(Source: NBCSports.com) – The Leafs finished dead last in the NHL’s overall standings, giving them the best odds of winning Saturday’s draft lottery. And when the big show ended, Toronto had landed that top pick for the draft on June 24. Outside of Toronto, the biggest winner Saturday had to be the Winnipeg Jets. They entered the day with the sixth best odds of getting the top pick at just 7.5 per cent. They were able to move all the way up to the second overall pick, which could certainly land them a franchise player and one that could definitely be ready to make the jump into the NHL next season.
This is going to sound weird, but I’m really lucky when it comes to drawings. In my lifetime I’ve won countless coolers, concert and sports tickets, hotel stays, and so many random things it’s not even funny. I won a beautiful mountain bike when I was 12 and then ironically when I turned 21 I won a beach cruiser bicycle at a drawing of about 500 people. I even won every single NHL team mini-stick at a hockey showcase tournament in Albany, NY when I was 13 where every kid in the 20+ team event was entered for that great prize. It’s kind of annoying to think that that may be the only luck I have in life, winning drawings. Kind of a waste of luck.
So when Saturday rolled around and the NHL Draft Lottery was about to be determined my gut really growled a Boston Bruins miracle was on the way. I win these things for some flukey reason a lot, so why not that day? Why not my team? My rocks glass was iced, the Maker’s was ready to be poured, and then nothing happened. And for the most part nothing really happened at all.
Toronto would win the 1st overall pick with the best odds. Winnipeg would move up four spots to land an amazing #2 pick. But other than that, and not truly expecting a Boston miracle, the drawing was a dud for me. I wanted chaos. I had fingers crossed that a New Jersey, an Ottawa, a Carolina, would land in at least one of the top 3 slots. I wanted something huge to happen so bad. That’s what lotteries are all about. They’re about the backwoods moonshiner living in a beat up single-wide having the winning $300 million Powerball ticket. Or the 83-year-old lady who’s been in the same apartment for 55 years landing a huge $50 million lotto jackpot. That’s what we want to see. Instead we got boring.
At the very least I wanted Auston Matthews to land in an American market. I’m thankful for Jack Eichel being in Buffalo and Patrick Kane being in Chicago. I just think it’s great to see the best American born players playing in the states. And much like Connor McDavid finding out he was an Oiler last year, Auston Matthews looked less than pleased to be heading to the land of losses in Toronto. Where thousands upon thousands of fans pack the streets for a FIRST ROUND game because it’s all the have. The fans and the media are too much up there for a team that’s sucked for half a century. Modtly, I really wanted Matthews to be a Coyote.
The NHL’s hype and production for the lottery drawing special was fantastic. It was well produced even if it was cliche’ filled, standard PR talk from the all GM’s. Winnipeg’s four position swing to second overall should be a huge shot in the arm for them. Just last year they were a playoff team. And even though they were swept in the first round they had the lead in the second period or later in all four games. They just weren’t quite ready.
In a weird way they remind me of the 2010 Bruins, in that the B’s were a decent playoff team building their roster for a future playoff run when that plan magically got accelerated by the 1st round pick they got from Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal that, like the Jets, turned into a 2nd overall pick (Tyler Seguin). The B’s would go on to win the Stanley Cup the following summer. I don’t see that turnaround happening so quickly in Winnipeg largely because they are stuck in a stacked Western Conference/Central Division. But it definitely has put their plans in fast forward when Patrik Laine suits up for them come October.
The only annoying part of the entire 1-hour lottery special was every giddy CBC analyst kept saying “so you’re saying there’s the chance?!” and laughing every time when the Dumb n’ Dumber quote they’re referencing is actually “so you’re TELLING ME there’s a chance?!”. Screwing up that all-time quote is like saying “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Oklahoma now”. But maybe that’s just the movie snob in me coming out.
Overall, if I could change anything I’d make the 14 non-playoff teams all have an equal 7.14% chance of winning the lottery. Just throw all their names in a hat and pull out five of them to fill the top-5 slots. Let’s end tanking in this league. Last year Buffalo was ripped a new one in every way for tanking. This year Brendan Shanahan is being praised for doing such a great job in Toronto. You can’t have it both ways. And other than actually having won a Stanley Cup in the last 50 years, you could argue the Carolina’s and New Jersey’s of the league are in nearly identical situations as the Leafs anyway. So just make it a true lottery if you’re going to be drawing names.
At the end of the day it was an entertaining event even if it misses the point a bit. Everyone that loves hockey won on Saturday. Why? Because the Edmonton Oilers were kept out of the top-3. And that makes all of us warm on the inside.