Much has been written about the strength of the 2015 NHL draft class with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel appearing to be the cream of the draft crop. You know the class or at least the cream of the crop must be something special when Sidney Crosby says that McDavid "reminds me of me". Is the strength of the 2015 draft class at least partially the cause of June's action by the NHL Board of Governors to make alterations to the NHL Draft lottery procedure? Maybe, maybe not but I am intrigued by what could have been agreed to at the Governors' meeting. Of course, the NHL still has to clear its desired changes with the NHLPA. The NHL also still has to fully release the proposed changes though their appears to have been some partial leaks of the proposed changes such as the worst finishing team dropping from approximately a 25% chance of getting the top pick to around 20%.
I am very curious to see the new proposal and hope it has an aspect that focuses on winning. How in the world can the draft lottery process focus on winning? I'm glad you ask because I would like to introduce the idea that "it PAEs to win". In simplistic terms, I want to reward teams for winning, especially losing teams. My concept introduces Points After Elimination (PAE) as a component of the draft lottery, with the higher PAE teams receiving a higher probability for winning the draft lottery. It may sound complicated by it isn't. I'll use the prior draft lottery process as an example:
In 2014, 30th place received a 25% chance of winning the lottery and 29th place only had an 18.8% chance. In my solution, the final standings would only account for 75% of the total chances at the lottery pick. The other 25% would be earned based on PAE. For example, the 30th place team would receive an 18.75% chance related to the standings and would earn somewhere between another 0.13% to 6.25% chance based on their PAE finish relative to the other 13 non-playoff teams. As a result, the last place team would have anywhere from a 18.88% to 25% chance at the lottery pick. The sample break down would be as follows:
I only use these figures as an illustration and am not tied to them at all other than I think the PAE factor should be somewhere between 20% and 33.33%. I want it to be a meaningful amount, something that gives owners and general managers pause and motivation. Why is rewarding winning on losing teams so important? To me, the fans, especially season ticket holders, are the primary reason and, to a lessor extent, the remaining playoff teams' games being hotly contested. This process could create a second "playoff race" for the teams outside the playoffs looking in, a race for draft positional improvement. In face, you could give the team with the most PAE an automatic 1 spot improvement in addition to the lottery probability improvement (except to first overall of course). If I was the NHL, I would be very receptive to making the games of the non-playoff teams more interesting more meaningful and drawing in more fans and viewership. Would this be enough? Maybe not, but it couldn't hurt.
I have always laughed at the idea that players would tank the end of the season. I'll likely never accept that concept based on the few handfuls of NHL players and coaches that I know personally and the fact that a lot of players are fighting for roster spots year after year and can't afford to tank for fear of risking their jobs, much less risking dollars on their next contract. Where it has always gotten a bit more complicated is the role the coach, general manager and owner can have on a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs.
I find a lot more shades of gray in whether or not a GM or owner is "tanking" the end of the season. Is it tanking if you bring up inexperienced players and play them valuable minutes to see what you have and to help develop them for future years? Is it tanking if you trade away more experienced and capable players for prospects and draft picks? Is it tanking if you trade away players for future cap relief? All of those decisions are made to help make the team better in future years at the expense of the current year. Introducing the concept of the PAE into the draft lottery would definitely impact how GMs and owners made these type of decisions. It would complicate the process and their jobs, making them a lot more difficult and interesting to be sure. Regardless, by using PAE, any notion of tanking would be completely quelled and a higher premium would be put on winning. As always, it's a great day hockey.