There’s been a lot of speculation about teams tanking this season in the hope of drafting one of the two potential franchise cornerstones available in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. When the subject comes up, teams like the Buffalo Sabres will reject the idea that they’re tanking or have otherwise been built to lose, but the perception that the Sabres and other teams are gunning for last place still exists in some people’s eyes.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly doesn’t share that viewpoint.
“I don’t think any of the teams are actively tanking,” Daly told 630 CHED.
His argument is that the players and coaches are ultimately trying to win every game and while some squads are at a point in their development cycle where they’re naturally not going to be as good, that’s part of the process. When asked about the Edmonton Oilers specifically, which could win the lottery for the fourth time in six years, Daly didn’t see it as a big problem.
“Certainly from my perspective it’s part of the process,” Daly said. “It’s speaks to where they’ve been in the league and the whole purpose of the draft is to allow teams who are struggling at the bottom of the standings access to better talent so they can get better. There has been talk at our manager level over time as to whether we come up with parameters where clubs can’t pick at the top of the draft so often, but I don’t think that’s ever gotten any traction.”
He also pointed out that the league has changed its rules to “address the perception” that some teams are tanking. More specifically, the team that finishes 30th in the league now has a 20% chance of securing the first overall pick, down from 25% last year. The odds for other positions has naturally changed too, with the 29th place team having a 13.5% chance of winning the lottery, down from 18.8%.
The rules will be altered further starting with the 2016 draft. Right now a team can’t move down more than one spot in the draft, which means that the team that finishes 30th this season will be guaranteed the opportunity to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. However, starting in 2016 the top three slots will be determined via the lottery, which means the 30th place team could end up sliding to the fourth overall selection.