An Unusual Season Calls for an Unusual NHL Draft Lottery Twist

There are still a lot of questions hanging in the air regarding the NHL and a potential return to complete the 2019-20 season. It feels like we’re a long way off from getting any clarity on regular season games being played or jumping right into the playoffs. Whether or not regular season games are restarted or if the league jumps right to the postseason there will be plenty of action available for ice hockey betting on NHL games.

No need for flash cards in this format.

Last week I floated a few different ways the NHL could tackle their postseason, should they be forced to take a new approach with the playoffs. Assuming the league expands the playoff format, there would only be a handful of teams left in the dark on clawing back some of their lost revenue. So what if the NHL took a different approach with those teams in awarding spots in the draft lottery?

This is an unusual season which almost certainly requires the league to utilize a different playoff format. Why not do the same with the draft lottery and plug the non-playoff teams into a tournament of their own to win the top picks?

All of this – expanding the playoffs, running a lottery tournament – is motivated by getting each team as many games as possible. An expanded playoff format would also incorporate berths for teams that had their run at a wild card spot. Getting upwards of 20 more games from the expanded wild card teams would be a boon for a league that could use some extra gate receipts.

Assuming a 24-team playoff format is what’s adopted, that leaves seven teams in contention for the lottery. While teams in contention for the wild card berths stand to lose out on their race, the lottery doesn’t play out quite the same way. Simply awarding lottery odds based on order of finish is more than acceptable given the circumstances.

However, if the motivation for getting more games on the books is of paramount importance, putting those seven teams into a set of games of their own would help to achieve that goal.

Adopting a Champions League-style round robin tournament would put the seven non-playoff teams back on the ice in a set of competitive games they wouldn’t otherwise have. In fact, this set of games would be even more competitive than the final few weeks they would have played had the season not been suspended.

Following the same structure of the Champions League, with each team playing a home-and-home set would give each team six additional home games to make some additional money off of. The games could be played under the same tiebreaker rules as the regular season follows and I’d like to see the top four teams move on to an elimination round where the winners slot into the top three picks in the draft.

It would be just as easy to simply award the lottery picks based on the results of the pool play results but playing an elimination game (or series) for the right to draft Alexis Lafreniere would add an excellent layer of chaos to an unusual postseason.

The primary drawback to this setup is that it completely strips the typical lottery odds for the league’s worst teams. Considering the results the Red Wings and Sharks have gotten this year, it doesn’t seem likely that they’d find a whole lot of success in a high (well, higher) stakes set of games. In order to keep some semblance of lottery odds intact, I think it would be wise to give the bottom three teams a head start on the start of the pool play. That way the Red Wings, Senators and Sharks – so just the Wings and Senators – wouldn’t completely lose the rights afforded to the teams that finish at the bottom of the standings.

This would be a heck of a lot easier to execute had teams like Chicago and Minnesota missed the playoffs in the West. That the trio of Western Conference teams in the bottom seven are all in California would make travel a bit of a bear. The overall format is designed to give each team an equal number of home and away games, so there’s little opportunity for one team to be at a greater disadvantage than another. At least one or two teams would likely feel their schedule wasn’t as advantageous as the others, but in reality, there would be little overall variation from one to another.

The league could set this to play out alongside the opening rounds of the playoffs and the entire endeavor could be wrapped up well before the Conference or Stanley Cup Final. It would effectively double the number of playoff games for fans to follow on a nightly basis, while also effectively doubling the gate receipts as well.

I fully understand that this is a preposterous idea. Expanding the playoffs serves a very real purpose. There were a number of teams in the thick of the wild card race when the season was suspended. Those teams deserve an opportunity to finish that chase. By granting extra playoff berths, those teams wouldn’t be shortchanged by the season being cutoff. It’s a logical solution for an unprecedented circumstance. The inverse is true of putting the lottery teams into some sort of a playoff or elimination format. This hardly favors the teams at the bottom of the standings and it eliminates one of the few benefits of finishing 30th or 31st. That’s pretty hard to reconcile for what would be a one-time gimmick.

However, as a member of team chaos, this would be a juicy change of course for the league. Imagine the drama of the Red Wings needing a win in their final game against the Sabres to secure a spot in the elimination round. Or just the fact that the Senators own San Jose’s first round pick and what that would mean for the way the standings would shake out.

Also, the reality of the situation is that the league and it’s teams are going to be desperate for an injection of revenue should they resume the season. More games equals more revenue. Finding a reason to add upwards of 85 extra games on top of an expanded playoff format creates the opportunity to drum up that additional revenue.

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