After a historically terrible 2019-2020, the Detroit Red Wings were bumped out of the top 3 for the 2020 NHL Draft and watched as the New York Rangers won the lottery, taking Alexis Lafreniere in the process. While Lucas Raymond is no slouch and looks to be the type of players the Red Wings desperately need to help their scoring woes, the latest news from the NHL on how they’ll “fix” the draft is not any better than the already broken system.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun wrote about what’s being kicked around and some of them are not any more favorable. Every Red Wings fan bristled at the joke of the new draft lottery in a season upended by a pandemic and the Stanley Cup awarded in late September. It was no surprise when the ping pong balls did not bounce in Detroit’s favor, and even Steve Yzerman shrugged his shoulders at the nonsense of it all, saying he wasn’t very surprised by the results.
This comes from LeBrun:
It bugged some people around the game because the Red Wings aren’t tanking. They are undergoing an organic, massive rebuild after 25 straight years in the postseason and going for it forever, which depleted the pipeline.
Though there’s debates if the bottom truly dropped out or we might be seeing it this year, there’s no doubt the system put into place last season was flawed. Beyond that, it isn’t the first time a historically terrible team was punished by the system. The 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche were also 18% favorites to get the top pick before spiraling three spots down to the fourth. They took Cale Makar, which of course now looks unbelievably brilliant, and what Detroit fans look at as a silver lining.
But this next one is what really catches the eye:
The team executives I heard from this week, while supporting the idea of improving the odds for the bottom-ranked teams, also wanted some measure of protection that those teams couldn’t pick at the top or near the top in back-to-back years.
So here’s worse case scenario for Detroit if this was the new system. The Red Wings get a top three pick this season, which then eliminates them from getting a top three pick in the Shane Wright draft. The 2021 Draft, of course, has been hampered by the lack of amateur hockey due to the pandemic and may even be postponed until next season. The NHL has kicked around the idea of holding back to back drafts for 2021 and 2022. Not to mention the talent level in the 2021 draft isn’t nearly as high as the 2022 edition.
Detroit bucked the Cap system for a good five years before Ken Holland started overvaluing veterans in a league shifting to speed and youth. The Red Wings sputtered on from 2014-2016 before finally succumbing to the same reality as every other team–stockpile picks, draft, develop, and scout like hell to find value in free agency and trades.
Meanwhile the league tightened the Cap rules to avoid manipulating the system (think the Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen contracts). It then turned its attention to the draft–seeking to punish those teams tanking. This new system saw Chicago leap to the third overall pick in 2019 with a 3% chance–after winning three Stanley Cups in the same decade.
From 2017-2020, the Red Wings have fallen in every draft as to where they were supposed to pick. Feel free to call it sour grapes, but the system doesn’t make sense when a team falls four times in four draft lotteries. Worse, they had a 50% chance of getting the 4th pick in 2020, which is preposterous.
All of it is moot, of course, if the scouting is spot on and teams can find the right players for its system. Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond look like solid choices early on, and with Yzerman in charge, fans just need to look at Tampa Bay to take solace in the Yzerplan.
Though the league is looking at the issue, my hope is they find a sweet spot that make a fair and sensible option for teams. But as LeBrun concluded:
“Whatever the NHL comes up with, there will be no appeasing all 31 clubs.”