The NHL is considering two intriguing changes to its draft lottery.
Last season, the league opened up winning the No. 1 pick to all 14 non-playoff teams. Previously, only the five-worst teams had a shot. But no one feared moving down more than one position, meaning the 30th-place club could select no lower than second. That protection is in peril.
As we head towards a 2015 draft with two talents that have scouts drooling -- Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid -- the NHL is considering a system that could see the lottery going beyond just the No. 1 overall choice.
There are discussions about having the top three picks, or even the top five, selected this way. Although odds would continue to favour those teams with the fewest points, a decision to go in this direction would mean the worst team could potentially pick fourth -- or sixth.
Currently, the last-place squad gets a 25 per cent chance of snaring the top choice, with the best non-playoff finisher at 0.5 per cent. That may be different, too.
What we're looking at here is a system where the odds would be weighted by how positions 17 through 30 in the NHL standings finish over a five-year period relative to the final playoff qualifier. The exact formula is not yet determined. But one of the potential scenarios is something like this:
If you go back over the last five seasons (2008-09 to 2012-13), you can easily check how close those teams ranked 17-30 came to making the playoffs. The 30th-place finishers (Edmonton Oilers twice, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders) were a combined 131 points out. Overall, the 70 non-playoff teams totalled 693 points behind during that span.
I assume the NHL would want to use the current season to make each year's lottery as relevant as possible. So if this were the league's method of choice, it can only be used as a comparison to the 2013 odds. Anyway, 131 is 18.9 per cent of 693. That would give the 30th-place team an 18.9 per cent shot at the top selection, down from the current 25 per cent.
It would be a "rolling" five-year period. As you moved into the next season, the oldest would be dropped. However, there is one pothole.
In 2011, the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames, who missed the playoffs, finished ahead of the New York Rangers, who made it. In 2010, the St. Louis Blues, Flames and Anaheim Ducks were above the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens. And in 2009, the Florida Panthers beat out St. Louis, Columbus and Anaheim. Therefore, the teams who finished 17th overall were actually four points better than the last playoff team. That would have to be addressed.
It's interesting stuff. No one wanted to use the word "tanking." But there is concern about how competitive things will be with McDavid and Eichel available next summer. If you're an owner or a general manager, would the adoption of this policy change the way you approach the 2014-15 season?
1. Some other tidbits from the GM meetings. As Glenn Healy reported on Hockey Night Hotstove, there may be no more "lists" of shooters at the start of shootouts. For one thing, it will make things faster. A second benefit is coaches won't be locked in if they want to change strategy, depending on what happens with each team's first attempt.
2. The proposed fine for NHL teams who illegally test draft-eligible prospects is $250,000.
3. One tweeter asked if a top prospect could refuse to attend the combine and solely work out for a particular team or two. This is similar to the NBA process in which a player who knows he is going to be drafted high may refuse to work out for teams picking too low. The answer is no. If a player is invited to the NHL event and refuses to work out, teams cannot do their own physical testing and on-ice work.
4. Of the proposed changes being sent to the competition committee, the one I can see having trouble with the players is moving the centres back 12-18 inches after the first violation on a faceoff. Currently, the offender is kicked out of the circle and replaced with someone else. There's already grumbling and it's likely good faceoff teams (eg. San Jose Sharks, one of the teams targeted by this proposal) would wish to protect the advantage. There's also concern about adding another subjective call to the rulebook while changing hashmarks and switching ends in overtime are much more black and white.
5. Check out Alex Galchenyuk's goal from Montreal's 2-0 win over the Rangers on Oct. 28. NHL senior vice-president Colin Campbell sent video of it to 11 GMs the next day and the vote came back 6-5 on whether or not it should have counted. What the league is looking for is a way to make it so that the rule is clearer, that we can all look at it and know the answer -- without, of course, guys recklessly swinging their skate blades.
6. There is a pretty interesting difference of opinion on expanded video review and/or coach's challenges. Some GMs believe we're a year away, wanting to make sure the process is fully prepared to prevent embarrassment. Others are really against it. One of the problems is the lack of consensus on who should make the final call: the referees with a monitor in the penalty box or the war room with better technology.
7. There's a second problem, too, and it has to do with the idea of video review on a judgment call like goalie interference. Take all of the referees and all of the league's hockey operations people and say, "Here's an example. What's your thinking?" How many different interpretations do you get? Five? 10? 50? One GM said it came up in the meeting that, if the NHL goes this route, maybe only one or two people are allowed to make this type of ruling for consistency's sake.
8. On controversial and confusing nights like last Saturday, when the Ottawa Senators lost 5-4 in OT at Montreal, I wish the referees could agree to speak to a pool reporter (like Major League Baseball allows with umpires) to explain their thought process. If I was in their skates, I would want the opportunity if there was a perfectly legitimate reason why things unfolded as they did. If not, ask Jim Joyce how much perception of him changed for the better when he stood up and admitted an error.
9. Now that the Buffalo Sabres have collected prospects and draft picks, look for them to start building some professional blocks. GM Tim Murray said the team will begin conversations with potential restricted free agents Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, gauging their interest in signing long-term.
10. Asked about other teams being interested in Tyler Myers, Murray said there was no offer remotely close enough to make him consider dealing either Myers or Christian Ehrhoff. The GM added the "cap recapture" possibilities at the end of Ehrhoff's contract (eg., a $10-million penalty if he retires with one year remaining) are a concern and affect trade scenarios.
11. One of the reasons Nicklas Jensen is suddenly hot? He was recently moved back to his off-wing at AHL Utica. Jensen's a lefty shot yet his three NHL goals all came from the centre-to-right side of the offensive zone. That's where he played overseas. Jensen started on his strong side this season. Good call to put him back.
12. I covered Markus Naslund's reaction to the rumours involving Vancouver here. If Canucks GM Mike Gillis wants Naslund and Naslund wants to commit full-time, here's a way to do it: Naslund becomes GM and the face of the franchise; Gillis and his braintrust (Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning, Stan Smyl) teach him how to do the job; Naslund's role evolves as he gains experience. It could work.
13. As Patrick Roy prepares for another emotional return to Montreal, here is Matt Duchene when asked to compare him with Mike Babcock: "Everything they do is about winning. [Babcock] is more serious during practices ... Roy jokes a little. He'll skate in, laugh and score on the rebounds during drills. But during games, they're all business. Two of the best coaches I've ever played for." Duchene, by the way, also mentioned his junior coach, Stan Butler.
14. Duchene's story about Roy in practice reminded me of a favourite moment. I was in Ottawa years ago and the Senators were doing a fun shootout competition. Brian McGrattan was stopped initially by Dominik Hasek a couple of times but shot the rebounds, which didn't count. Hasek got mad and said something to him. I asked another player about it, who checked and came back laughing. He said Hasek asked McGrattan not to do it and, when it continued, told the forward he would not get another goal in practice all year.
15. For all the criticism the Flyers take about contract decisions, remember this: Sean Couturier and Matt Read manhandled the Pittsburgh Penguins' best players twice in 24 hours. The duo is signed for the next two years at a combined salary-cap hit of $5.375 million.
16. The story's been in this blog before, but approximately five years ago, Philly wanted Jay Bouwmeester from Florida and the Panthers asked for Claude Giroux -- before the current Flyers captain was an established player. Paul Holmgren said no, a franchise-altering move. Someday, we're going to find out how many times he said no about Couturier. The Los Angeles Kings asked for sure last summer, when Jonathan Bernier was on the move, but the Flyers said no dice. I don't know how much Couturier will score, but he's an elite shutdown player.
17. A scout on Evgeny Kuznetsov's first week: "Two years ago, I thought he was the best player outside the NHL. He was a hard competitor, wanted the puck and you knew he wouldn't shy away from a North American game. Hadn't seen him in awhile, so you wonder if he lost that. The answer sure appears to be no."
18. A GM who watched Kuznetsov at the world juniors in 2012, when he was named tournament MVP, was asked what he'd be looking for: "The talent is there. He is a premier prospect. He got away with doing things on his own ... so my question was about sharing the puck at the next level. You need the hockey sense to do it. He didn't have to, he was so much better than anyone else. You can't carry the puck from one end to the other every night in NHL." Kuznetsov shared nicely last Friday, earning three assists as the Washington Capitals edged Vancouver, 4-3.
19. As for Corban Knight, who scored the shootout winner in Calgary's 4-3 victory at Dallas last Friday, the Flames feel a fight really jumpstarted his season in AHL Abbotsford. Knight was working hard. But he was a touch tentative and unsure when the scrap happened towards the end of January. I don't think they want him doing it too often. But after that, it was, like, "OK, that's over with and not so bad. Let's go." The Flames were worried about rushing him. But as his play improved and so many were getting called up due to injury, they felt he deserved a taste of the NHL.
20. The Phoenix Coyotes, too, have a good one in Brandon Gormley. He played 13 minutes his NHL debut at Tampa Bay on March 10, then he got a key shift late to help close a 3-1 victory over Florida. Against the Lightning, he saw Steven Stamkos come on the ice and thought, "Bet coach is going to take me off." But Dave Tippett left him out there.
21. Truth is, Gormley was probably ready for the NHL earlier than last week. But Phoenix, with an excess of blue-line contracts, had to keep him in the AHL. Gormley said it allowed him to wean some bad habits from his game: "Things you could get away with in junior ... letting guys go down the boards, stick position. Can't always hurt you there. But you can't do it here."
22. For a long time, the Coyotes' trade target was a centre. But with Martin Hanzal, Mike Ribeiro and Antoine Vermette all under contract for at least another year -- and Max Domi coming -- that may not be priority No. 1. They've had some weird games (for them), struggling to lock down the kinds of leads smothered for years. They've got a talented blue-line (and Gormley isn't the only one coming), but feel they're missing another Adrian Aucoin or Michal Rozsival-type defender.
23. About any potential Nail Yakupov trade: What does Oilers owner Daryl Katz think? It's believed he was the driving force behind the decision to draft Yakupov ahead of Ryan Murray. When things looked bleak earlier this season, there were rumours Katz wasn't thrilled about trading him.
24. Watch Carey Price last Saturday, I was reminded of an old Marc Bergevin story. He was playing for Tampa Bay when Wayne Gretzky returned to L.A.'s lineup after an injury. The Lightning won because the other Kings relaxed, expecting Gretzky to win it. Montreal snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with that wild 5-4 comeback against Ottawa, then was much more disciplined in shutting out Buffalo on a magical night for Dustin Tokarski. Price is superb, but you've got to be good in front of him, too.
25. It's interesting to watch Michel Therrien and J.J. Daigneault deploy ice-time among Canadiens defencemen since Josh Gorges' injury. Francis Bouillon, who hadn't played in a month, is four minutes 27 seconds over his season average of 17:26 in those games. Alexei Emelin is up 2:18 and Jarred Tinordi up 1:42, while Andrei Markov is down 15 seconds. P.K. Subban was down 1:31 before playing 28:55 on Saturday and 26:41 on Sunday, including a shift that lasted 3:19. He's now up 10 seconds.
26. A scout on the Chicago Blackhawks prior to Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings: "There's a bit of boredom there. They've been through this before." No doubt Blackhawks head coach Joe Quenneville will try to beat that out of them.
27. Earlier this season, Rob Blake told Hockey Night After Hours that he feels Drew Doughty's candidacy for the Norris Trophy as top defenceman is hurt by playing in the Western Conference. Does Doughty feel he is undiscovered? "I do," he said during the Olympics. "People don't see what I do night in and night out in L.A. ... It's my job on that team to be the best defenceman on the ice every night ... I can't control if I get noticed and put up for the Norris Trophy and things like that. I just go out there and play my game and whatever happens happens from there."
28. Is the Norris Trophy important to Doughty? "Yeah, it is," he said. "I do want to win that. I had a little taste my second year in the league, I think I came third or something like that. Duncan Keith actually won it that year ... Last couple of years, I haven't really been in the talk for it ... It doesn't make me mad. But it makes me hungry and makes me want to get back in the mix, [to] be talked about as one of the top defencemen in the league." Mission accomplished.
29. Doughty is a fiercely competitive guy. Asked to pick the most competitive person on a Canadian Olympic team full of alpha males, he chose himself.
30. Last tidbit from my Sochi notebook (yes, I just finished unpacking). I asked Ilya Kovalchuk if he'll ever return to the NHL. He laughed, said his KHL contract is up in three years and we'll see. He'll be 33 years old then.
Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC
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