The 2020 NHL draft lottery was exposed for its flaws, rewarding a team deemed good enough to be in the playoffs and punishing the worst team in the NHL.
The Detroit Red Wings, who won just 17 games in 2019-20, were bumped back as far as possible, landing the fourth pick in Friday’s lottery. They entered the event with 18.5% odds of winning the first overall pick, but the 15-team draw also included eight placeholders for the teams that are part of the 24-team “return to play” playoff scenario. One of those won the right to draft first overall.
“I am not surprised,” Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Friday night, after finding out the results of the Phase 1 draw. “We had 18.5% chance of winning the first pick. The eight playoff teams had a 24.5% chance combined of getting the pick, so the odds were better that the first pick went to the bottom eight than to us.”
The Los Angeles Kings moved up from fourth to second, and the Ottawa Senators will select third.
[Red Wings’ bad luck in draft lottery continues: Here’s who they could pick at No. 4 ]
The NHL revamped the lottery in response to COVID-19, which forced the league to pause the season with three weeks to go on March 12. The Wings were the only one of 31 teams to have locked into a spot, their 17-49-5 record ensuring finishing in last place.
The league announced in late May the lottery would feature the seven teams that were at the bottom of the standings at the time of the shutdown, plus eight qualifying-round losers. Since Friday’s Phase 1 saw a play-in team land the first pick, there will be a Phase 2 drawing after the qualifying round to determine the team’s identity. In the event the league does not return to action, phase 2 would be the eight teams participating in the lottery for the first overall pick and the next eight teams in Inverse order of point percentage. They would each be given equally weighted odds.
What the phase one draw boils down to is that a team the NHL deemed good enough to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup can also win the right to draft Alexis Lafrenière, the consensus top pick. Meanwhile the Wings, who have fallen from 25th in 2016-17, 27th in 2017-18, and 28th in 2018-19 to rock bottom, got shafted.
“They have to do what they have to do,” Yzerman said. “Anything I say is going to be self-serving. They have to do what they have to do.”
[NHL draft lottery countdown: What Red Wings could do with fourth pick ]
It’s the fourth straight year the Wings have been bumped back. In 2017, they fell from seventh to ninth; in 2018, from fifth to sixth; and in 2019, from fourth to sixth. They missed out on defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (2018, Buffalo) and forward Jack Hughes (2019, New Jersey).
The 2013 draft was the first time where all the teams that did not qualify for the playoffs had a chance to win the first overall pick. From 1995-2012, the team that won the draft lottery moved up no more than four spots. Beginning in 2016, the first three spots have been determined by lottery.
The lottery was adopted to discourage teams from deliberately tanking, but the Wings didn’t land in 31st place on purpose. They were a one-line, one-defenseman, one-goaltender team, desperately in need of the top pick. Instead, it goes to a team that, pandemic allowing, is also deemed good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup.
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