NHL changes draft lottery rules, which should work nicely for the Oilers

Steve Tambellini (2)

There was no shortage of jokes on Wednesday that the NHL’s fancy new draft lottery rules were a direct result of the Oilers’ unmatched ability to land No. 1 picks.

That’s debatable. What isn’t debatable is that the timing of the change could not possibly be better for Edmonton.

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The New Lottery Rules


The NHL unveiled a two-year plan that will see the chances of a really bad team coming away with the first overall pick fall significantly. The full explanation is here, but we can sum it up shortly in two bullet points:

  • In 2014, there was a 58 percent chance that a team ranked 28th or lower in the NHL would pick first overall. In 2015 that falls to 45 percent, meaning that more than half the time we should expect to see a team outside the bottom three pick first overall.
  • In 2016, another change kicks in: lotteries for the first, second and third overall picks, meaning that the worst team in the NHL is not guaranteed a pick higher than fourth overall.

On the whole, the new rule changes are good; they make tanking less appealing because the incentive to fall from 12th to 14th in the West is much smaller and teams tend to respond to incentives.

I’d still rather see the league employ Adam Gold’s system – which would reward teams for winning by awarding the first overall pick to the team with the most points after it was eliminated from the playoffs (bad teams would have more games to pick up points, but would still have incentive to keep winning) – because it’s much more exciting for a fan of a terrible team.

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On the other hand, Gold’s system would put a major damper on the trade deadline, and the fix the league has settled on should help significantly.

What it means for Edmonton


My belief – given the team’s summer moves and its collection of young talent – is that the Oilers are close to turning the corner and putting some space between themselves and the bottom of the league. I’m not talking about the playoffs (the situation at centre is far too uncertain) but I am talking about passing two or three (or maybe even four!) teams in the Western standings.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that such a belief is justified. If so, these new rules came in at a perfect time for Edmonton; they’ll be moving out of the worst positions in the league standings just as those positions become less valuable.

Also beneficial to the Oilers: the changes aren’t likely to help the Calgary Flames, a team that looks like a plausible basement dweller for the next few seasons. 

More importantly, both for the Oilers and for teams around the NHL, it makes being a team on the playoff bubble much easier.

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For years, Edmonton was just bad enough to be in the fight for a playoff spot to the bitter end but never make headway up the standings while simultaneously being just good enough to never get a shot at the elite talent at the top of the draft. Starting in 2016, a team like that will have a legitimate (if not overwhelming) shot at a top-three pick; they won’t have to make the agonizing choice between trying to improve or tearing down and starting anew.


  • Serious Gord

    I liked the system they used after the lost season: last place got 30 balls second last 28 all the way up to first with one.

    The ball drops continue until every team has been picked. That sets the order for the first round and that order is reversed in the second (ie first in the first picks 3O in the second and first in the third…)

    Made for quite the television event as all teams had a chance and it impacted all rounds.

    It also made trading picks prior to the lottery far less certain in terms of their value.

    • JBear

      I have always thought that the way you describe should be used (though I think you mean second last gets 29 balls, not 28).

      That would give 30th place a 6.45% chance of winning the first overall while 1st gets only a 0.22% chance. Still lots of room for a lot of movement though.

    • Rob...

      “The ball drops continue until every team has been picked. That sets the order for the first round and that order is reversed in the second (ie first in the first picks 3O in the second and first in the third…)”

      Thank god they didn’t use that method between 2008 & 2013! The entire hockey world would still be waiting for Tambi’s balls to drop.

  • v4ance

    It’s funny, these new rules would have benefited the 2006-2010 Oilers. Without going full tank, the team would have still been marginally competive, out of the playoffs, and yet still have had a chance at the top pick during those years.

    Can you imagine what could have been if we’d somehow gotten Stamkos in 2008 or Tavares in 2009?

  • Serious Gord

    Shut the season down a week or two early.
    This gives the playoff bound teams time to rest up.

    All remaining teams participate in a league-wide mini knockout playoff series to determine draft position.

    Generates excitement leading up to the main playoffs.

    Gives the bottom feeders some home “playoff” games.

    Fans will love it.

    Don’t ask me for more details. I have none.

    • Dan 1919

      The thing about having NHL players competing solely to draft some 18year old kid is that the players won’t be completely vested in the idea.

      Grown men, NHL players play to win the cup.

      Having them compete for an 18 year old boy would be taken as seriously as the All-Star Game, only without the all stars, and with zero shi*s given, rather than 2.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Not to push my idea (which my possibly be one of the worst ideas in all of mankind), but what about the players on teams that are basically eliminated by Halloween? What are they playing for?

        I don’t disagree with your comment, but an alternative thought might be:

        “Competitive NHL players faced with the embarrassment and disappointment of missing the playoffs might like a chance to go out of season on a high note by winning the competition for that 18-year-old. (Which, by the way, is a better prize than every team IN THE PLAYOFFS will win, with the exception of the cup winner.)”

  • CMG30

    I’m not sure how I feel about these rule changes. On the one hand I agree that the incentive to tank should be curbed. On the other I wonder about balance in the league. If you don’t direct the top new players to the bottom dwellers how are they going to improve? We don’t want the league to turn into baseball where the Yankees are the favorites to win every year…

    • Serious Gord

      The odds still tilt heaviest to the worst teams. Over time the worst get the best picks. What it eliminates is the ability to target the top two or three picks – by removing the guarantee that last gets best.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Just spitballing here. Does the league feel Canadian teams may be occupying the bottom 4 or 5 spots disproportionately next few years? If so, maybe they want to ensure top-3 picks are going to some US based teams that may be a little lower in the draft order?

      Of course I am going consipiracy theory here but my take is that the league does what is good for US based markets first and foremost, if it happens to help teams north of the border…bonus. Not unlike the Parti Quebecois over the decades when in power, they do what is good for facilitating Quebec independance first, if good for their citizenry in general…. bonus.

      On the other hand, all that Canadian $$ from Rogers funneled via New York to struggling US based teams should alleviate some pressures to land potential superstars at the draft (which might help attendance etc…thus revenue).

      Who knows.

  • Serious Gord

    That would be lovely to see the Oilers get out of the basement, yet still keep grabbing high round picks.

    Nuge, McDavid, Draisaitl, Gordon? Now I think we’re getting into cup contending territory.

    On another note, can we just talk about how damn deep the 2013 draft was. Detroit picked up a guy 20th overall who just had a season in the Q that would have put him in the conversation for top 5 in last year’s draft. That is bananas.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    How will TSN ever know who the clear number one drift pick will be, so Im thinking every year will be a strong draft at least coming from the panels point of view.

  • Serious Gord

    Good GM’s always find a way to get what they want. Rare is the draft where there is a absolute clear front runner that is considered a franchise player. It seems lately that there are usually two or three players that has everyone arguing.

    If we do not draft in the top-ten for the next few years……….I’m fine with that!

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    One thing you are missing here Willis, not sure the Flames will be basement dwellers behind the Oilers. The Oilers are still the worst managed and coached team in the NHL, there is not a worse coach in the NHL than Mr. Eakins

        • The Soup Fascist

          Deryk Engelland makes these guys look like Seabrook and Keith by comparison.

          I have not looked in the rule book to see if D.E. is allowed to actually take the chair that helps him stand up on the ice with him.

          Flashback to Free Agent Frenzy …

          Bob McKenzie: “Just got confirmation that Deryk Engelland has signed in Calgary. Three years for $2.92 million. I am assuming that dollar amount is for the length of the contract …… wait ….. what?? ….. that’s per year?? Wow!”

          ’nuff said.

          • Joy S. Lee

            Thanks buddy, I just had the best laugh I’ve had in days.

            When McKenzie says it, you know it’s true, and boy did he say it there! Too f’n hilarious!

          • BlazingSaitls

            Why would any Oiler fan be remotely concerned about who the Calgary Flames sign and for how much? Do they not have enough to be concerned about already….let me provide a few examples;

            1) Arguably the Oilers are the worst franchise in pro-sports history!
            2) They are a dysfunctional organization that does not hold it’s leader without any accountability whatsoever!
            3) The organization is owned by a drug store business owner who since acquiring the team has the most dismal record in NHL history!
            4) The Oilers were granted 3 first overall picks in recent history and continue to be chronic losers year in and year out!
            5) The Oilers fans continually are forced to live in the past with no vision of the future as they have been in a constant stye of rebuild, 10 years and counting!
            6) NHL draft day is actually an annual highlight for the Oilers and fans!

            And they ridicule the Derek Engleland signing….hmmmmmmm? Serious issues in Oilerville continue with no end in sight! SAD.

  • It still will not keep teams from tanking if that is their agenda . The idea of draft is to give weakest teams a chance to get more competitive , as it should be . Colorado going from last to such a high finish last year for MacKinnon raises doubts once again . Oilers of course did not fair much better with their 3 picks even with Nurse . To be honest , they could still be a bottom 3 club . Percentages still favor tanking , like it or not . Normally , over last 10 years or so , bottom clubs still remain at bottom despite the draft enhancement . Making it harder on them creates even more problems for the lower clubs of which most do not deliberately try to tank . Somebody always has to finish in bottom 3 despite trying not to . Why punish those clubs further , if their is no evidence of deliberate attempt to tank ?

    One change I believe might be beneficial is rotating East Conference and West Conference . IE: East is weak and has bottom 3 positions , while worst West club is in 4th . So East gets 1 , 3 and 5 while West gets 2 and 4 . Keep the conferences balanced so as they are equally competitive with top players down the line .

  • Rob...

    I feel like more top end talent is not what the Oilers need. They need the team around the top end talent we already have. And that is only going to come by improving Edmonton’s worst skill: drafting.

    I got into this debate with some jackass yesterday. Outside of first round selections and first overalls, the Oilers might, might just have two second round guys playing on the club, and that’s really because they don’t have better options. Sure Marincin could turn into an excellent 2nd pair defencman, which would be a great second round selection, but Edmonton needs to draft and develop better players from later rounds if they want to contend.

    Fortunately, those players exist. Again, look at this prospect Detroit pulled from their 20th overall selection in 2013: http://www.theqmjhl.ca/roster/show?id=7610
    Kid got 120 points in the Q in only 57 games, that’s ridiculous.

    But, that again is first round stuff. Instead the Oilers really need to score a Benn (129th overall, 5th round), a Subban (43 overall), a Lucic (50th overall), or heck even some third line talent like chicago’s Saad, Shaw, or Versteeg (43, 139, and 134th overall respectively, though Boston drafted Versteeg not Chicago).

    It does appear that some of the new prospects like Yakimov and Chase represent a positive change in this area, but now the question remains if they will develop properly, and become the NHL’ers the Oilers need to make a contending team.

  • I’m no conspiracy nut, but I am always a little suspicious when a league changes its draft rules right before a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid is about to enter the league. I’m guessing a big market in desperate need of a superstar wins the lotto. Maybe even one partly owned by the largest TV revenue provider to the league…

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ugh! i can totally see the New Jersey Devils winning the McDavid sweepstakes and him playing in relative obscurity in a defensive system in the shadow of the New York Rangers hype machine.

    • BlazingSaitls

      I can’t see the leafs needing to rig the lotto as they are already the largest revenue franchise in the league. They do not need a Connor McDavid to sell tickets, or grow their market. The Pens were on the verge of being relocated.

      I see where you’re coming from, but the economics are a bit different. I would maybe say this is for Buffalo, since they are a longstanding franchise losing money, but really, I don’t think anyone cares about Buffalo.

      It would be funny if this was all true and a team like the Yotes got him. Like after all these Bettman is still trying to make that franchise into a money maker.

      As an Oiler fan, I can only hope that either we get the kid, or the top two selections head out East, hockey God only knows how freakin difficult the West has gotten over the summer.

      On another note, can Johanson be offer sheeted? And if so, would it be worth trying?

      • Good point, you’re probably right. I think my logic is partly blinded by my fear of how much I’ll miss watching the NHL for the next 20 years if the buds did get McDavid.

        I’m sure it’s actually just a case of lots of owners trying to get themselves into the sweepstakes pretending like it would be a smart move for the league.

        • #ThereGoesTheOilers

          That makes sense. Do you think McDavid is the real deal? Or is it just kind of the hype machine already getting started?

          Another point to this is that Crosby, though easily argued as the best player in the league, has still only lead his team to a single cup victory since being drafted. His play off performances are often to be desired as well. Point being one good player does not a good team make I guess.

          My other issue is that Crosby was unequivocally the number one pick that year. But a case is already being made for a two horse race. Now this could just be a media narrative as they always seem to try and build tension around who could go number one, but if there’s another player close to McDavid, then either this is going to be a legendary draft ala 2003, or McDavid isn’t really that good. Hopefully it’s the former.

          Question, out of all the superstars drafted since 2010, including the upcoming 2015 draft, who do you think will have the best career? I might have to say Mckinnon or Drouin. My feeling is that Drouin is going to play alongside Stamkos, and that team got a lot better this off season. And McDavid is already pretty amazing.

          • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

            “But a case is already being made for a two horse race. Now this could just be a media narrative as they always seem to try and build tension around who could go number one, but if there’s another player close to McDavid, then either this is going to be a legendary draft ala 2003, or McDavid isn’t really that good. Hopefully it’s the former.”

            I just wanted to add that if McDavid & Eichel are shaping up to be the real deal, then that’s further incentive for the new lottery rules.

            Old system: finish last with the guarantee to get one of those players. New system: the 30th place team can still miss out on a top 2 pick. It should make things more interesting for draft years when a couple kids separate themselves from the pack.

          • Agreed.

            When is it too early to get excited for next year’s draft? I feel like only Christmas can rival how soon decorations start going up for a given event.

            I am looking forward to the days when the draft is the least exciting thing about being an Oiler fan.

            And again, Detroit, 20th overall pick 2013, there are clearly still some top end talent to be had later int he first round.

            Is there anyone else outside of the top two on your draft radar for next year? I have not looked into it yet outside of hearing how deep it’s supposed to be.

  • BlazingSaitls

    There is only one way to ensure Edmonton Oilers receive a 1st overall lottery pick. Regardless of odds or new draft formats. There is only one sure way for Oilers to acquire Connor McJebus.

    Re-hire Tambellini. He just finds a way…losing is a gift for some people.

  • Sevenseven

    Completely unrelated.

    Calgary is counting on its attack being led by young, smaller players like Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sven Baertschi, Sam Bennett, not one of them more than 200 pounds or older than 21.

    Worked great for the Oilers!

    Im going to go troll Flames Nation.

    • Nomad787

      Monahan is 6′ 2 and 200lbs as a 19 year old. Calgary still has glen cross, hudler, stajan and Backlund to help bring the young guys along. Plus, some actual nhl defencemen

      • The Soup Fascist

        Glen Cross. Is that a relative of Cory Cross?

        Stajan, Hudler and Backlund mentoring your young guys, hmmm?

        Let me know how that works out – but I am sure you will be fine.

        (Yikes, it is worse than I thought)

        • The Soup Fascist

          Always a bit difficult knocking a team that finished better than the Oilers in the standings. Though I am not a Calgary fan, I did appreciate how they tried to win every game they played. It was sad at times to watch the Oiler play with less Fire than the Flames.

          I do agree though that they are in poor shape. Bertchi seems like a bust, Goudreu is a dwarf, and the one two ‘punch’ of Monnahan and Bennet is not going to be very competitive in this conference.

          I do envy some pieces on their blue line however.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            ^if i were a Flames fan, i wouldn’t see the fact that the Flames finished higher than the Oilers in the standings, but still sucked themselves as any kind of a feather in my cap.
            what the Flames do have that the Oilers didn’t last year were good veteran forwards like Hudler, Glencross, Cammalleri, and Stajan contributing to the scoring, which the Oilers have now addressed with the signings of Pouliot and Purcell.
            unfortunately, i don’t know if Mason Raymond can fill the scoring void with the departure of Cammalleri or not? and like Draisaitl in Edmonton, Bennett may or may not even make the Flames this year.

          • The Soup Fascist

            See, and I have no problem with it at all.

            If that bunch of no talents were playing in my backyard rink I would pull down the shade.

            So they clutched and grabbed their way to 26th instead of 27th? Who cares?

          • BlazingSaitls

            Yes, its mazing how a team with the Fab5 “superstars” could possibly be so terrible that they made the lowly Flames look like world-beaters last year. Watched most of the Oilers games and its truly stunning all the shut-outs at home last year. As a fan I can’t imagine you’d be too happy about that… Giving up was waaay too easy for the team. Yes, yes, excuses, excuses… this year they’ll hopefully blast their way into the playoffs and give you Oiler fans something to cheer about.

            As for Calgary, they ARE in sad shape at the moment, but some interesting prospects are on the horizon. They all have a ways to go, and hopefully will continue to progress, as most of the team did last year, to realize their full potential. Give it 2 years, I’d put up Monahan, Gaudreau, Baertchi and Bennett against the best 4 Oilers you got any day…

          • Joy S. Lee


            Well okay, bring it on.

            You know, I’m an Oiler fan with some connections to Calgary, and I actually agree the Flames have more talent in their system than most believe. Gaudreau is smurf, but I love the kid’s moxie… and he’s a game-breaker, just as long as he steers clear of Zack Kassian… and others… many others. However, if you think those kids – especially the little ones – are going to dominate in 2 years, then you’re just as naive as all of us Oiler fans were when we saw Hall and RNH hit the draft board. Though you have Burke there, and he’s making sure the Flames have the muscle surrounding those kids (unlike previous Oilers’ management)…

            …don’t you worry. While Hall leads, the Oilers will show not 4, but a strong supporting cast of about 10 players who make them a force. If the system and MacTavish continues bolstering the rest of the lineup, we will do better than that: we will put our best 20 against your best 20. I think that’s a much better test of which team is better. You can have your 4 guys… if they can stay healthy. See you on the ice.

          • Seanaconda

            Respect is a key step to competitiveness, so kudos for seeing what most other outsiders see in the Flames system.

            Yes Gaudreau is a smurf, but an elusive one and yes a game-breaker. Never know when 1 hit derails a career, but hopefully he can avoid it and prove all his doubters wrong. Burke has certainly made the effort to find “functional toughness” to play with these smaller guys which hopefully will work out. Both Monahan and Bennett have size so I’m not too worried about them, plus a few other prospects coming along (Poirier, Klimchuck, Granlund…).

            Biggest difference between the Oilers and Flames right now is Oilers are 2-3 years advanced with their key prospects/players versus most of the Flames “core” is just emerging or will in the next couple years. On paper that would give the edge to the Oilers but then again it probably also caps out their potential, with the exceptions to Yak and Draisatl.

            IF the oilers’ recent additions can perform better than what they have done to date you might have something going forward. But if not I don’t see a lot coming down the Oilers prospect pipeline except for 2-3 D so I’m not sure where the ‘force’ is coming from. Good luck with that.

          • BlazingSaitls


            In the battle of Alberta, I feel like at most times there’s a mutual respect between the fan base. Any non bandwagon jumper Calgary fan, usualyy knows what they are talking about, and can talk about both teams with a certain sense of honesty. But if you really think in two years Monahan, Gaudreau, Baertchi, and Bennett are going to be better than “the best 4 Oilers”, you are delusional.

            I’ve been hearing Beartchi is going to be a star for like 3 r now and h still hasn’t broken into the league. Monahan started great last year, but that’s it. What did he finish with 34 points? Wow, call the Calder nominees. As for Gaudreau and Bennet, well welcome to having a team of small skilled guys in the western conference. I cannot wait to watch Gaudreau realize he’s made a huge mistake, and should have stuck to badminton.

            Hell, I wouldn’t even put that four up against Perron, Yak, Poulliot and Schultz in terms of point production in 2 years. Let alone Hall, Nuge, Ebs, and oh heck say Nurse.

            Strap in pal, cause you are about to go down a long and hard road as a fan. Let me know how Beartchi works out.

          • BlazingSaitls

            Respect and honesty I agree with, having a little fun too. Definitely not delusional, I’ll stick with my predictions. Talk to me again in 2 years…

            Baertchi I’ll agree with you that he hasn’t stuck yet. Had a great entry, built up too much hype and came into last year with an attitude, feeling like he already had made it. Had to grow up and round out his game. Still expecting him to make it and be a major contributor. Monahan injured and playing injured half the season, plus learning the ropes on the fly, which you Oilers know a lot about. Gaudreau tiny, yes, but… we shall see. Bennett neither tiny nor ready at this point. Likely going to give him time to properly develop rather than be thrown to the wolves (like Draisatl and others…). Oilers 4 best now, 2 years not so much, but time will tell.

            Surprised you didn’t include Yak in your 4, or Draisaitl. Yeah, I’m pretty doubtful about Yak too… Skill’s there but attitude?

            One thing’s for sure, both teams got some good young players and should be trending up over the next few years…

          • BlazingSaitls

            PS: Its not all about individual points, but then again points is the standard Oiler fan fall-back position, probably because the more in-depth analyses are WAAY too ugly.

            What with all the current focus on advanced stats in the league perhaps in a couple of years we can get a better all-around picture of “best” players…

          • BlazingSaitls

            Ah yes, the old advanced stats debate. I’m all for advanced stats when it comes to identifying talent to put in the line up, but at the end of the day, points and wins, will always be the most important numbers in hockey.

          • BlazingSaitls

            Wins definitely, pts-maybe. With points I’d tend to agree that more is generally better, but really its the net effect that counts most and the contribution to overall team success than any individual stats.

            I’m skeptical of advanced stats too, but I do believe that at the least they directionally indicate positive or negative trends on players after the fact that are hard to quantify otherwise. Wouldn’t it be nice if the league/individual/company found a way to get consistent stats on all games and players and the stats community could fine-tune some new/existing measures that we could all believe in.

            Since we today don’t have anything better to concretely quantify players we’re stuck with points and will have to argue the rest…

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Stajan, Hudler and Backlund mentoring your young guys, hmmm?


          Random thought Soupy. As mentors go, which three would you rather have impacting your up and comers. Hemsky, Horcoff and Gagner, or those three muskateers from Calgary…..all 3 are similar.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Would you rather face the firing squad or the hangman?

            Actually Horcoff was fine. His contract made him a pariah with the fans. And Gagner was good in the room. He just had the defensive acumen of France circa 1940. Smytty was the work ethic guy. Hemsky couldn’t lead water down a drain. Never pretended he could.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Yes, please come over, quiet day on the hockey front waiting until camps open. New FN article on losing out on the Hayes sweepstakes. Got to admit was hoping he’d sign in Calgary… But, probably better to have someone who wanted to be a part of the team more than interested in pushing his own self-interests… You could throw out the Oilers “win” in the Jultz signing as good on the Oilers, but then again, isn’t he sitting out pouting about not being invited into the $6MM club? Maybe you shouldn’t mention it till he comes around…

      As for what the Flames are counting on, well you got 2 out of 4, not bad for an Oilers fan, not including several other prospects. Flames whopped you last season and finished 10 pts higher in the standings. PLEASE, can you get it together and move up the standings some? Getting tired of all the excuses, what is it going to be this year???

  • book¡e

    “There was no shortage of jokes facts on Wednesday that the NHL’s fancy new draft lottery rules were a direct result of the Oilers’ unmatched ability to land No. 1 picks.”

    I fixed that for you

      • Serious Gord

        I think the oils string of luck had very little to do with it. This has been an issue for many years and not just in the nhl. Giving the worst team the first pick automatically has long been seen by many as too much of an incentive to finish last. The oil three numbers ones was a symptom of what caused the change but I think the change would have happened regardless.

  • Nomad787

    Its not just the Leafs who are trying to improve their odds. The other 7 teams on the NHL’s “security council” want to improve their chances of landing Mcdavid or Eichel. The Oilers and the other second class teams don’t have a say in the matter.

  • I’m not a Flames fan but I’m not as sure as many who think the Flames will finish lower than the Oil. Calgary has better coaching, better defense and more players that are willing to muck it up than the Oilers have.

    I’d love to see the Oil whip the Flames every game but I don’t think it will happen.

  • The Soup Fascist

    If they really want to discourage an intentional collapse, have two lotteries each year, one for first overall and one for second overall. This way, a 30th place team can fall as far down as third, thus missing the Seguin’s of the Draft.