Whew, That Was Close
And wouldn't that have been one more kick in the head for the Leafs?
The New Jersey Devils, sitting just one spot ahead of the Boston Bruins for Tuesday's NHL draft lottery, ended up winning the thing despite only a 3.6 per cent chance of success.
And the Bruins, at least in probability theory, just missed turning the Phil Kessel deal into another top five pick. Imagine the play on that story if it had occurred.
Instead, the Bruins stayed at No. 9 and the Devils moved from the No. 8 spot to to the No. 4 slot, which is a nice improvement, but also showed both the reason why the NHL draft lottery is so boring and highlighted the flaw that prevents it from being more meaningful.
See, it's all supposed to be about integrity, about making sure every team plays it out until the bitter end, and that no team tanks to get the top pick.
Well, Edmonton didn't tank, although it's hard to guess how they could have fared much worse by purposely doing so.
But despite having the odds in their favour, they lost the lottery and still kept the top pick. Makes no sense.
Why the rule that teams can only move up four slots and down only one? In theory, of course, the entry draft is supposed to be all about re-stocking bad teams with good prospects to ensure future success, except that while it works for some teams - Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago - it doesn't seem to work for others like Florida, Columbus and the Islanders.
It rewards futility rather than excellence. The crappier you are, the better pick you get.
The lottery, however, is supposed to throw real uncertainty into the mix to make sure there is no benefit at all for losing on purpose.
So if you win it, you should win the top pick. Jersey, then, should have the top selection in June, and Edmonton, which certainly earned nothing, should go down to the No. 2 pick, and so on.
Otherwise, why bother with a draft lottery at all? If Edmonton had tanked, what price would they have paid?