It was pointed out in resounding fashion that the 2014-15 season would feature plenty of talk about tanking and those speculations have come to fruition. The chance to draft generational talents like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel has been on the minds of plenty of organizations for years. The 2015 NHL Draft isn't far away and the regular season is nearly over, so the spotlight on McDavid has intensified. His stock has risen over the course of the season because of his dominance at the World Junior Championship and at the OHL level with Erie. His spectacular plays have become a fixture on TSN SportsCentre highlight packages. Eichel is no slouch either and he's far from being just a consolation prize. He lit up the NCAA this season and is expected to be a franchise cornerstone for whichever team drafts him.
Unfortunately, tanking was basically encouraged this season because the club that finishes 30th has a 20 percent chance of getting the top pick and a 100 percent chance to select McDavid or Eichel. The 29th-placed team has a 13.5 percent chance of winning the first overall choice and about a two in three chance of slipping to third if another non-playoff team wins the lottery. This clearly illustrates the incentive to finish last in the league because your odds are significantly better to land a player who has the potential to be a superstar.
Buffalo leads the "McEichel" sweepstakes with a 19-42-6 record. Edmonton has three more points in the standings and Arizona has six. Carolina sits 27th thanks to Toronto's 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Wednesday. However, the Hurricanes have three games in hand on the Leafs and just two points less than them. Carolina is also 14 points clear of the Sabres. The Coyotes and Sabres will meet on two occasions later this month. Those games will play a huge role in deciding the bottom of the standings. Arizona is a dark horse to finish last because of a tougher schedule down the stretch than that of Buffalo and Edmonton. The Coyotes play eight of their last 15 games against teams that currently have playoff spots. That doesn't include two matches against San Jose and one versus Los Angeles.
The 2016 NHL Entry Draft will alter the way the top three picks are decided. Three separate draws will be held to determine those selections with the first deciding which club gets the first overall pick. The odds for the first lottery will be the same as they are in 2015, but they change based on which organization wins each draw afterward. In this format, the team that finishes last overall in the league standings could drop as low as fourth overall in the draft order. This format should have been put into place for this season.
Hopefully, your fantasy league does all it can to deal with the prospect of tanking. Encouraging non-playoff owners to finish as far away from the bottom as possible by rewarding them with higher odd percentages or higher picks is probably the best solution. You could also give every team that concludes the year out of the playoff picture the same odds of getting the first overall pick. Limiting the amount of moves an individual can make, having the ability to veto trades and using a salary cap can be useful as well. You can also arrange a playoff bracket between the non-playoff rosters and the winner claims the top pick. Stiffer penalties like forfeiting picks, losing cash or bans can also be put into place. Having active fantasy GMs goes a long way to avoiding tanking, so find a group you're comfortable with or fill it with as many friends, co-workers or family as you can.
It should be pointed out that tanking isn't always looked down upon in fantasy hockey. It can be accepted in some situations, especially if resembles more of a rebuild than a complete teardown. It could be your only means of acquiring better talent and making use of your limited assets in order to help re-stock for the future. It can also work in your league's favor if good players become available and the rebuilding GM is adding injured players who were dropped previously for the next season. This creates a workable recycling system of sorts within your league. Taking advantage of struggling teams is also the bread and butter of daily fantasy sports. Stacking your lineup with players going against the Sabres, Oilers, Coyotes, Hurricanes and Leafs is a common practice. The same idea can be applied to rotisserie leagues or other formats where your players have a maximum amount of games that they can appear in.
Here's a sample of a team I assembled for Fanduel.com's $30K Thu NHL Breakaway while using the method I described above in mind:
LW: Jaden Schwartz (STLvPHI), Justin Abdelkader (DETvCBJ) RW: Patric Hornqvist (PITvEDM), Marian Hossa (CHI@ARI) C: Joe Thornton (SJvNSH), Jori Lehtera (STLvPHI) D: Kris Letang (PITvEDM), Tyler Myers (WPG@FLA) G: Andrew Hammond (OTT@MTL)
Hammond could be a star tonight if he can pick up another 40-plus save victory and doesn't cost an arm and a leg at $5,700. The STL Line (Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenk) has been red hot and the Blues will be looking for some payback at home after the Flyers beat them 3-1 last Thursday. The rest of the lineup doesn't require much explanation, but I couldn't resist trying to get some value from Thornton at home versus Nashville.