery, which were approved by the Board of Governors earlier this year.

The issue? The immediacy: They were due to go into effect for 2015, when super-rookies Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are available and when the Buffalo Sabres are expected to be abjectly terrible.

“You know who you’re affecting, that’s not fair,” said Murray.

The changes have now been approved by the NHLPA, and the NHL announced how the system will work for the most highly-hyped lottery since Sidney Crosby was the prize.

From the NHL on the 2015 Draft, with translation from our crack staff of decoders:

The odds of winning the first overall selection in the NHL Draft for the 14 non-Playoff teams will be adjusted to more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance in the League.

“Currently, teams aren’t tanking for the No. 1 and No. 2 picks. But they’re totally going to start next season.”

This will result in a more evenly-balanced allocation of odds, with the 10 highest-finishing non-Playoff qualifying teams receiving higher (better) Draft Lottery odds than they received previously

“Ed Snider only has so much time left on this mortal plane, and this will provide ample cover when the Flyers miss the playoffs by a point and still win the lottery.”

and the four lowest-finishing teams receiving lower (worse) odds.

“Because we need Connor McDavid in Buffalo, Winnipeg, Calgary or Florida like we need an eye-worm infestation, you guys.”

The revised set of odds will remain in effect year-to-year in the future.

“Because if the Flyers or Bruins or Penguins ever have the worst record in hockey, we’re scrapping the lottery that year.”

Here are the revised odds:

So if this was applied to last season, the New Jersey Devils would have their draft lottery chances doubled despite missing the playoffs by just five points, while the Sabres and Panthers would see theirs dramatically decrease despite missing the playoffs some time around December.

The NHL also announced the draft lottery rules for 2016. OR SHOULD WE SAY DRAFT “LOTTERIES”?

Three draws will be held: the 1st Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery draw will determine the club selecting third overall.

As a result of this change, the team earning the fewest points during the regular season will no longer be guaranteed, at worst, the second overall pick. That club could fall as low as fourth overall.

The allocation of odds for the 1st Lottery draw will be the same as outlined above for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 1st Lottery draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 2nd Lottery draw.

The 11 Clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 14, in inverse order of regular-season points.

So, to be clear: The new format of the draft lottery doesn’t protect the worst team in the NHL from dropping all the way to fourth in the order.

Which is just idiotic.

Look, I know the draft lottery isn’t everyone’s brand of vodka, because some people will always find rewarding futility abhorrent. That goes for draft lottery odds, revenue sharing and the inexplicable continued employment of Randy Carlyle.

And we all feel shame when teams are clearly engaging in a race to the bottom for draft position.

But top draft picks make terrible teams get better. Or at least gain assets to get better. Or at least get a player that can energize a moribund fan base.

The idea that any team in the bottom three in the league should have their odds reduced while teams that were in sniffing distance of a playoff berth see theirs increase runs counter to the entire concept of the draft.

Again, if the concern really is about teams intentionally losing to gain high draft selections, i.e. making sure teams worthy of the top pick actually get it, then scrap the entire concept of single-season influence and use the cumulative record from the last three seasons to set the lottery odds.

Just make sure you give Tim Murray ample time to adjust. Dude hates surprises.