Why are old school hockey people so angry about last weekend’s NHL Draft Lottery result?
Granted, it’s extremely unconventional that the draft lottery ended with a TBD (to be determined) NHL team.
The No. 1 overall pick could conceivably go to a strong playoff team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers or the Toronto Maple Leafs depending on the qualifying round playoff results and that would certainly get the tin-foil hat crews lathered up and chirping that the NHL Draft is rigged for any of those teams.
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That whole thing set off people like Brian Burke, who is not one to hide his opinions or relax his disdain when new NHL innovations cross the boundaries of hockey traditionalism.
"This result is nothing short of a disgrace," Burke said on Friday's draft lottery show on SportsNet. "This makes no sense. It should've been just the seven teams that weren't in the play-in round in the lottery. Give the teams who need the most help the best players."
Certainly, the Detroit Red Wings have a valid argument after they finished with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft after clearly being the worst team in the NHL this season. Where once the Red Wings had visions of Alexis Lafreniere teaming up with Dylan Larkin to lift Detroit out of the Atlantic Division basement, now Detroit is going to have to settle for a fourth overall selection that most agree will be a drop down in talent from the top three players in the draft class.
But that’s not the first time the NHL’s worst team has been screwed in the draft lottery and it won’t be the last.
Who can forget when both the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes tanked for Connor McDavid while finishing below 60 points in 2014-15, but they both lost out to an Oilers team for the No. 1 overall choice despite Edmonton holding the third-worst record in the league?
Any Celtics fan will tell you all about the unfairness of the NBA draft lottery that gave them Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer instead of Tim Duncan back in 1997.
The draft lotteries for the NBA and the NHL have never really been about strictly rewarding the team that needs the most help, but that’s all really beside the point.
These are unconventional times with COVID-19 forcing the NHL to put the season on pause for close to four months and introducing summer hockey to the equation with the NHL return to play expected to happen a month from now.
Now there’s going to be a second NHL draft lottery in the first few weeks of August, and there will be eight qualifying round losers that have an equal chance of landing that coveted No. 1 overall pick. It could be the Montreal Canadiens finally landing the Francophone superstar they’ve lusted after for years but were never able to make happen when first round picks like Guillaume Latendresse and Louis LeBlanc never panned out.
There’s already even frenzied talk in Montreal about whether the Habs should just throw their playoff series against the Penguins given their decent chances of landing the Quebec-born Lafreniere. Or what about a stud young player getting added to Sid the Kid’s group in Pittsburgh or getting uploaded to an Oilers roster that’s already star-studded with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?
Lafreniere could be looked at as the next star player to take the baton in Chicago from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews if the Blackhawks somehow captured the No. 1 overall pick after being in a legit Stanley Cup playoff hunt for most of this season.
There are a lot of fascinating permutations to this TBD No. 1 overall pick that never would have happened if the draft lottery had gone according to chalk on Friday night. Instead, the fact that a No. 1 overall pick is hanging in the balance is going to inject considerably more drama and intrigue to this qualifying round of NHL playoff games expected to begin at the end of July.
There will be a ton of eyeballs watching the upcoming second NHL draft lottery just to see what’s going to happen and that’s a nod to this being something that nobody has ever seen before.
All of this befits the strange times we’re living in where we’re going to see playoff hockey in August and September played in empty arenas at hub cities. Things are very, very different right now, so it’s the exact right time for the NHL to get creative and do things way outside the box even if it rubs the old hockey fogies the wrong way.
This is the right level of chaos and fun that’s going to give hockey fans something else to chew on until the games actually start again.
The simple fact is that last weekend’s NHL Draft Lottery was the first league event in three months and it got people talking afterward. It got people interested to see how things are going to go in the play-in round and it got people wondering about the kind of impact that a player like Lafreniere could have on the ice.
In other words, it got us all thinking about hockey instead of COVID-19 for a change last weekend. How can that ever be a bad thing?