After watching the NHL draft lottery tonight, I realized that I had wasted about 20 to 30 minutes of my life and that I will never be able to get those minutes back. It got me thinking that there has to be a way to make this more of an event, something that provides the fans of non playoff teams something to cheer for in the spring. Afterwards the final of the NCAA basketball tournament came on and my brain went into overdrive and I thought what about a tournament to determine the draft order? As hockey fans, we all love the NHL playoffs so why not have two sets of playoffs? The league could run a bracket style one game elimination tournament with the winner getting to pick first overall.
This is how I envision the tournament working. Since there is an uneven amount of teams that finish out of the playoffs, the NHL would give the two bottom teams a bye in the first round. I would give this to the bottom teams because they would be the teams losing out the most if the NHL was to change to the tournament format. I would also give the lower placed teams a little more of an advantage by giving them home ice advantage throughout the tournament. The tournament would start with teams facing the team directly above or below them which should make the games that much more competitive and entertaining. Using this season’s final standings, here is how I see things starting out:
Bye 15 TB
(The west would use the same format in a separate set of brackets)
After the first round is over the 15th placed teams would enter the tournament and face the winner of the 13 vs 14 game, the tournament continue on from there until the brackets are complete and there is a winner.
Of course the draft is more then just the first overall pick so the rest of the order would be determined by when teams are eliminated. The loser of the tournament final would get the second overall pick; with the losers of the semi finals getting the third and fourth picks. The team with the lowest point total would be given the higher pick
With every major change there are always going to be issues as well as advantages and disadvantages. The main issue would be the scheduling. Personally I would have the tournament start the day after the regular season ended. The tournament is four rounds long and could be played out over seven days. With this being the case the Stanley cup playoffs would start the day after the tournament ends causing the NHL season to last about a week longer. Now I like many others love hockey and would have no problem with this, but there are those who think that the season is already too long so some tweaking may have to be done. There is also the issue of teams that are on a role heading into the playoffs could lose some momentum but I think that is offset by the fact that teams would have more time to prepare and allow bumps and bruises to heal. With that being said I think there are more advantages to this setup than disadvantages. The main advantages would be the potential for extra revenue that the non playoff teams miss out on while being spring spectators. This is also something that none of the other major sports leagues do, and for once the NHL could be the league that starts a trend instead of being followers.
In closing it would be easy for the NHL to keep things as they are with the draft, but there is an opportunity here to be innovators and provide something to the fans that no other league offers, and that is meaningful hockey for all when the regular season ends.