The Lottery!

With Ryan Whitney out of the picture for two months, the Edmonton Oilers’ already strong chance at a lottery finish just got a little stronger. The reality is that this team has had a stranglehold on a lottery position since the get-go, and this is just a little extra insurance to get them over the line.

As of today, the Oilers’ record projects them to finish 28th in the NHL, or alternately as the third of five teams with a chance at moving up into the first overall position in this summer’s NHL Draft Lottery.

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Projected Lottery Teams

Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New Jersey Devils 21 56 5 47
2 New York Islanders 22 46 14 58
3 Edmonton Oilers 28 40 14 70
4 Toronto Maple Leafs 30 42 10 70
5 Buffalo Sabres 33 40 9 75

Interestingly, if we step back to the start of December (before the Oilers were hit with injuries to Horcoff and Hemsky) we see the same five teams projected to finish in the lottery.

Projected Lottery Teams, December 1

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Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New York Islanders 19 44 19 57
2 New Jersey Devils 27 48 7 61
3 Edmonton Oilers 27 41 14 68
4 Buffalo Sabres 30 42 10 70
5 Toronto Maple Leafs 29 39 14 72

Naturally, the Oilers were hurt by the loss of Horcoff and Hemsky, but a turnaround in net prevented a free fall. Hemsky was lost to injury on December 1; on December 2 Nikolai Khabibulin returned from injury to post a shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a victory that marked the beginning of a very solid stretch of hockey for the Russian goaltender (from Dec. 2 – Dec. 26: 4-3-1, 0.935 SV%).

Fortunately for fans of the rebuild, while the Oilers have taken solid steps forward this is still very much a lottery team, particularly with injuries to Whitney (the team’s best player to date) and Horcoff (arguably the most important centre to the current roster). The defence is a bit of a mess even with Whitney, the depth forwards (particularly the third line) are a disaster, and the goaltending is hit-and-miss. This is actually positive news, overall: though one wouldn’t know it based on the post 2005-06 Oilers, it’s a lot easier to find a third-line centre than it is to find bona fide top-six forwards, which Eberle and Hall show every sign of being.

A lottery finish is an important part of the rebuild this season. Whether the Oilers choose to add a stud defenceman or a star centre – and I’m convinced that they’ll address one of those two needs with their first round pick this summer – they will be acquiring an important piece of the long-term puzzle, the last piece they should need before moving back towards playoff contention. Between this summer’s first round pick, the trio of rookie forwards presently on the roster, the established NHL’ers on the team, and the prospects already in the system, the Oilers should have the nucleus of a playoff team. It will be up to Steve Tambellini and his staff to flush out the roster with useful veterans up front and on the back end.

This is a team built for lottery contention, and their finish this season should reflect that. But I’m hoping that this is the last time we can say that for a long time.

  • tanking for a lottery ticket is an idiotic strategie. Just look at the islanders. How many tickets did they have. You wait while your prospets go sour in a loosing environment. its a strategy of a management which is out to lunch and has been for years.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I believe the NYI actually have only picked once in the top 5 (relavant to the current team anyways). You can make an argument that the issue is that they didn’t go full out tank and instead drafted 7, 10 etc.

  • Ender

    Listen, I have no idea how the next couple of months are going to go for our side, but is there any way that we can all promise NOT to make any definitive declarations on what exactly is about to transpire?

    A few weeks ago, someone (not naming names) said that Exciting Last Place Hockey was now over … all because of a win streak of some duration. And now that Whitney’s gone for however-long, we’re back to counting the days until The Hockey News’ annual Draft Preview arrives in the mail so we can flip through its first few pages like a kid flipping through the toy department pages of the Sears Wish Book.

    I like thinking about draft prospects, but I’m also of the mind that perhaps we shouldn’t necessarily write these guys off just yet. Playoffs? Hell no. Lottery pick? Love to have one, but we’ll see. Hockey’s a slippery game played on ice. Maybe these guys dig down and show us something different.

    Either way, it’s folly to make bold declarations of any sort when there’s still leftover Christmas turkey in the fridge. Lotta hockey left.

  • SumOil

    If we get either of the 1st two picks, I will be happy with Larsson or Couturier. However, it is going to be a close race. Even picking at number 3 we have a variety of options. As of today I like Landeskog much more than RNH. RNH has mostly scored on the PP and Landeskog is more of a EV scorer

  • SumOil

    Biowolf and Team Hall:

    Hope you don’t mind me jumping in, but I would suggest to you that one of the Islanders’ biggest problems has been hanging onto the high and mid-round picks that they’ve made. They’ve made some really good picks over the last 10-15 years but because they’ve had some god-awful GMs over that time, they’ve been traded away for bags of beans.

    The Islanders’ problems are much, much deeper than their draft record. It’s the ownership and front office that’s sank that franchise.

    It’s fine to hold the Isles up as an example of how not to do things, but I’m not sure I’d be prepared to make a case asserting that their failure is rooted in their lack of draft success with high picks.

  • Old Dutch Snack Attack

    Lowe should have blown this team up when he traded Smyth. The team would be a playoff caliber team on the upswing if he didn’t waste two years after trading Smyth to do a real rebuild.

  • Old Dutch Snack Attack

    Agree on Stamkos. I like the move he did but he is a hypocrite. Besides, it was technically illegal. You can’t bring the puck backwards like that.