Canucks: NHL should overhaul draft lottery format again

Jun 24, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Olli Juolevi poses for a photo after being selected as the number five overall draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagra Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Olli Juolevi poses for a photo after being selected as the number five overall draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagra Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks fell from second to fifth in the draft lottery, but that’s not why the format needs a change.

Whenever the Vancouver Canucks lose something they should have won — you know, like, the Stanley Cup final or the NHL draft lottery — fans feel betrayed. Luckily, this was a great year for this to happen, though, because there is likely no franchise-altering prospect available. And if there is, it could well be one of the players picked after the top two.

Yet, from a totally objective standpoint, the lottery format should be changed. It just doesn’t make sense.

To see why, let’s take a moment to think about the reason there is a draft.

North America’s major sports leagues all have drafts to keep a level playing field. No one club should get all the good prospects. For that same reason the leagues have implemented a salary cap and floor. To give every club a chance to win.

So where is the point in awarding a top-two draft selection to a team that missed the playoffs by just eight points (the Philadelphia Flyers)?

In a way, that’s how lotteries work. Whether you have a billion in your bank account and buy a lottery ticket or use your last few bucks for a final shot at better times, everyone gets the same chances of winning.

But this isn’t Lotto 6/49. This is the NHL. Not all lottery tickets are created equal, nor should they be.

Draft Lottery History

Up until 2012, no team could move up more than four spots in the draft rankings. Thus, only the top five — or call it a flop five — had a chance of picking first overall. That sounds good, doesn’t it?

Perhaps not good enough.

The Edmonton Oilers won the first-overall selection in three straight years from 2010 to 2012. Since losing shouldn’t be rewarded consistently like that, the NHL decided to make a change.

For the first time ever, all 14 teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs got a chance to win first overall. That way, the worst regular-season team could still drop no further than to second overall.

Still not enough.

It was the Colorado Avalanche who won the first pick in 2013, yet the NHL felt the need to change things up even more. In 2014, the odds were changed to give better teams better chances of winning while the worst team’s chances got worse than ever.

Still not good enough.

The Oilers won the Connor McDavid sweepstakes in 2015, so the NHL decided to make life even harder for its worst teams. In 2016, the NHL drew three number combinations instead of just one, deciding the top three selections instead of just one. Hence, the worst regular-season team could now drop a maximum of three spots.

We know how that has worked for the Vancouver Canucks.

Lottery Format Overhaul

It’s stupid. I’m sorry, but it’s stupid. Because, whether the Canucks are involved or not, this totally misses the point of the draft.

In 2016, everything worked out fine. The Winnipeg Jets moved up four slots to second, the Columbus Blue Jackets went from fourth to third. But the Toronto Maple Leafs, the worst regular-season team, stayed at one, and no one jumped up more than four spots.

More from The Canuck Way

That is not only acceptable, it’s the way it should be. Even when it means the Canucks drop from third to fifth.

So here’s an idea: combine the past and current versions into a new format — one that makes sense.

All 15 teams that missed the playoffs get a chance of winning the lottery, with weighted odds based on regular-season finish. But instead of drawing the three top picks, the three winners move up five spots. Plain and simple.

That way, the six worst teams of the season can pick first. The top 10 all have a chance to pick in the top five. Teams 11-15 all get a chance to move into the top 10.

This still means the worst regular-season team can drop to fourth overall, which happened this year. But a team like the Philadelphia Flyers would not be in the top two.

New 2017 Results

Let’s take a look at the 2017 draft if the proposed format was implemented. As said, the odds are still the same (although they will need adjustment once Las Vegas has played a season), and we will assume the NHL drew the same winners: the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars.

Here is what the order would look like, with the number of spots moved up or down in parentheses.

  1. New Jersey Devils (↑4)
  2. Colorado Avalanche (↓1)
  3. Dallas Stars (↑5)
  4. Vancouver Canucks (↓2)
  5. Vegas Golden Knights (↓2)
  6. Arizona Coyotes (↓2)
  7. Buffalo Sabres (↓1)
  8. Philadelphia Flyers (↑5)
  9. Detroit Red Wings (↓2)
  10. Florida Panthers (↓1)
  11. Los Angeles Kings (↓1)
  12. Carolina Hurricanes(↓1)
  13. Winnipeg Jets (↓1)
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning (-)
  15. New York Islanders (-)

With the new results, the Devils still pick first overall — they got lucky and moved up four spots. The Stars still pick third — they, too, were lucky and get to move up the maximum five spots. But since there is a maximum of five spots, the Flyers get the eighth-overall selection instead of second.

Because of that, the regular season’s worst team, Colorado, stays in second instead of falling down to fourth.

Next: Full first-round mock draft

This outcome still isn’t great for the Canucks but, as said before, getting a better result for the Canucks was never the intention. The idea was to prevent almost-playoff teams from picking in the top three, while still giving them a chance to win the lottery and move up a few spots.

Sound good?