The Edmonton Oilers have done at least one thing well, beginning in 2010:
These schmucks know how to win the lottery.
EXCEPT! Except… they don’t.
What’s forgotten by many is that, in these draft lottery days, there is no assurance of winning the 1st overall pick in the NHL draft. There is no proven, tried, and true method to ensure that your franchise receives this somewhat dubious honor. The Oilers are a perfect example of that, as Ryan Batty recently noted in a refreshing take (source here):
“The Oilers are so good at the lottery that they’ve actually won it four different ways – by winning the lottery from 30th place, by finishing last and losing the lottery but retaining the first overall pick, by winning from 29th place, and by winning from 28th place. At this point it almost seems as if the Oilers are winning draft lotteries just because they can.” ~ Ryan Batty
Four different ways! Whether you want to talk about fate, chance, luck or manifest destiny, that’s incredible. Surely, it’s unrepeatable! Surely?
What’s hilarious is that (as Ryan notes above) it almost feels like it’s a sure thing the Oilers will win the sweepstakes this year too. I can understand why people feel that way, fans and haters alike: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Connor McDavid. All your 1st overalls are belong to us!
However, that’s exactly the kind of maddening logic that is objectionable. It’s extremely unlikely that Edmonton will pull it off, and to get all angry and hot and bothered about it is petulant and childish. Understandable, yes, but shockingly immature, unless fans and disgruntled NHL executives would be willing to make the charge that the lottery is rigged. You can’t look at the Oilers and say that they broke the system. No, sometimes fate just isn’t fair.
Deal with it.
Got beef? Learn how to lose, stupid!
And how can you deal with it, dear disgruntled NHL execs? I’m going to make like Bill Nye and ask you to consider the following.
This season, the Edmonton Oilers are accruing points at an underwhelming 0.85 p/g pace. Over 82 games, that’s a 69 point season. Certainly disappointing.
But if you really want Auston Matthews, I know you can do better!
Take, for instance, the 2013/14 and 2014/15 Buffalo Sabres. They tanked right and they tanked hard, ending the season with 52 pts and 54 pts respectively. Even Arizona got in there with a horrendous 56 pt campaign for McDavid. (By the way, poor Buffalo – no Ekblad, and no McDavid. Yeesh, that’s cringe worthy.)
This season the closest team to the Oilers 69 pt projection is the fabled franchise from TO. The Toronto Maple Leafs are supposedly doing their best to tank, but are on pace for a 68 pt year!
Think about that – the bottom two teams in the NHL could each conceivably finish the year with 70 pts. Take a look and see how often that’s happened in the lottery era. I’ll help you out: once. It’s happened once! In 2007/08, LA and Tampa finished 29th and 30th, each with 71 pts.
Honestly, it seems that in 2016, NHL GMs want to tank… without tanking. They want the blessing of the draft lottery balls without actually going through all the pain to get there.
Want Matthews? Trade your established NHL talent, destroy your blueline, throw a couple of potato sacks in net (filled or unfilled, your choice) and go get him. I feel none of the shame you throw my way if the Oilers manage to win the lottery one more time.
From Hades to Elysium
While we’re here on Lottery Lane, I’d just like to address something quickly. There is some sort of nonsense out there about “all the failed #1 picks in Edmonton” and “that’s where talent goes to die.” Usually, this is the crap that mouth-breathers from Toronto and Buffalo throw around, and did so especially after their teams lost the 2015 McLottery. It’s brought on by a really odd sense of entitlement that argues, “We sucked too, but not like them – we suck in a more honorable way that should be rewarded. We deserve Connor McDavid and those hicks in Edmonton don’t.” You come to expect this kind of response from those markets and those organizations – and who could care less about what they think?
But I’ve started to hear Oilers fans, on social media and on forums and blogs, arguing that, indeed, Edmonton is the place where talent goes to die. Taylor Hall is useless, Nuge is a bum, Auston Matthews should refuse to report(!), etc., etc.
The Oilers have had 4 1st overall picks – Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Connor McDavid. Only one could be considered a failure (Yakupov) and even with him, he’s a little too young and a little too talented to call a bust quite yet. He’s certainly trending in that direction, no doubt, but he’s not there yet – there’s still a pulse, and he probably has two more seasons before he can be definitively called a bust (your mileage may vary).
The abilities of Connor McDavid have never been in question, and so, to tip the scales in favor of failure, we look to Taylor Hall and Nuge. And we look quickly away because any reasonable assessment of their ability and skill at the NHL level declares them to be successful #1 selections, who continue to deliver what is expected of them.
Since the charge is “that’s where talent goes to die,” let’s broaden the scope to include other top 10 picks, such as Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse. Oh… not exactly deceased talent. Hmmmm, how about the whole 1st round? Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Oscar Klefbom, and now, I suppose, Griffin Reinhart.
Again, these facts don’t fit the narrative. Klefbom and Eberle are much better than “ruined 1st rounders” – in fact, both have developed into excellent, even top-flight players. Gagner’s best years were in Edmonton, including the night he scored 8 pts in one game. Reinhart, as well, cannot reasonably be said to have been ruined by the Oilers (if anything, they have taken him on as a reclamation project, though an excessively costly one).
The reason the Oilers still stink is twofold – complementary personnel and health.
- They’ve been hit hard with devastating injuries to their best players.
- They lack the depth to deal with such injuries. This is felt especially on the blueline; it was when Oscar Klefbom went down (not McDavid), that the season died.
If the Oil are able to stay relatively healthy, and add two, significantly better pieces to their RHD depth (Demers, Hamonic) then it would not be too much a stretch to expect this team to explode next year, a la the 2006/07 Penguins.