Don’t ask why, but I love sports draft lotteries. When you grow up with the NBA Draft Lottery and the wild conspiracy theories that abounded with the Patrick Ewing draft, you can’t help but get sucked into the hype and hysteria.
The NHL Draft Lottery isn’t quite as adventurous as the NBAs, but it has its own quirks. Every year we seem to get the Edmonton Oilers lucking out and winning while the Florida Panthers are left to claim the booby prize.
We’ve seen the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche come away with the No. 1 pick in recent seasons when Edmonton wasn’t scoring it and this season it’s the Buffalo Sabres who have the best chance to win it after they finished with the league’s worst record.
The fun of a lottery is, of course, that the best chance of winning means having just a 25-percent chance of doing so.
Anyhow, I’m rambling and that’s stupid. There are 13 different teams that could come away with the No. 1 pick (New Jersey can win the lottery but can’t move up – thanks Ilya!) and I’m going to rank out how the outrage would go on the Internet depending on who won.
14. Buffalo (25% chance to win) — Let’s face it, if the Sabres win the lottery, no one is going to grumble about it. They were the worst team in the league and need all the help they can get. If they win, all will be right in the world.
13. New Jersey (1.5% chance) — This would provide a lot of schadenfreude if the Devils won the lottery. They can’t claim the first pick, so Devils fans would be pissed and have more reason to be mad at Ilya Kovalchuk, but this keeps the draft order in tact as it is meaning Buffalo picks first, Florida second, etc. If the Devils win it’ll be the second time they’ve done that in the past five years. They moved up to fourth overall in 2011 when they won and selected Adam Larsson. That was before they changed lottery rules so anyone in the pool could get the top pick. Skunked again, Jersey!
12. Phoenix/Arizona (0.8% chance) — Bet you’re thinking I’ll go with the cheap joke about the team not having fans or enemies enough to care, right? Wrong. Let’s face fact though, after missing the playoffs two years in a row, the Coyotes just aren’t on anyone’s “Give A Crap” meter. If there’s a team that could use a happy ping pong ball to get a franchise forward though, it’s the Coyotes.
11. Nashville (1.1% chance) — The Preds had lady luck on their side last year when Seth Jones fell to them at fourth overall. Now they need a new coach and lots of skill up front. If the Preds hit the lottery, chances are you’ll read a lot of things that start with, “Good for them!”
10. Winnipeg (2.7% chance) — The Jets hitting the lottery might cause the rest of Canada to grumble, but on the whole they just don’t punch the collective conscience of NHL fans in the head the way, say, the Maple Leafs do. Things are trending up for the Jets and getting the top pick would speed that up. Maybe then they’ll start drawing more ire.
9. Carolina (4.7% chance) — Much like the other teams that rank out low on this list, Carolina just doesn’t make people angry on the whole. The caveat here if the ‘Canes won the lottery? Fans in Buffalo will have all the more reason to hate them. Yes, memories of the 2006 Eastern Conference Final still run deep in Buffalo and misery in this case would hate company.
8. Calgary (10.7% chance) — Calgary has been bad for a while and haven’t had a No. 1 overall pick in their history. Seeing the Flames jump over Edmonton would be worth it on its own and the Flames have enough former Sabres on the roster to be considered Buffalo’s Western Canada outpost. So why are they this high up? Easy: Everyone seems to hate Brian Burke despite him being the best quote in the business.
7. Florida (18.8% chance) — No one really hates the Panthers, with the exception of some old school Pittsburgh Penguins fans. The Panthers have been bad for a while and have been consistently landing in the Top 5 of the draft, but haven’t picked No. 1 overall since 1994 when they took Ed Jovanovski. Now, Jovo is the team captain and the team has some hopeful youth. Problem with the Panthers is they’re always in the lottery and, as you’ll see as this goes on, being a repeat lottery team means people are probably rooting against you.
6. Anaheim (via Ottawa) (2.1% chance) — Teams that are already the best in the conference tend to not get any sympathy and if the Ducks came away with the No. 1 pick, chances are Western fans would be up in arms that a team that’s already loaded gets to add another big piece. Only question here is whether fans would be more annoyed with Anaheim or Ottawa for forking over their first-round pick for Bobby Ryan.
5. Washington (0.5% chance) — The Capitals have the lowest odds in the lottery and yet… All my mind goes back to is when the Orlando Magic hit the lottery twice and got to snag Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. If the Caps won the top pick, how quickly do Flyers/Penguins/Rangers fans start crying foul? Immediately? Probably, because they’d announce picking defenseman Aaron Ekblad on the spot.
4. Vancouver (6.2% chance) — The Canucks had a bad year, no doubt, but they’ve still got a lot of (aging) talent and after years of thumping on everyone, seeing them get to reload their youthful prospects with a top forward like Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett would cause much consternation. Of course we don’t know who the GM will be or maybe even who the coach will be, but that’s beside the point for outrage. Anger here comes from a great team that many people dislike that finally went bad getting the chance to turn it around immediately.
3. New York Islanders (8.1% chance) — The Isles’ one year away to make the playoffs turned into a mess. Fans on the whole are pretty sick of the Islanders always winding up in the lottery and getting the chance to pick first again (they did previously in 2009 and got John Tavares) will make people wonder when the hell things are going to change. Shame for the Isles there isn’t a must-have goaltending prospect at the top of the draft this year.
2. Toronto (3.6% chance) — The Leafs are back in the lottery and they rank out this high because of a few reasons. First off, they were pretty good for most of the season. It would seem “unfair” by some fans if they got the top pick. Secondly, the Leafs are a hated team and their failure to make the playoffs caused much joy. Seeing them rewarded for just missing out would make heads explode. Finally, the Leafs hiring Brendan Shanahan away from the NHL would have conspiracy theory nuts losing their minds. You’ll hear junk about a fixed lottery, frozen envelopes, weighted ping pong balls, and voodoo witch doctors being involved in helping make it all possible.
I’m almost rooting for this to happen just to bathe in the conspiratorial mayhem, but there’s one team that most everyone will be rooting against in this lottery…
1. Edmonton (14.2% chance) — The Oilers have had the No. 1 overall pick in three of the past four drafts. They’ve been supposedly rebuilding their team “the right way” for years now and have yet to make the playoffs because of it. They haven’t been to the postseason since they made the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. They’re teeming over with young talent up front and would have a shot to pick Ekblad if they land the top pick.
Problem is, most everyone is worn out with seeing a team that continues to shoot itself in the foot get rewarded with the best player available every year. If the Oilers come away with the lottery win, “AGAIN?!?!” might start trending on Twitter because of it. At this point in the rebuild, fans are in the “Figure it out already” part of it while the rest just wants them to go away.