NHL: Now What? Drink Corona… Draft?

This Coronavirus epidemic has reached proportions that no one expected. The NHL, like every other professional sport, was going about its business as usual. The trade deadline had come and gone, and teams were gearing up for the playoffs or, like our beloved Montreal Canadiens, they were in the evaluation phase of their season, making plans for the next step(s) to take in the off-season. Scouts were all over the world looking for talent in preparation for the NHL Draft in June but have since been called back home, with most leagues having made the decision to shut down. Only the NHL and AHL have yet to announce the cancellation, or so it seems.

Only once in NHL history has the season been cancelled for reasons other than the Gary Bettman negotiating techniques of a lock out, and that was way back in 1919, when the Spanish Flu epidemic was taking lives worldwide. Ironically, it could happen again in… 2020. Look out 2121!

Junior hockey is cancelled in Canada. European leagues have decided to shut down for the season. NCAA hockey is cancelled and even the March Madness of basketball isn’t going to happen. The NBA has decided to end it for this year and MLB has stopped all Spring Training activities. The world has come to a halt in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading to big groups of people.

Of course, you have the selfish idiots buying all of the available toilet paper and hand sanitizers but in general, people are pulling together, understanding the impact this is having on everyone. Schools are closing, hospitals are overwhelmed worldwide to the point where in some countries like Italy, doctors have to make the difficult decision of choosing who will and who will not be treated, at the risk of those left out to the potential of dying. Canada and the United States are doing everything in their power to avoid such catastrophe by being proactive.

NHL Impact

Where does that leave the NHL in all of that? In most states and in Canada, group gathering are disrecommanded, but made illegal is some places. The pandemic is just starting folks. While Bettman originally asked teams to keep their venues available for the month of July, this is not something that was cleared with the NHLPA to start with, but the timeframe was over-optimistic to say the least.

Even if the NHL tried saving the playoffs, teams and players would need another training camp, which would take a week or two. And then enter straight into the playoffs? Some have suggested a March Madness type of tournament for the playoffs. While I’m personally against that format, for those wanting to save the playoffs, it remains wishful thinking.

NHL Draft

Bill Daly

The NHL Draft is scheduled on June 26-27 in Montreal. Under normal circumstances, the Bell Centre would be packed with young men hoping to be drafted, their friends and family, as well as fans soaking in the experience. We’re three months away from this event so no decision will be made just yet. But the league’s Board of Governors, along with Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have to be looking at options. Not only for the venue itself, deciding if players and fans will be gathering together, but how the draft order will be made… and the draw was scheduled to be on April 9th, less than four weeks away!

Some are suggesting a format similar to 2005, the lockout shortened season which saw teams play 48 games that year. I vehemently am against doing that for the simple reason that this year, the season has almost been played out, teams only having around 10 games remaining. The league MUST keep the integrity of the standings pretty much as they are instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

Potential Solution

I would like to see two draws:

  1. One to decide who finishes outside the playoffs, therefore being eligible to the second draw or not.
  2. The normal draw as the NHL would have done on April 9th to determine the first round draft order amongst teams out of the playoffs.

The way to do this first draw would be to calculate the number of balls to put into the lotto ball by using the teams’ odds to make the playoffs. For this example, I used the odds provided by moneypuck.com. You would have three groups:

Teams with 100% chances of making the playoffs would have no balls in the first lotto ball. Those teams are:

You would also have another group who would not be part of that first draw as they were guaranteed NOT to make the playoffs, therefore zero chance of making it. Those teams will automatically be in the second draw:

And here’s where the fun begins. 20 teams still had a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, some more than others. The NHL should use those odds of making the playoffs in order to determine how many balls those teams will have in the lotto ball.

Since there are already seven teams guaranteed to be in the second draw (0% chances of making the playoffs) and there are 15 teams eligible to the draft lottery (16 teams in the playoffs), the purpose of this first draw would be to eliminate five teams from the above-mentioned list. So the Capitals would have 99.93 chances of having their name picked while the Canadiens would only have 0.2% chances of seeing their name being called in this first draft.

Once the other 15 teams are decided, you then need to decide on the final standings for the Draft for rounds 2-7 and for teams which would be deemed to be in the playoffs (outside the first draw), as the NHL traditionally does. To determine the final standings, the league should be using the winning percentage to decide how many points those teams would have had over an 82 games schedule, since not every team has played the same number of games at this point.

There is a lot of money invested into teams, scouting, playoffs, players and so on and the NHL cannot afford to make clowns of themselves as they sometimes tend to do. They have to do it right, while facing a difficult and unpredictable situation. The above-mentioned idea is only one that I feel would be fair to everyone when it comes to the NHL Draft. There are likely others. Let’s just hope that whichever the league chooses, it’s not to serve the best teams, but rather the ones needing it most. Go Habs Go!

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