With a 12-27-9 record and 22 points, Edmonton currently sits second from last in the NHL standings. The only team below?
Buffalo, the Oilers’ opponent tonight at Rexall!
This evening’s tilt will be a vital one in jockeying for 2015 NHL Entry Draft lottery chances — a draft that, as you may have heard, is believed to be one of the deepest in the last 15 years and features two supposed “generational” talents at the top end: OHL Erie’s Connor McDavid, and Boston University’s Jack Eichel.
Just don’t ask any Sabres or Oilers about the potential benefits of tanking.
“That’s no factor in our room. No one is looking at the draft,” Tyler Myers told the Buffalo News.
“If anybody even insinuated to me … that I was trying not to win or was going, ‘Hey, you should take tonight off,’ we’d have a fight,” Ben Scrivens added.
To be fair to those asking questions, it’s hard not to discuss how losing might be advantageous to both of these clubs. Even with the revamped draft lottery process — the NHL adjusted odds of winning the first overall pick to “more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance” — it still behooves bad teams to finish as low as possible.
The team with the worst overall record will hold a 20 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick (down from 25 under the previous format). The second-worst team’s odds are at 13.5 percent (down from 18.8) and the third-worst is at 11.5 (down from 14.2).
As for the Oilers and Sabres…
It really is between these two for the No. 1 spot. Carolina and Arizona are on the outskirts of the conversation; they’re six and five points up on the Oilers, respectively, and each has a game in hand.
Tonight marks the second head-to-head matchup of the season, as Edmonton already defeated Buffalo earlier season (a 3-2 win on Nov. 7). That, combined with the fact the Sabres have lost 12 in a row, suggests Buffalo is really in the drivers seat with regards to winning the McEichel Bowl.
But again… don’t ask the players about it.
“Never in my life have I ever heard of losing on purpose,” Josh Gorges said earlier this month. “That’s a joke to even think about.”