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The Ironing is Delicious

How "fixed" was the draft lottery?

Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

As you may have noticed I've been offline for quite a while. My self imposed hiatus was due to some major changes at work and I really had no choice but to completely focus on work for a few months. My hiatus isn't over just yet but since the Oilers won the draft lottery yesterday I felt that I needed to add my two cents but before going any further I'll share my draft lottery experience.

As you may be able to tell by my alias, I live in Calgary (YYC) so all I've listened to for the past 7 months has been how great the Flames are and how bad the Oilers suck. Actually it has been more than 7 months but this year was particularly unbearable. Any way, I lost interest in the season a few months ago and didn't really pay attention to games like I did in the past. I made a point of trying to watch all the games but they were more of background noise thing than anything else. I'd only really pay attention when a goal was scored or something stupid happened. So when the Oilers slowly climbed their way out of 30th spot into 28th I really didn't care. My only worry was draft lottery but again the team had disappointed me enough times already in the season, what was one more disappointment?

My enthusiasm around the draft lottery was obviously not great. The Oilers were 28th and they were probably going to draft Vladimir Tkachev with the 3rd overall pick. I had already reserved myself to complete and utter disappointment. I even forgot to watch the lottery due to a friend's son's birthday party. In fact I completely forgot that the lottery was happening until I got a text from my sister. All the text said was "U pumped". In her typical fashion there was no punctuation and absolutely no frame of reference, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Then I got a another text, and another, and another, then a tweet at me. I was still clueless as to what was happening until I turned on the TV and sure enough the Oilers had won the draft lottery.

Obviously my first reaction was to jump onto Twitter to see what as going on. It was a mixed bag of Oilers fans cheering and non-Oilers fans bitching about the draft. As I often try to do I focused on the opinions that differed from mine so I don't get stuck in an echo chamber of BS. Some of the complaints were the typical "Oilers don't deserve this." or "Another 1st overall pick?". The more "intriguing" ones though were the conspiracy theory type Tweets like "How much did Katz pay for the first overall?" and "The draft lottery is rigged!". I understand that emotions run high in times like this but the new lottery system that was put in place prior to this season, worked exactly as expected. The league wanted to get away from automatically rewarding the worst team in the league and limit teams from purposefully tanking.

Did the Oilers Really Tank?

This is an interesting question and it has been posed to me by many of my friends and coworkers. From my prosective the Oilers didn't really tank so much as they were just bad.

  • The Oilers are a team that knows how to tank, instead of replacing Dallas Eakins with Todd Nelson they could've just as easily replaced Eakins with Kelly Buchberger and tried to guarantee a tank but they didn't.
  • If MacT wanted to tank he would've never stepped behind the bench at all he would've just handed Nelson the reigns.
  • If things really weren't working out and the Oilers' knew it then why fire Dallas Eakins 31 games into the season. Keeping him on would've practically guaranteed them 18 wins on the season based on his record when he was fired.
  • From when Eakins was fired to the end of the season, the Oilers moved up from 30th overall to 28th while other teams tried their hardest to finish last.

There are just too many moving pieces to say the Oilers were purposefully tanking especially when they finished with almost the same amount to wins as they would have if Eakins was still the coach.

The Irony

The new lottery draft format was dubbed in the media as the "Oilers Lottery Rule". It was put in place so that teams like the Oilers wouldn't win the draft lottery every year. Remember the Oilers won the lottery in 2010 after finishing 30th overall and drafted Taylor Hall. In 2011 they didn't win the lottery but because 23rd place New Jersey won it, and could only drop 5 spots, the Oilers still got to draft first overall again and drafter Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In 2012 the Oilers finished 29th on the season but ended up winning the draft lottery and got to select first overall again selecting Nail Yakupov.

The board of governors for the NHL were a little bit upset that a team so poorly managed could continue to win the draft lottery that in August of 2014 they voted in favour of changing the rules for the draft lottery. Even though the odds still favoured the worst team in the NHL there was a big shift to give all of the teams that didn't make the playoffs a chance at the first overall selection.

Sure enough the team that the rule was created for won it because they won just enough games to be better than the obvious tankers. Oh the irony, as an Oilers' fan I love it.

P.S. Fun fact, he Oilers have drafted first overall after a season of 62 points.