Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.
“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.
“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”
The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again.
“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.
“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.
“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”
And many would agree with Burke.
In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.
But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.
Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.
But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?
Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.
The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.
Burke is fine with that.
All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.
And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.