I have long enjoyed the managerial aspects of the game (certainly more than the game itself). To be able to try to construct your team by trading and managing assets, by developing talent, by installing the best guys behind the bench additionally to the best guys on the ice. They keep sites like this alive and energetic, whether we're making fun of absurd trade proposals or imagining what kind of team our favourite teams can put on the ice next year.
It reminds me of being 17 again and trading Magic cards and creating the best deck I can. But I was also the guy who instituted new house rules to deck construction to ensure that the game was more fun: otherwise, people would overload on one theme and essentially take 95% of the cards made in the game right out of it. (In real life, Sealed deck tournaments became widely popular instead, which addressed the same issue).
There remains a huge issue with the game, however: the draft.
The draft then ends up one of many variables one needs to manage when managing a team. For example, you need to manage a, b, c, and d. A is the amateur draft, B is the business, C is the coaching staff, D is the development and dynamic of the team, E is the exchange of assets with other teams in order to make the team better.
It's a managerial nightmare on every level.
What the draft should be is a way for teams to get better players scaled appropriately to how they finished in the standings. Ideally, the players at 1-5 are slightly better/more useful than the players at 6-10, and they're slightly better than the ones at 11-15. Ideally...
In the real world, that's not how it works. The draft class can vary from year to year. This year's top two picks are, on a skill scale, futile compared to the top two of the two previous years.
Never mind that teams are drafting 18 year olds, which is about 2 years premature, meaning the majority will not play NHL hockey in the first year, and most not even the second year. These kids are still that, lanky kids. Each of them have different trajectories going into the draft than they end up having at 20, so you have players drafted in the 100s who end up being aces (Johnny Gaudreau a good example).
The draft was initially instituted because NHL teams were sponsoring amateur teams so they had a different developmental system in play. Clarence Campbell said it's a uniform opportunity for each team to acquire a star player. And it has served its purpose... but it's gone stale.
The NHL shifted their lottery so that situations like Edmonton's didn't come up more often, where the team hoarded 4 first overall picks. Did it give a "uniform opportunity for each team to acquire a star player"? No. This year, you might even argue that the star players in the draft are hidden and not so apparent. Some of them are known stars at 18, but most of them aren't. Say there are three stars that emerge from this draft, you might guess one of them is either Hischier or Patrick, but the other two are anyone's guess. We'll have a better idea in two years and we'll know for sure in five years.
The last two drafts are in direct contrast with this one. McDavid is already about to win a Hart trophy, and Eichel is arguably a star already... as well as Matthews and Laine who both scored 40 and 36 goals as rookies (which is amazing in today's NHL). Are Hischier and Patrick EVER going to score 40 goals in the NHL?
The problem with the distribution of star players is identification and then distribution: we could easily identify these four players, they're exceptional talents, they're elite. However, distribution is a complete die roll.
That means that the NHL thinks that the draft is going to get properly governed on par in the end. That's now how roulette works if you've ever played it. You can stick your stack on double 0 and end up walking out of the casino with an armful of chips after one turn, and you can end up spending a pile of resources on it and getting nothing.
I understand why it was instituted: they want to discourage teams from spending a pile of resources on it. However, they didn't fix the problem: if you want to acquire elite talent in the NHL, how do you do it?
How did the Penguins get Malkin and Crosby? How did the Leafs get Marner, Nylander, and Matthews? How did the Jets get Laine? The Oilers get McDavid? The Sabres get Eichel? The Blackhawks get Toews and Kane?
All through the same roadway: the draft, which tips the managerial aspect of the game ridiculously in favour of the amateur draft over all other variables (business, coaching, dynamic, etc). There's a distinct divide between the "giving every team an opportunity to get star power" and "making it so that teams don't purposely tank to get that star power".
To help with the identification of star talent, it's best the draft age was raised other than players who are granted exceptional status (like they do for CHL). This is the ideal system because it already has working models in place (see the NFL).
To help with the distribution of star talent, I can give suggestions as talking points, but there is no ideal solution yet.
Some of them include the following:
1. Star players as free agents - they would apply and be given them a unique classification. They would be ineligible to be signed by any team that possessed either a PPG player (50 games min) or a player paid in the top 10% of the NHL echelon (meaning you wouldn't be able to sign them if you have a player paid 7.5ish+M a year, though that number would go up).
2. Star players playing for their region - We could just go back to the old system and work out a new one from there. If, for example, Matthews develops as a player from Arizona, Arizona has his rights. It would not solve distribution, but it would make sense especially for the fans. Montreal, especially, who'd love to see French Canadian talent playing for their teams again...
3. Holding separate drafts for country - given US's rising star power in the hockey world, they can now start to hold their own in drafts if Canada gets dibs on Canadian players and the US gets dibs on American players. Then you'd hold two drafts in a year.
4. Minimizing 7+M/y contracts to 4 year limits. The PA would be in uproar, but it would be a coexistent solution with number 1 so that we have a star player shuffle around the league.
5. Exceptional status for star players in draft - if you increased the draft age and some of these guys are outright too good for any other league at 18, then you pull them into the draft. You also don't allow a team to acquire more than one player granted exceptional status more than once a decade. In order for this to work, they would have to retroactively institute this rule in order for it to be meaningful (meaning teams that drafted players of star quality in picks 1-3 in the last seven or eight years would get hit with a timer).