Oh, you think the tank is your ally. But you merely adopted the tank; I was born in it, molded by it.
Can you believe we’re talking about this again? Just a little under a year ago we were throwing a REST IN PEACE DECADE OF DARKNESS party to celebrate the fact that the nightmare year of futility was over. Unfortunately, we’re back at square one. The Oilers are in the discussion for yet another first overall pick.
This season has arguably been the most disappointing one in Oilers history. The only one that comes close for me is the 2006-07 season. Coming within one win of the Stanley Cup, Chris Pronger demanding a trade a few days later, then the team struggling, Ryan Smyth getting dealt at the trade deadline, and the following implosion was a hell of a whirlwind, but I think we were all geared up for a prolonged series of Oilers success after what we witnessed last spring.
There’s another thing about that 2006-07 team that makes them worth mentioning. The Oilers dealt Ryan Smyth on Feb. 27, 2007. After that, they lost 12 games in a row. They beat Colorado in a shootout, then lost six more, and finished their season with a 3-2 win over Calgary. They went down 2-0, but battled back before Patrick Thoresen buried the game-winning goal in the third.
That win put them in a tie for fifth-last in the league with the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago won fewer games, so they ended up in the draft lottery. Their name got drawn. They drafted Patrick Kane. Edmonton got Sam Gagner sixth overall.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Do you embrace the tank? Is it better for this group to lose as many games as they can in order to improve their lottery odds? How do you do it? Or is it better for the team to play with some pride and try to end the season on a positive note?
At this moment, the Oilers are in 27th place in the league. They’re only eight points up on Arizona for 31st. Buffalo is right down there with the Coyotes, but the Canucks and Canadiens are in the hunt too.
Unfortunately, the league is trying to ensure that teams don’t actively try to lose games to get the first overall pick. This year, the 31st team only has an 18 per cent chance at choosing first overall. 30th is 12.5 per cent, 29th is 10.5 per cent, and then the odds slowly get smaller. You can only drop three spots in the draft order, like we saw last year with Colorado slipping down to fourth overall despite winning like six games all season.
So even if the Oilers somehow manage to out-tank teams like Buffalo and Arizona, their odds to choose first overall aren’t that high. If the lottery were today, the fifth-last Oilers would have an 8.5 per cent chance, while the Coyotes would, like I said, have an 18 per cent chance. Go fool around with lottery simulator and you’ll be shocked at how many random teams you get.
This is an interesting thing to think about with the trade deadline approaching. At this point, it’s obvious the team should sell. But beyond the inevitable of selling impending UFAs Mark Letestu and Patrick Maroon to playoff teams, what else can the team do? Shut down Oscar Klefbom, who appears to be playing through an injury? Let Connor McDavid relax in Mexico?
I’d love to see Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev, and JJ Khaira get more top-six ice time, but, honestly, is that even going to help the losing effort? Personally, I would prioritize the growth of those players over the Oilers losing a bunch of remaining games to improve their draft lottery odds by six per cent.
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