Atrocity is a pretty strong word. Usually it’s reserved for
describing events involving death and destruction…or at least Justin Schultz’
own zone coverage. Using it to describe the possibility of Edmonton winning another
lottery is just a little over the top, but you can understand the sentiment a
Mike Brophy of The Hockey News wrote this piece about the
NHL preventing the Oilers from potentially winning another first overall pick
in the lottery at the end of this season. It’s an instant classic and it’s the
kind of reactionary thinking that probably lead to the greatest possibility of
Brophy’s nightmare scenario actually coming true to life: the NHL changing the rules so it was easier for teams 29-17 to win the top pick.
In any event, I thought it might be fun to go through it
piece by piece exploring its validity.
The NHL has done a nice job reducing the odds of winning
the draft lottery to limit the possibility of a team tanking in order to get
the first pick in the entry draft.
Now the league should take it a step further and change the
rules so that no team gets the No. 1 pick in consecutive years.
Failure should not be rewarded. And yet it is. And it might
There’s a lot going on here right at the beginning. Some of
it is accurate, some of it is strangely conceived.
To begin with, I agree with Brophy that the NHL has made
some good measures to ensure that teams aren’t being immediately rewarded for
tanking. When the Oilers were finishing dead last they had almost a coin flip’s
chance to keep the top prize and if not then they would only move down one
Last season was a transition year for the NHL as they
re-weighted the lottery so that the 30th placed team only had a 20%
chance to hold onto that top pick. In many ways the Buffalo Sabres attempt to
lose at all costs, including trading all of their starting goaltenders and
replacing them with stoppers supporting terrible numbers, was the perfect
scenario for the NHL to prove tanking was not worth it. They finished dead last
and with an 80% chance to lose the lottery that’s exactly what happened.
Mission Accomplished, NHL.
The bizarre line is that “Failure should not be rewarded.”
This is, naturally, exactly what the NHL is doing with a lottery weighted
towards the worst teams. It ensures that bad teams can find the necessary
talent to eventually no longer be bad. In most markets bad hockey = bad
revenue. So ultimately the lottery is to ensure the viability of the clubs on
and off the ice.
The teams who do the worst in the standings have the best
chances of winning the lottery. That’s EXACTLY how it’s supposed to work.
The Edmonton Oilers are once again battling for last place
which would give them the greatest odds of winning this season’s lottery and
thereby selecting Auston Matthews.
This is an atrocity.
The Oilers have had the first pick in four of the past six drafts
and what good has it done them? Since 2009, the Oilers have not finished higher
than 21st – and that was in 2008-09. Since then they have finished 30th, 30th,
29th, 24th, 28th and 28th.
Tell me how you really feel, Broph.
Note that at the time of posting this piece the Oilers had
more Wins than Vancouver, Toronto, and Carolina. They have the same number of
points in the standings as Calgary, and their Goal Differential is 24th
in the NHL.
In addition to basic facts, the Oilers hired one of the best
coaches on the market, hired a respected GM, and displaced all of the people
who were in charge a year ago from decision making roles.
Taken in concert, the Oilers are not actually battling for
last place. They are 5 points out of 3rd in the Pacific, battling
key injuries, and staying more competitive in games than they have been in
The question of what good the first overall picks have done
them is interesting. One of those picks is inside the top 3 LWs in the game
today, one is the team’s best 2-way player, and one is a generational talent
who has only barely started his NHL career. While he team is terrible it’s
pretty clear those picks are providing what little good the team has seen.
We’ll skip ahead a couple paragraphs that explain Edmonton picked
first a lot and get to him talking about McDavid joining the team.
So McDavid – a generational player who will ultimately help
this bumbling franchise climb the standings, in spite of itself – goes to
Edmonton and joins Hall and Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov, as well as Darnell
Nurse (picked seventh in 2013) and Leon Draisaitl (third in 2014) and what
The Oilers still stink.
Okay, I get that McDavid is injured. But is a broken
clavicle on an 18-year-old really the reason why the Oilers are in last place
yet again? A team that has three other first overall picks from the past six
drafts and a bum collarbone on a teenaged hockey player sinks the ship?
Let’s just take this in. The Oilers got McDavid and somehow they
still blow, but they don’t really have McDavid because he’s injured, but that’s
not a big deal because he’s just an 18 year old anyway and how much impact
could he have?
Did I get that right?
Arguments tend to work best if you don’t make a point then
immediately undermine it.
The next is one of my favourite parts though.
This is a team that, since 2008-09, has had three general
managers (Steve Tambellini, Craig MacTavish and Peter Chiarelli) and seven
coaches (Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, MacTavish, Todd
Nelson and Scott McLellan).
Now there’s a formula for success.
The coaches and GMs were all good men with good intentions.
And yet the Oilers are still bottom dwellers. They have been handed opportunity
after opportunity to dig themselves out of their ever-deepening hole and they
are no further ahead than they were in 2010.
This is an incredible display of analysis.
I think first we have to address the Elephant in the room.
Coach Scott McLellan is not a good man with good intentions. He is the evil
twin of Coach Todd McLellan and is constantly scheming of ways to ruin Todd’s
plans. While he is identical to Todd in every other way, he can be easily
spotted by his long and twisty moustache which he keeps finely waxed.
At any rate, the point he tries to make here is, I guess,
that Edmonton’s constant changing of the guard has really screwed up the
Rebuild. Also that these were swell guys who tried real hard but Edmonton was
hell bent on screwing it all up by playing musical chairs.
Glossing over the tenures of Tambellini and MacTavish with “(they)
were all good men with good intentions” is hilariously inadequate. Then failing
to connect the disastrous hiring of those men with the disastrous firings of
Renney and Krueger is equally insufficient. Plus who are we kidding by including
MacT as one of the team’s coaches during this time? The whole thing lacks even
the most undeveloped context possible.
Logically, though, the most dubious part of this comes with
his declaration that Drafting first has not put Edmonton ahead one step from
where they were in 2010. Do you remember how the team ended in 2009-2010? Well
if you don’t I have the boxscore from the game (a 7-2 loss). Look at the roster and tell me
we aren’t ahead.
Dean Arsene? Charles Linglet? Ryan Potulny? Patrick O’Sullivan?
It’s a miracle the Oilers didn’t lose every game 7-2 in 2009-2010.
Ok, so obviously the Oilers are further ahead of where they
were in 2010. BUT, let’s assume they weren’t any further ahead. Let’s assume
Broph was bang on with his assessment (in this fantasy world I’m also taller,
by the way). If the Oilers were indeed not any further ahead and indeed the
worst team in the NHL, isn’t the only process that could help them get better drafting
at or near the top of the order?
Wouldn’t it then make sense for Edmonton to get the pick so
they could indeed finally start to get better? I mean, denying such a truly atrocious
team any means to actually get better and stop being so poor on the ice would
only guarantee their failure. If the NHL decided that the Sabres have had too
many lottery picks and they blew it taking Eichel and Reinhart so now they can’t
pick in the lottery again, they might as well vote to just fold the franchise.
And now the Oilers may get another first pick? This should
not happen. The NHL must make teams work harder to earn the right to get the
first pick in the draft.
The Oilers recent history should be the impetus for change.
You get the first pick, continue to suck and your luck runs out.
How could a team work any harder to earn the right to pick
first? Be MORE terrible than everyone else? Because that sounds a lot like
tanking. And if Brophy doesn’t mean tanking then I have no clue what he means
by making teams work harder. I guess Bettman could run the bottom 5 GM’s
through a Wipeout-like obstacle course. That would be worth watching but I don’t
really see Chiarelli having any luck on the big balls.
Building a champion is more than good drafting. It involves
developing players, making wise trades and building an organization players
aspire to join.
It is time to stop rewarding continuous failure.
Remember that time he said Tambo and MacT were good guys
with good intentions? Those were good times. Oh, I have no idea why I mentioned
those guys in relation to developing players, making good trades, and building
No idea at all.
However, if it was time to stop rewarding failure I wouldn’t have
linked to Brophy’s post at the top.