Tonight was the NHL Draft Lottery, with the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers winning the Jack/Kakko sweepstakes and the Chicago Blackhawks taking the third selection. My beloved Detroit Red Wings fell to sixth and while you might be thinking that I am writing this as a salty Wings fan, in reality, this is far from it. I don't really have any major issue with the Red Wings picking sixth, as it was after all, the most likely scenario entering lottery-night. Rather, the issues I have with the Lottery are related to basically everything else about the process:
Why the Hell Did New Jersey Win Again?
Maybe my biggest problem with the lottery process is simply that the same teams seem to win over and over again. In the 10 years of this decade (2010-2019), the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils will have combined for six of the ten lottery wins. That's absurd. If you win once, you should not be able to win again for at least three years. If you want to truly eradicate tanking, that's one way to do it. That said, the same teams winning over and over again doesn't really hurt competitive balance in the sense that Edmonton is still bad. Indeed, when I researched the whole process back in February, the teams who have netted the most top 5 picks over the last 5-10 years generally are still the worst teams, since they have been so chronically inept that they stay in those same positions perpetually. Winning this lottery probably won't turn New Jersey into a dynasty. Jack Hughes will be a good player and Nico Hischier is another really nice piece but they have a lot of other roster holes to fill. If they become a championship team, it will be because they built a robust roster, not because they got lucky. They could very well turn into the Oilers 2.0 with Hughes and Hischier being their version of McDavid and Draisaitl for all we know. So I suppose my big issue with the Devils winning again is simply that it doesn't feel fair to the rest of the league. If you want to promote parity in the league, promoting parity in the lottery process could be nice too.
Chicago Shouldn't Be in the Top Three
Much in the way we need to reform it so that the same pitiful teams don't keep winning, we need to stop mediocre to good teams from jumping up, too. This is the third straight year that a team in the teens of odds has moved into the top three, after Philadelphia in 2017 and Carolina last year. That also should not happen. My argument would be the same if this were Florida or Minnesota, but Chicago encapsulates the issue perfectly. The Blackhawks have won three championships this decade, have multiple superstars on their team, and finished six points out of the playoffs, and now they get to pick 3rd while Los Angeles, who finished 13 points worse, gets to pick two slots behind them. Luckily Chicago is only picking third, so they don't get either Kakko or Hughes, but the problem still exists. The lottery should be for actually bad teams, not solid squads who just didn't put it all together. How about capping the lottery so that only the worst 10 teams are eligible for the prize?
Let's Talk About The Leak
If there was ever one moment to encapsulate the chronic incompetence of NHL management, it would be them leaking the results of their own draft lottery on national TV by accident while going to a commercial break. Yes, this image showing New Jersey, Chicago, and New York getting top three picks began circulating shortly before the lottery began, and guess what, it was exactly correct. If there's one thing that literally cannot happen in a draft lottery, it's leaking the results early. It undermines the integrity of the process and opens you up to a host of conspiracies, especially when the three lucky teams are all big market franchises. But we shouldn't put anything past a league that has cancelled a cumulative two complete seasons over the last 25 years. The moment the Blackhawks jumped up in the true reveal, it was all ruined, because we all knew the leak was legit. Just completely fucking embarrassing.
A Note For Red Wings Fans
This is not a terrible result. Yes, we all wanted our fantasies to come true, but picking sixth isn't bad. This is a draft that has a clear top two and then the next five guys (to me) could go in any order. If the "big five" after Hughes and Kakko are Podkolzin, Cozens, Byram, Zegras, and Turcotte, Detroit will get to pick between at least two of those five at pick #6. That's not shabby in the slightest. I will do plenty of draft scouting in the next two months, but as it stands right now, I would be thrilled with Alex Turcotte or Bowen Byram, for example. While all the attention goes to the top of the draft, there are elite players everywhere to be found. After all, the Red Wings right now have a 22 year-old center who was picked at #15 and is now a consensus top 25 center in the league and only getting better. Mika Zibanejad was pick 6. Mark Scheifele was pick 7. Mikko Rantanen was pick 10. Sean Monahan was pick 6. Bo Horvat was pick 9. Timo Meier was pick 9. Zach Werenski was pick 8. If whoever the Red Wings pick at #6 is as good as any of those guys, or Larkin for that matter, it will be a successful draft. It's also true that it's hard to predict how the draft will go down. No one saw Filip Zadina, a consensus top three talent, falling to #6 last year, but it happened. A lot of time to go, but Detroit will be getting a high end talent and that's what matters.
TL;DR: Draft lotteries suck. NHL management is a joke. Don't gamble your savings on ping pong balls. Life is okay for Red Wings fans.
Image Credit: https://images.dailyhive.com/20180328140821/nhl-draft-lottery.png