Sabres still in a position of power despite losing lottery

Given that the Sabres had a 75% chance of not winning the draft lottery last night, there shouldn’t be much surprise or disappointment in Buffalo receiving the second overall pick. My disappointment lies in the two posts I wrote on Monday that needed to be drastically altered because of the result.

The consensus on this year’s draft is that the top four or five prospects are at a level above most others in the draft. This also happens to be a draft that will differ from the last two or three that preceded it in that there is no clear cut favorite to be picked first overall. Rather, the top four or five players are the consensus favorites to be selected at the top with the rest of the first round being described with any number of synonyms for average.

While the Sabres missed out on having their pick of the litter, they’re truly not at a disadvantage having to pick second. In fact, you could argue that they’re in a better situation but I’m not about to try and justify why not picking first could possibly not be the best possible scenario. I will say that the Sabres are not hamstrung for not having won the lottery. Perhaps the best possible scenario would have seen the Islanders win the lottery, but having the Panthers leapfrog the Sabres won’t have a resounding affect on the direction the Sabres go with their selection.

It would appear as if Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston forward Sam Bennett and Kootenay center Sam Reinhart have established themselves as the top three prospects in the draft. Although Leon Draisaitl is considered to be right there with Reinhart and possibly even Bennett at the top.

Tim Murray repeatedly said that he is going to take the best player available regardless of position. Reading those tea leaves could point you in a number of different directions. While the Panthers aren’t guaranteed to take a particular player, the Sabres decision won’t be altered at two. In fact, the Sabres could very well end up with the exact player they wanted at one even after the Panthers pick, something that Murray confirmed last night. Continue reading

Thoughts on changing the NHL Draft Lottery

As the talent at the top of the NHL Draft continues to rise each year the topic of tanking to ensure higher odds at the first overall pick is becoming a hot topic. While the current system is designed to give the 30th place finisher the best opportunity to pick first, there is a better chance that team picks second given the odds.

With next year’s draft featuring a pair of generational talents at the top of the prospect pool, rumors and chatter have abounded regarding change to the lottery system in hopes of curbing the practice of tanking.

There doesn’t seem to be a good system that is strictly based off the order of finish in the standings. The system floated by Elliotte Friedman a few weeks back included a few nuances that wouldn’t only decrease the 30th place finisher’s chances but take into account a number of seasons as opposed to the one that had just passed.

However, it’s a fairly nuanced system that points towards even more complicated and convoluted systems for determining the first overall pick while preventing teams from taking nosedives to the bottom of the standings.

One idea I’m particularly fond of is a version of something similar I heard on NHL Network Radio a while back. If I’m not mistaken the original thought came from Mike Brophy, so direct the appropriate praise to him for the genesis of this idea.

The plan would be to still reward the worst teams with the highest picks in each year’s draft. You can’t have parity and turnover within the league unless you follow such a pattern. It also ensures that bad teams will improve – or should improve if you’re the Oilers – by picking high. In a league driven by revenues, perennial basement dwellers will eventually see lots of red ink if they can’t bring in players to overhaul their roster.

My plan would include the league’s five worst teams – although this could be expanded if necessary – in a competition to determine who wins the first overall pick. I stress the term win because this would be a standings-based competition that would be evaluated on each team’s performance after a certain point in the year. This way you can’t simply hit the brakes on your year, sell off your assets and wait to see what the lottery balls do for you once the season wraps. Meanwhile, if you finish 30th you’re still assured to draft high enough to get some help. Continue reading

Sabres could benefit from proposed changes to the draft lottery

Even before Darcy Regier uttered the word suffering at his press conference last year, the Sabres were embarking on a rebuilding effort that would see many of their established veterans traded for futures that include prospects and picks in the coming drafts.

Regier likely expected to be in the exact spot that Tim Murray find himself in now; without Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson (via Thomas Vanek) and Steve Ott while possessing a bevy of draft picks in the top 60 of the next two drafts. He also most certainly knew his team would be picking quite high in one or perhaps both of the drafts as he set the organization on the path they’re on now. Exactly how deliberate the on-ice results that followed were is up for debate, but it would seem as if Regier and Murray both knew the Sabres would be picking at the top of this June’s draft with a strong likelihood of repeating the feat in 2015.

That’s why the news that the NHL is considering to make a significant change to the draft lottery, ahead of what’s expected to be one of the deepest first rounds in years, is likely startling to many Sabres fans. It falls in line with so many “because it’s Buffalo” moments as those who follow the team and were expecting to have a chance to purchase a Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel jersey in a few years may be watching another fan base with envy. Continue reading